BEIRUT — Even US President Barack Obama knows Facebook is losing its cachet. Meanwhile, it seems everyone is tweeting these days.
But it isn't all news-snark and cats. If you thought it was scary when you found out your mother had a Twitter account, check out this list of Twitter handles by groups that seem bent on instilling fear.
Al Nusra Front
Syrian rebel groups have been using social media to make threats and claim victories since the beginning of the armed uprising. The Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front is no exception.
After a car bomb ripped through a Shia area of Beirut on Tuesday, a group claiming to be the “Al Nusra Front in Lebanon” took responsibility with this tweet:
"Thanks to Almighty God, we have responded to the massacres against the children of Syria and Arsal by Iran’s Hezbollah with a martyrdom operation that hit their own home in the southern suburbs."
[4 photos of bodies in 1. Iraq (skeletons uncovered by the US in 2003 but frequently mis-posted to represent the Houla massacre, 2. Lebanon (recent Arsal bombing) 3. & 4. Syria (Baniyas massacre and chemical weapons attack in Damascus)]
"We call upon people in all areas of Lebanon to join ranks to confront the party of the devil."
Since 2011, Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab has been opening new handles just as quickly as Twitter has shut down its old ones.
“With the institution of Islamic Shari’ah, there hasn’t been a single unlawful killing in #Baladweyne since Mujahideen captured city in 2009," read one tweet posted in English. The original has been deleted, but the text was retweeted.
Saraya Marwan Hadid
On Dec. 17, as ten Grad rockets hit the Lebanese Shiite town of Hermel, injuring four, the Syrian rebel group Saraya Marwan Hadid was busy posting about their mission. They shared these images, which they claim are of the deadly missiles being fired:
Despite numerous threats and boasts of deadly attacks, @SarayaMarwan seems to have escaped the Twitter authorities' radar. Last week, as another attack on Hermel killed at least 4 and injured dozens, the group kept on posting:
Translation: "We call on our people in Palestine and Lebanon and the Sinai to the relentless pursuit of criminals targeting Jews and their allies."
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment from GlobalPost, but the site has stated publicly that they will not discuss individual accounts.
Twitter’s rules for use do not specifically ban terrorist organizations or wanted criminals from opening accounts. But they forbid violent threats and the use of the service for the “furtherance of illegal activities.”
Beware of the imitations
While many Twitter accounts claiming to be operated by Al Qaeda or affiliated groups actually are, there are many that are not. Here's one imposter account:
@ThatSalafi – Females, don’t follow me. Follow your husbands.
And then there's @alqaeda: "Working to expel the infidels from the lands of the Faithful, unite Muslims and create a new Islamic caliphate. All at sea."
GlobalPost uses several methods to verify whether Twitter accounts claiming to be used by extremist groups are genuine. Here are a few of the ways to gauge authenticity:
- The Twitter account posts personal pictures of known members and leaders of the groups and their flags.
- Leaders and known members follow and retweet from the account.
- The account is linked to websites and other accounts operated by the same group.