In a world where social media is as prevalent as it is, you have to choose your words very carefully. Unfortunately for 17-year-old Ali Shukri Amin, no amount of carefulness on Twitter could have prevented his jail term, which was handed down today, reports The Hill.
The American teenager is in boiling hot water over running a Twitter account, @Amreekiwitness, which published pro-ISIS messages, as well as tutorials on how to send money to the extremist group in the form of Bitcoins. The account had roughly 4,000 followers by the time it was shut down, which only added to the incriminating evidence against the Virginia teenager, who also advised a teenage ISIS recruit on how to get to Syria.
This was enough for the jury to sentence him to 11 years in jail for a crime that serves as another example of ISIS’ ever-increasing reach in the world of social media, as assistant attorney general for National Security John Carlin pointed out.
“ISIL continues to use social media to send their violent and hateful message around the world in an attempt to radicalize, recruit, and incite youth and others to support their cause,” said Carlin. “More and more, their propaganda is seeping into our communities and reaching those who are most vulnerable.”
This case brings to light several issues, the most important of which being how far-reaching ISIS is on social media. According to a study published by the Brookings Institute, there are between 46,000 and 70,000 ISIS supporters on Twitter, with the actual number believed to be at the lower end of this spectrum.
In addition, this case brings up the issue of the manner in which Amin was prosecuted. The trial saw entered into evidence a raft of his Twitter messages that expressed support for ISIS, but that were unrelated to his solicitation of material assistance for the terrorist group (which separate evidence did confirm). For his part, FBI assistant director and head of the agency’s Washington office Andrew McCabe defended his approach.
“Amin’s case serves as a reminder of how persistent and pervasive online radicalization has become,” said McCabe. “The FBI, through our Joint Terrorism Task Forces, remains dedicated to protecting the United States against the ongoing violent threat posed by ISIL and their supporters.”