This week’s terror attack on Manchester has delivered a heartbreaking blow to humanity.

Killing 22 at an Ariana Grande concert, several being children, the lone wolf attack is now being treated as part of a much bigger picture—one that has UK PM Theresa May raising the terrorist threat level from highly likely to critical, labelling it “imminent”. Given this action hasn’t been taken by the UK Government in over a decade, it’s a big move, and one that we need to desperately understand.

 

Image Credit: Yahoo UK

 

This morning (if you’re in Australia) we woke to the news that authorities have identified the suspected suicide bomber as Salman Abedi—a 22-year-old Manchester-born local who also died upon detonating his homemade device. What’s more unsettling is the raid that followed, with forensics uncovering a Know Your Chemicals booklet in Abedi’s home, before inspiring Theresa May and the wider government to recognise the attack as one of potentially others to come.

A propaganda machine

A lone wolf attack like this fits the bill of tactics encouraged by the Islamic State, and with the group also now claiming responsibility for the horrific act, it’s enough to have us all on edge.

 

Suicide bomber Salman Abedi, 22, died during the attacks. Image credit: The Guardian

 

Typically, ISIS inspires its followers to attack “in the heart of their [Western] land”, mostly playing a dominant influence on younger supporters—like Abedi—who become almost engulfed by their agendas. We’re not to sympathise, of course, but we are to understand the driving force behind such an ideology, if we are to get the minds of these movements.

Fuelled by immense propaganda that spreads like wildfire across social media networks, ISIS is a highly skilled branding mechanism that’s able to gain mass followings at a global scale as a result.

Social media: a cog

This is where we fall short of understanding how our ordinary communication platforms are also fuelling the fire of a group like the Islamic State. The Nazi’s didn’t have social media to disseminate their messages, but modern terrorists are able to utilise these platforms to employ and recruit new followers on a grander, potentially more dangerous level. It’s something we almost can’t even begin to understand, but something we need to be alert and aware of as everyday social media users.

 

US military account allegedly hacked by ISIS in 2015.

 

The IS have long adopted social giants like Twitter to blast its propaganda, with something like 80,000 accounts formed as part of its community. And while Twitter as a company is doing all it can to deactivate and identify these threats, the platform is having enough trouble keeping up—the IS are already ahead of the game by banning members from Twitter when they show the potential to unconsciously pose a security threat to the movement.

The fact that the group has its marketing down pat is a terrifying notion. It’s strategic. And while we can’t know when and where an attack will fall next, we can be vigilant in our awareness of what’s going on around us both online and offline—suspicious behaviour is one thing…knowing the (online) signs is another.

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