Terrorists have always sought attention, and the age of social media has enabled them to find it with unprecedented breadth.
They use social networks to recruit, to inspire, and to connect, but they also rely on social media bystanders—everyday, regular people—to spread the impacts of their terror further than they could themselves, and to confuse authorities with misinformation.
That amplification encourages more terrorism, inspires copycats, and turns the perpetrators into martyrs. It also traumatizes the families of the murdered victims, as well as the public at large.
“In the last few years, this problem has become more acute and more complicated technically, practically, and ethically, with the acceleration of the news cycle and the advent of social media,” London School of Economics professor Charlie Beckett wrote for the Columbia Journalism Reviewlast year, analyzing how social media and journalism amplify terrorist messaging.
The moment a bomb explodes anywhere in the world, the blast is heard around the internet.