WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-Boston), the lead Democrat on the Subcommittee on National Security, and Chairman Ron Desantis (R-FL-06) together held a hearing on the use of social media by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“As terrorists exploit social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp to broadcast their message to a global audience, they are significantly extending their recruitment, mobilization, and financing efforts beyond the battlefields in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan,” said Ranking Member Lynch.  “It is clear that we must strengthen our counterterrorism strategy to counter the social media threat posed by ISIL and other terrorist groups.”

Terrorist groups are heavily using social media for recruitment and radicalization.  According to the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, there are over 40,000 accounts actively supporting ISIL on Twitter with an estimated 2,000 accounts tweeting in English.  The extensive social media presence of ISIL has extended the reach of terrorist groups and led to a rise in foreign fighters traveling to Iraq and Syria to join ISIL.  The Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Travel reports that nearly 30,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Iraq and Syria since 2011 to join ISIL, including an estimated 250 individuals from the United States.

The hearing included testimony from a panel of expert witnesses who focused their testimony and question responses on how to monitor and mitigate terrorist propaganda on social media. Testifying were:

  • Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, Chief Executive Officer, Counter Extremism Project
  • Mr. Walter Purdy, President, Terrorism Research Center
  • Dr. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
  • Mr. Michael Rolince, Special Agent in Charge (Retired), Counter Terrorism Division, Washington Field Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Ambassador Alberto M. Fernandez, Vice President, Middle East Media Research Institute