Along with all the advantages using the Internet, such as easy accessibility to information of all types and quick communication, come some disadvantages. If put in the wrong hands, all these technologies can easily be misused and become agents of destruction.
A recent report, from the 304th Military Intelligence Battalion of the U.S. Army Intelligence, raises the possibility that the popular instant messaging service, Twitter, could be used as a tool by terrorists, as also some other Internet technologies such as Global Positioning System Maps, and voice-changing software.
Noah Shachtman the author of this report has written a chapter titled, “Potential For Terrorist Use Of Twitter”.
It is mentioned here that users of Twitter send out tweets or instant messages to other twitter users, and during the earthquake which occurred in Los Angeles in the month of July, the news reached Twitter users much sooner than it reached those who rely only on traditional forms of news broadcast such as newspapers and television.
This same service Twitter was also used to provide information about police movements, by activists of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis.
It is further written that Twitter is already being used by several human rights groups, communists, socialists, religious communities and anarchists to propagate their respective causes and ideologies. The report also includes the term “Hacktivists”, which refers to computer hackers with a political or religious motivation.
The report says “Extremist and terrorist use of Twitter could evolve over time to reflect tactics that are already evolving in use, by hacktivists and activists for surveillance. This could theoretically be combined with surveillance.”
It is also mentioned that extremists can use Twitter in conjunction with other services such as cell phone pictures or videos, Google Maps etc. to carry out their underhand activities.
Global Positioning system and voice changing software are some other features which could help terrorists to set up their travel plans, mount surveillance etc. These uses are reportedly already being discussed in certain pro Al-Qaeda forums etc.
But as the saying goes ‘there are two sides to every coin.’ While it is entirely possible that these latest Internet technologies can be misused by the wrong people, it is far easier and possible to put these services to good use, such as disseminating information during emergencies, or as a counter-terrorism tool by emergency response teams.