Emerging reports of a 15 year-old boy inspired by the Islamic State (IS) to plot an attack against Pope Francis in Philadelphia speaks to what a terror resource social media has become. There remains little information on the case, but an FBI-DHS bulletin claimed, "The minor obtained explosives instructions and further disseminated these instructions through social media.” As a daily witness to the relentless campaign by IS recruiters to coordinate lone wolf attacks in the West, this is less than surprising.
On May 3, the Twitter account of “Shariah is Light”—later revealed to be an Arizona man and subject of terror investigations, Elton Simpson—would hint at responsibility for an upcoming terror attack in Garland, Texas and claim allegiance to IS on behalf of himself and the other attacker:
A recent Guardian report states that the head of the Islamic State (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was seriously injured in an air strike by the US-led coalition in Iraq. A more detailed report from Newsweek suggests that Baghdadi has been incapacitated—at least temporarily—and is currently unable to lead IS. An Iraqi expert on IS says that a new leader, Abu ‘Ala al-‘Afri, who trained in Afghanistan and who seems to be open to working with al-Qaeda (AQ), has taken over the day-to-day running of the group.
For several months, I have been writing about signs of cooperation—generally on a local level—between al-Qaeda (AQ) groups and others that have sworn fealty to the Islamic State (IS). It might seem counterintuitive that the two, which have accused each other of assassinating leaders, engaged in a very public mutual disowning, and fought each other openly in some areas, would work together at all. But there is growing evidence of localized convergences between the two organizations, especially in Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia. Whether this will turn into something more comprehensive is unclear.
American actor and musician Jimmy Dean once said, "I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination." To that point, there is no better example of adaptation-for-the-worse than the virus than the Islamic State (IS) on Twitter. As waves of social media administrators, hackers, and well intentioned citizens have continually attempted to push back at IS on social media—via shutting down, hacking, and reporting their accounts—it still thrives on Twitter.