The widespread adoption of the Internet since the 1990s has had some unexpected side-effects. For example it has become much more difficult to confirm casualty figures in most wars today because the violence has become increasingly intolerant of journalists. Before the Internet it was different with all sides in wars eager to get their version of the story out and that meant tolerating the presence of journalists. But with the Internet you don’t need journalists present in the combat zone. In fact those reporters are often a liability as they tend to report what is really happening rather than the version each side prefers. The Internet has become the mass media for Islamic terrorists.
This was not obvious to Islamic terrorists right away. Initially Al Qaeda found it had little success using the Internet to influence people who are not already fans of Islamic terrorism. Most Moslems will at least read Internet postings by Islamic terror organizations, but the real power of the Internet proved to be as a means attracting and regularly communication with the small community of Moslems who do support Islamic terrorism. This is a big help for recruiting, fund raising, and organizing attacks and other atrocities.
Using the Internet is not without its dangers. Most Islamic terrorists are Arabs and Arabs have a thing about telling, creating, and believing outrageous rumors. Some counter-terror organizations took advantage of this by taking seemingly plausible, scary, and damaging (to terrorist operations) stories they found on the net and spreading them among a large number of pro-terrorist web based groups. This is disinformation, and is an ancient technique. Ancient scriptures mention its use. The new wrinkle here is that the counter-terror organizations that are monitoring terrorist, or pro-terrorist web sites, chat rooms and listservs, note those bits of scary misinformation that seem to be the most popular. Sometimes calling in an Internet expert, the counter-terror people cook up even scarier variations on the initial rumor, and make sure all of them get spread around as much as possible. The Islamic terrorists and their fans have a hard time doing this, because many of the Islamic terrorist meeting spots on the web are kept secret, lest they be discovered by security officials and shut down. But most major Western intelligence agencies have an extensive list of these sites, a larger list than any Islamic terrorist has. New discoveries are shared among different countries, and when a particularly exploitable new rumor shows up, it gets a boost from the infidels.
Despite these problems Islamic terrorists have found that depending on the Internet, rather than mass media, to get the message out is a much more efficient the Islamic terrorists. At the very least, no one can shut you down while traditional newspapers, radio and TV are still vulnerable.