Several proscribed terrorist groups in Pakistan are using Facebook to register their presence, and some may even be using it to further their activities, according to a report in Pakistani news outlet Dawn.
Pakistan's terror connections
Terrorism in Pakistan is seen as a threat all around the world, and Pakistani authorities are often seen as not taking tough decisions on it. The result is that even the United States has said that not just India but even Afghanistan — which is already ravaged by the Taliban — could see terror attacks whose origins are in Pakistan.
Terrorism in Pakistan has also led to its ties with India deteriorating to such an extent that India has put on hold a much-anticipated cricket series, saying that it can progress only when support by state and non-state actors in Pakistan to terrorist outfits stops. India is also well on its way to finishing fencing the border it shares with Pakistan, in order to stops terrorists from Pakistan from infiltrating into India.
Terrorists on Facebook
Dawn, in its investigative report, has said that while groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or the Pakistan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) have a smaller presence on the social networking platform, the smaller groups seem to have a bigger presence. Overall, 41 out of the 64 terror outfits proscribed by Pakistan have a presence on Facebook.
"While some of the Facebook pages and groups claim to be 'official' representatives of the outfits, others appear to be managed by members and supporters in ideological agreement," says the report. It adds that some of the profiles have "also publicly 'liked' pages and groups related to weapons use and training."
Radicalisation and recruitment go online?
The report also says that most groups "glorify existing leaders or those killed in the past," while "in rare cases" what is shared is "graphic content depicting acts of violence — including photos and videos of bodies." It also pinpoints Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta as the locations from where most of these Facebook pages and groups are apparently run.
Dawn also says in its report: "Any user linked to, or interested in a proscribed organisation can befriend and chat with like-minded users, message those operating the pages and groups or click the provided links to websites and blogs. To establish contact off Facebook, all they would need to do is use the publicly listed email addresses or local phone numbers provided by some outfits."
This confirms fears expressed in many quarters that terrorists are increasingly using social media to reach out to impressionable youngsters, and radicalise and recruit them. However, instead of following in the footsteps of the Islamic State group and choosing a more secretive platform, these terrorist groups are choosing the public platform of Facebook to be easily accessible!