May 23, 2019

After Social Media Bans, Militant Groups Found Ways to Remain

Hezbollah and Hamas, in particular, have honed their social media strategies to foster their online presences.

Hezbollah, which now has no official accounts on the big social media platforms, largely shares through Al Manar, a broadcaster with strong pro-Hezbollah ties. Al Manar has a Twitter feed, which is followed by 481,000 people. Content from the channel is easy to find on YouTube, including many lengthy speeches by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

A recent search on YouTube for Al Manar in Arabic yielded more than 37,000 results. Many of those videos have tens of thousands of views and have been on the site for years.

Hamas enjoys a similar widespread presence on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The group has a Twitter feed, though not a Facebook page or a YouTube account. Many of its leaders have personal social media accounts, where they post commentaries, photos and videos.

The Hamas television station, Al Aqsa, also has a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. And on Instagram, the photo-sharing site owned by Facebook, popular Arabic-language hashtags promoting Hamas feature thousands of propaganda videos and images.

When conflicts with Israel escalate, Hamas’s presence on social media also rises. In August, Israel accused Hamas members of posing as attractive women on Instagram to lure Israeli soldiers into sharing details about themselves and to download malware.

Israel called the campaign Operation Broken Heart. It showed, Israeli officials said, how dangerous it was to allow militant organizations to use social media.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/19/technology/terrorist-groups-social-media.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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