Social media might just seem like a fun tool to help you communicate with family and friends, but it can also be very dangerous in the wrong hands. For instance, the terrorist group ISIS has effectively used popular social media sites like YouTube and Twitter to recruit supports and spread propaganda. They may even have help from a computer whiz from the U.S.! That's why the FBI is turning to social media to capture would-be terrorists in the U.S. before they even have a chance to join the enemy.
The FBI is targeting American citizens and legal residents who post terrorist sympathies online. These supporters are especially scary because they could receive terrorist training overseas and then legally come back into U.S. with little scrutiny. The FBI contacts these wanna-be terrorists using informants and agents on sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to see if the threat seems real.
It shows that undercover FBI agents or informants first identified or connected with the suspects via social media in at least four cases, using fake social media identities to engage them and, in Sheikh’s case, possibly engaging in “catfishing” by luring him into a personal relationship with a phony online persona. Agents also created a “false-flag” or “honeypot” Facebook page to help snare him.
But, the FBI's practices are coming under some scrutiny because some believe they're crossing the line. In the case of Basit Javid Sheikh, the man wanted to fight for a Syrian opposition group that was not labeled as a terrorist organization by the U.S. until an FBI informant posing as a female Syrian nurse suggested he join the terrorist group Al-Nusra Front. In two other cases, attorneys have claimed their clients were suffering from personality disorders like schizophrenia when they spoke with informants about joining terrorist groups.