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Terror on the Internet: The New Arena, the New Challenges / Edition 1

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Overview

Terrorists fight their wars in cyberspace as well as on the ground. However, while politicians and the media have hotly debated the dangers of terrorists sabotaging the Internet, surprisingly little is known about terrorists’ actual use of the Internet.

In this timely and eye-opening volume, Gabriel Weimann reveals that terrorist organizations and their supporters maintain hundreds of Web sites, taking advantage of the unregulated, anonymous, and easily accessible nature of the Internet to target an array of messages to a variety of audiences. Drawing on a seven-year study of the World Wide Web and a wide variety of literature, the author examines how modern terrorist organizations exploit the Internet to raise funds, recruit, and propagandize, as well as to plan and launch attacks and to publicize their chilling results. Weimann also investigates the effectiveness of counterterrorism measures, and warns that this cyberwar may cost us dearly in terms of civil rights.

Illustrated with numerous examples taken from terrorist Web sites, Terror on the Internet offers the definitive introduction to this newly emerging and highly dynamic arena. The volume lays bare the challenges we collectively face in confronting the growing and increasingly sophisticated terrorist presence on the Net.

- Read the review on Economist.com
- Read the review on New York Times

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Read this book to understand the future of terrorism! In this cutting-edge analysis, Weimann examines the new psychology of terrorists and how they use the internet for their goals."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781929223718
  • Publisher: United States Institute of Peace Press (USIP Press)
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Gabriel Weimann is a professor of communication at the University of Haifa, Israel, and a former senior fellow at USIP. A prolific analyst of terrorism and the mass media, his publications include over one hundred scientific articles and five books, among them Communicating Unreality: Mass Media and Reconstruction of Realities and The Theater of Terror: The Mass Media and International Terrorism. Weimann has been a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, Hofstra University, Lehigh University (USA), University of Mainz (Germany), Carleton University (Canada), and the National University of Singapore. He has received numerous grants and awards from organizations such as the Fulbright Foundation, the Canadian Israel Foundation, the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, the German National Research Foundation (D.F.G.), the Sasakawa Foundation, and USIP.

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Table of Contents

1 New terrorism, new media 15
2 The war over minds : the psychology of terrorism 33
3 Communicative uses of the Internet for terrorism 49
4 Instrumental uses of the Internet for terrorism 111
5 Cyberterrorism : how real is the threat? 147
6 Fighting back : responses to terrorism on the Internet, and their cost 173
7 Balancing security and civil liberties 203
App Terrorist organizations on the Internet 243
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Introduction

IntroductionIN THE WAKE OF THE SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, TERRORIST ATTACKS, a single question seemed to arise from all quarters: how could U.S. authorities and intelligence agencies have failed so completely to detect the plot? Despite many unknowns, a common thread runs through most of the explanations, the FBI reports, and the numerous analyses: the Internet played a key role in the terrorists' attack -- in collecting information, in communications between the various terrorist cells and individuals, and in coordinating and executing the attacks. The hard evidence is overwhelming: FBI assistant director Ron Dick, head of the US National Infrastructure Protection Centre told reporters that the hijackers had used the Net, and "used it well." In one instance, two of the hijackers equipped with laptops would not check into a Hollywood, Florida, hotel unless they had around-the-clock Internet access in their room. When the terrorists learned that such access was not available, they became angry and left. The terrorists also used the Internet to purchase "at least nine of their [airline] tickets for the four doomed September 11 flights." The terrorists frequently used computers at public libraries to access the Internet and used the Web to steal social security numbers and obtain fake drivers' licenses.The events on 9/11 revealed to a shocked world that terrorism had entered a new era and a new arena. This book explores this new arena, examining the ways in which modern terrorist organizations exploit the unique attributes of the Internet and looking at various counterterrorism measures being applied to the Net. In turning the spotlight on cyber terrorists and exploring the efforts to stop them, we must also take into account the costs of this cyberwar in terms of civil rights. The following research questions have guided this study:
  • Who are the terrorists of the Internet?
  • How do terrorists use the Internet?
  • What rhetorical devices do terrorist Web sites use?
  • Who are the target audiences of terrorist sites?
  • What counterterrorism measures are in place on the Internet, and how successful are they?
  • What are the costs of such measures in terms of privacy and freedom of expression?
The material presented in this book is drawn from an ongoing study, during which the author has witnessed a growing and increasingly sophisticated terrorist presence on the World Wide Web. Terrorism on the Internet is a very dynamic phenomenon: Web sites suddenly emerge, frequently modify their formats, and then swiftly disappear -- or, in many cases, seem to disappear but actually have only moved by changing their online address, while retaining much of the same content.In exploring this new arena, this study draws on several sources, databases, and methods. The databases used for this project are derived from eight years of monitoring and archiving terrorists' Web sites (1998-2005) and from public opinion surveys (U.S. national samples) conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The study of counterterrorism measures on the Net and their prices in terms of civil liberties and privacy relies on a survey of various organizations and agencies.Two earlier studies serve as pilot studies for the current project: Yariv Tsfati and the present author applied a systematic content analysis to a sample of terrorist sites in 1998 and repeated this analysis after three years. These exploratory studies provided the methodological tools as well as the first evidence both of the diffusion of terrorism into the Internet and of the terrorists' growing sophistication. The method used to study Web sites was content analysis, which is defined as "any technique for reaching conclusions by systematic and objective identification of defined properties of messages." To locate the terrorists' sites, we conducted numerous systematic scans of the Internet, feeding an enormous variety of names and terms into search engines, entering chat rooms and forums of supporters and sympathizers, and surveying the links on other organizations' Web sites to create and update our own lists of sites. This is often a Herculean effort, especially since (in the case of al Qaeda's Web sites, for example) locations and contents change almost daily. For the purposes of this book, the Internet was scanned again, in 2003-05. The target population for the current study was defined as "the Internet sites of terrorist movements as they appeared in the period between January 1998 and May 2005." Using the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations (see the appendix), we found more than 4,300 sites serving terrorists and their supporters.
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