Interview color code: blue

Social media has given people faster and easier access to information and connections all around the world. The journalists interviewed use social media to varying degrees, but agree that it serves as a useful tool in reporting on terrorism. Platforms such as Twitter can help reporters uncover information about their subjects and find sources. For example, Tom Coghlan said that he used the messaging service WhatsApp to communicate with people in besieged enclaves around Damascus. Some journalists, like Rukmini Callimachi and Graeme Wood, said they use social media to interact with readers. Social media has given these journalists access to information and sources, as well as a platform to communicate with others on a level that was previously unknown.

The journalists also described how terrorists use social media to spread ideas and recruit supporters. Terrorist groups not only use mainstream platforms like Twitter and Facebook, but also have come to control their own areas in cyberspace. As Vegas Tenold said, the alt-right dominates a Twitter-like platform called Gab. ISIS heavily uses online chat rooms and has its own media space, which Callimachi said is extremely developed.

Of the journalists interviewed, Callimachi is perhaps the strongest proponent of using social media in the reporting process on the terrorism beat. She checks in to ISIS’s online chat rooms daily and religiously navigates Twitter and other platforms to track trends in the terrorist group’s activity. She said social media can help reporters gain powerful insight into terrorist groups.