Islamic State (IS) recruiters are actively targeting and attempting to recruit Australian teenagers via social media, a study of the Facebook posts of the radical group shows.
The study by surveillance expert Robyn Torok -- who has been watching IS recruiters at work on social media since 2010 -- outlines how the online recruiters cash in on young people's feelings of alienation, abc.net.au reported.
Initially, recruiters identify potential targets by monitoring Facebook conversation threads. Torok said IS recruiters were targeting teenagers online because they were especially vulnerable as they were trying to establish their identities.
They closely observe their target's online behaviour, seeing how frequently they post and how they respond to geopolitical issues, and get to know their hobbies and interests. Then they begin to interact with them, joining in on conversation threads and trying to create a relationship built through common connections.
The recruiter shows empathy when the target reveals emotional problems. They encourage them to talk about their worries and treat them as valid problems. The recruiter then adds the target as a Facebook friend and begins to talk about political issues, posting comments like "the government is always sticking its nose in Muslim affairs".
To make their arguments sound more believable, the recruiter may assume many different Facebook identities, all of which support their grievances. "I have noticed one person who can have 52 different accounts and have 20 friends on one account and they are all the same person," Torok said.
Two key moments in this process are when the recruiter finally makes the call to Islam, to a target, or invitation to become a Muslim, and when the recruit takes the declaration of faith. The final stage is when recruiters encourage radical recruits to avenge perceived injustices and empower themselves by taking action.
"But we need to remember that not all radicals become terrorists and not all terrorists are recruited online," Torok wrote in another article. The findings were presented recently at a security conference held by Edith Cowan University in Perth.