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A PROPOSAL ON HOW TO INCREASE EFFECTIVENESS OF USING THE SOCIAL MEDIA TO CURTAIL TERRORISM IN MALAYSIA

INTRODUCTION

For the general public, bombs, heavy artillery and weapons of mass destruction are the prime threat that terrorist organizations pose to the world today. The rise and refinement of the technological advances in weaponry has seen the manufacture of very sophisticated weapons that could wipe an entire city with scary ease. Although majority of the population, will immediately think of conflict and war, where there are weapons involved, there is another level of warfare where guns and missiles are not necessarily used for war. This is the media and information warfare, which revolves around the amount of information data that is shared through the various media platforms to the targets (Gangopadhyay, & Fernandez, 2013). This kind of warfare actually plays a much greater role than that of the weapons. Even for the terror organizations to plan their activities, they have to pass around bits and pieces of information to their terrorist members in a cunning way or through codes so they can finally come up with the main plot without getting caught. As such, media and information warfare is an activity that goes on long before the actual war starts and after it has ended (The Malaysian Insider. 2013).

In the modern struggle against the terror groups, it is crucial that the information scrutiny is taken to the various levels, old and new, so as to be effective and through about what, when, how much, between who and purpose of the information that is being shared. Other than the weapons, the terror organizations invest a lot of money in the most advanced media and information tools, which help them bridge the gap that physically exists between them and the forces that they use on the ground to fight the conventional wars. It also helps them to gain as much information of their targets so that their attacks are more accurate (Gangopadhyay, & Fernandez, 2013). The terror organizations also use the information they have to implicate their enemies to the world in a negative manner, where the victims are seen to be the perpetrators and initiators of the war (The Malaysian insider, 2013). This is an act of disinformation, where the information used in the public is meant to confuse the people and divert their attention from the real threats.

Information is power, as the saying goes, it can also be viewed as a weapon (eBizMBA, 2013). As much there is heavy investment on the weapons of war, information weapons can only be enhanced through a highly intellect approach, as well as great investment on the information gathering, deciphering and analyzing equipment.  The same way the terrorist uses the information in their attacks of innocent civilians it can be used to get rid of them completely, without having to kill any more civilians and the soldiers, who put their lives on the line to protect the nation. There is also the need to understand the difference between collecting information for a military war and that of the information warfare, and, therefore, requires a lot of intelligence (Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia, 2013).

In order to beat them at their own game, it crucial to have the right information about the elitists of the enemy, political and tribal affiliations and social structures they have. Of importance too, is the information on the symbols, codes and the dialects that the terrorists use as they communicate (Bernama, 2013). This also ties to the primary channels used to pass the information. With such like information backing, it is much easier for the country to fight terrorism, as it will be countered before it even hatches into a plan to be executed on the innocent civilians who are always used as a shield by these criminal organizations to cause terror through death, injury, destruction of property worth billions (Sario &Lee, 2013).

BACKGROUND

Malaysia covers a landmass of approximately 329,847 sq. kilometres. It is a home to more than 29 million people, majority of who belong to the main ethnic group of the Malay, while the rest are distributed among the Chinese, Indian and indigenous groups. The primary language of communication in Malaysia which is also the national language is Malay, which is derived from the main ethnic group on the land. The recent past has seen Malaysia grow in the use of the social media networks.

Malaysia has had its fair share of terror activities take place within the confines of its borders, with incidents varying from plane hijacking to bombings. Over the years there have been laws that have been formulated to deal with any acts of terror, among them the Security Offences Act of the year 2012. There is also the Penal Code, which under Chapter VI, gives the previous Act the basis to arrest any of the perpetrators that may be deemed to cause ear in the citizens (Towson, 2013).

As such, the terror that mostly faces Malaysia as a sovereign state is barely from other states that are forma but the terrorist organization, whose main aim is to disrupt the peace of her citizens. It is crucial to note that, fighting the terrorist on the fronts that they are already too willing to take part in, is not the way to end the war against terror. For the terrorists, they instigate the terror attacks that cause scores of deaths of civilians, it is therefore not wise to fight them using weapons, but with more superior intelligence, such as the information warfare (Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia, 2013).

AIM OF THE INVESTIGATION/PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

The overall aim of this study is to establish if the approach of combating terrorism in Malaysia using the information gathered or distributed through the social media platform is effective enough, to bring it to an end (Kjuka, 2013). To guide this research in a more focused manner the following are the research questions that will be used to assess the subject matter.

  1. What is the population in Malaysia that uses the social media?
  2. What are the main terrorist activities that are carried out on the social media plat form?
  3. What are the current laws that are in place to combat terror on the social networks?
  4. What are possible social network strategies that can be unveiled to improve the fight against terrorist organizations in Malaysia?
  5. How can the public protect themselves against getting initiated in the terrorist activities on the social networks?

HYPOTHESIS

By using the social media networks, the Malaysian government can be in a position to handle terrorist organization much more effectively, that going to war with them.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

Today the war on terror is changing rapidly with increasing use of the media and the social network platforms (Abdullah & Singh, 2001). The government of Malaysia spends millions of Malaysian ringgit gathering information on the terror groups’ activities from all the media platforms (Rivers, 2013). This study will bring to the light the various ways that the government can use the social networks, which is gaining a lot of popularity in the country, to try and increase the efficiency of the media warfare against the terrorist organizations (Kunkle, 2013). Majority of the terrorist activities have increasingly been taking place in the social media cycles, and if the government seeks to beat the terrorists at their own game, they will have to stay ahead of them on this very crucial platform and this research will uncover just what needs to be done to improve the situation (Prempeh, 2013).

METHODOLOGY

The research methodology will require data gathering from the most relevant sources so as to come up with the best conclusion and recommendation after the research completion. To make an informed conclusion on the research topic, there is a need for temporal and spatial data correlation, which will link all my findings through the past, the present and the future. As such the research will utilize the qualitative and the quantitative tools of data collection, although it is deeply rooted within the qualitative segment, it certainly requires the quantitative data for precise analysis.

DATA COLLECTION

The process of data collection will therefore be divided into two many facets. The first one will involve collecting all the relevant information from previous research reports and recommendation, books and articles that will build on the in-depth understanding of the subject matter as well as the research gaps that exist. This will then be followed by qualitative data collection; in this case, the research will heavily rely on the questionnaire method. The proposed sample size will be one thousand respondents that will be selected on a random basis to reduce the aspects of data bias (Wee, 2012). These respondents will also be spread evenly among the main tribes, so as to capture the cultural opinion of the Malaysians in the best way possible. To bridge the generational gap, the data will be collected in five main age groups namely; 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69 (Public safety, 2013). To take care of the gender bias, the entire respondent will be split into two main groups at the fifty 50% mark, for males and females. So as to spread the data evenly among all the social works, the data collection process will cover both the rural and urban areas as well respondents working in the formal sector (government officials) to the informal sector (private sector).

DATA ANALYSIS

Data collected from the questionnaires will be analyzed using a social statistical data analysis computer program. In my research data analysis I have choose the program Statistical Package for Social Scientists, SPSS Statistics (version 19.0).

LITERATURE REVIEW

Social networks are the way to go about the fight against terror. With the changing trends in the social lives of the modern citizen in Malaysia, majority of persons have their presence in the social media, on average more than 12 hours a day (Soon, 2008). In Malaysia, more than 65% of the population have access to and use the internet. Of all the activities that take place on the internet, the social media takes more than one third of the traffic that the web experiences. While Facebook is the one social media website that has the highest traffic among the main social media networks, twitter also has its share of traffic as there are approximately 350 million tweeted messages on a daily basis. This is generated by an average of 22 million visitors to the site daily. Other social sites such as the Pinterest have been gaining popularity faster than any other sites in Malaysia, with more than 10 million visitors that are unique.

As such one can understand the magnitude the use of the social media that has lead to this research. These sites generate a massive following, which is one of the advantages that the terror groups look for and the added advantage of unlimited geographical confines and speed.

Recent reports show that most of the terrorist organizations, such as Al-Shabab, have now shifted their attention to the social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter), even for activities like recruiting. Not less than 90% of the entire terrorist activities are organized through the social media platforms (Ressler, 2006). This platform gives the terrorists a great advantage as it accords them the freedom of recruiting and organizing their illegal activities far beyond the borders of Malaysia unto the world at large. Other than the fact that the organizations can now upload their content on the internet through these sites with great ease, they also use them to gather all the intelligent they can get their hands on. Some even got to the extent of providing technical information on these sites where, forums are created to share terror related expert views, such as how to make explosives.

By analyzing the social networks for the terrorist activities, it becomes much easier to establish their recruitment trends, the evolution of the terror networks, how they diffuse the radical ideas that they have to the newly initiated, which are very important and unique characteristics of the organizations. With such information, it becomes much easier to monitor the activities of the terror groups within Malaysia and without (Feldman, 2009).

Far from home, to one of the African countries, Kenya, there was an incident in January which lead to the closure of one of the social network accounts that the terror group affiliated to Al Qaeda terrorist network, Al Shabaab was using. The terror group used the twitter account, to post a video, in which they were threatening hostages taken captive from the country (University of Maryland, 2013).

One of the handles that the government of Malaysia will have to deal with is the aspect of such accounts that are used by the terror group’s members to spread information. It is going rather tricky, given the fact that, when these accounts are closed, the groups go ahead and open new ones (Feldman, 2009). The government has the right to have such accounts removed and their content removed, if they feel that they pose a threat to the nation.

COLLECTING THE DATA ON THE TERRORIST

When collecting data on the social media about the terror groups, it will be quite a challenge, as it is difficult creating a whole network (Arnold, 2013). Even with the right equipment, it is still quite difficult to gain information on the terror groups, especially where they carryout secret activities, unlike when they finally come out in the open to take responsibility of an act of violence. As such the government may have to rely on the researchers for data that the terror groups rarely put on their internet presence platforms (Ressler, 2006). Previous research has found that of the four clusters of terror group that are present all over the world today, one of these main clusters resides in Malaysia and Indonesia (CBS News, 2012). The other clusters are spread through, the north of Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. To be in a position to tackle the terrorist activities in the country, the Malaysian government will have to take a keen interest in understanding how the terror groups operate on the internet and specifically the social networks (CBS News, 2012). This will give them the upper hand, as they will have more information on the kind of persons and beliefs that the members of these groups have. Other aspect that the research wishes to uncover is the way the terror groups recruit, their chain of command and the motive behind all the violence. The more the terror groups are understood, the easier it becomes to pin point their activities on the social media and arrest them before they commit the crimes (Malaysia True Asia, 2013).

It is important to acknowledge the kind of complexity that this research will most definitely come across. Terror groups as opposed to what most people think are very well organized. These groups have experts with them that know how best to disguise their presence on the media as well as the much information that they wish to disclose within the boundaries of disguise (Nextupasia, 2013). Tackling such media information warfare, requires not just highly advanced equipment, but, also highly specialized intelligence, planning, reporting and crisis management.

This research will therefore be looking at the best possible ways to improve the whole process chain, by checking the flaws in the information flow and consumption, on one specific channel and that is the social media (Ressler, 2006).

PROCEDURE

The research plan will be spread throughout the period between the 2013 and 2015. Since the research requires lot of data to be collected and analyzed among other activities, the plan will be split into three phases (Vergel, 2013).

Phase One

This phase will start on September 2013 to February 2014. This stage of the data research will involve the collection of all the relevant secondary data on the subject matter. This will also be the stage where the research topic is refined to fit the expected results, making sure that the topic as relevant as possible and it is based on the right information (Guarino, 2013). As such, it is the period to examine what other reports those have before conclude and recommend on the subject matter.

Phase two

This stage will start in March 2014, immediately after the secondary data collection on the topic and end in September 2014. In this phase, the sample size will be evaluated and the geographic spread of the sample respondents assessed (United for sight, 2013). The research methodology will also be evaluated to make sure that it fits the research objectives perfectly to deliver the right results (Arnold, 2013). Sample questionnaires will also be formulated and tested, to make sure that they capture the right information relevant to the research and the objectives.

Phase three

This stage will involve the actual quantitative data collection, which will be done using the questionnaire tested and accredited in phase two. This stage will require more time due to the travelling involved and the rate of response considering that it is random and involves a wide age range. As such, the stage is allocated to time between September 2014 and September 2015.

Phase four

This will basically involve the data analysis from the questionnaires, which will help draw the conclusion and the recommendations, for the research.

References

Abdullah, F & Singh, S. (2001).terrorist activity in malaysia. Retrieved from:http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1309&dat=20010917&id=oKktAAAAIBAJ&sjid=fHgFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2187,3652864

Arnold, E. (2013). State Department fights terrorism on social media. Retrieved from:                 http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/blog/socialmadness/2013/04/state-department-fights-terrorism-on.html

CBS News. (2012). Terrorist groups recruiting through social media. Retrieved from:                http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2012/01/10/tech-terrorist-social-media.html

eBizMBA.(2013). Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites | June 2013. Retrieved from:                 http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites

Feldman, R. (2009). Information warfare in the 21st century: Ideas are sometimes stronger than bombs. Retrieved from: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-03/uoh-iwi031809.php

Gangopadhyay, A & Fernandez,C.(2013). Malaysian Police Re-Arrest High-Profile Terror Suspect. Retrieved from: http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2013/05/28/malaysian-police-re-arrest-high-profile-terror-suspect/

Guarino,M. (2013). Teenagers, social media, and terrorism: a threat level hard to assess. Retrieved from: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2013/0505/Teenagers-social-media-and-terrorism-a-threat-level-hard-to-assess

Kjuka, D. (2013). When Terrorists Take to Social Media. Retrieved from:                 http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/02/when-terrorists-take-to-social-media/273321/

Kunkle, J. (2013).Social Media and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat. Retrieved from:                 http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display&article_id=2692&issue_id=62012

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia. (2013).counter terrorism and transnational crime. Retrieved from: http://www.kln.gov.my/web/guest/md-counter_terrorism

Malaysia True Asia. (2013). About Malaysia. Retrieved from: http://www.tourism.gov.my/en/Master/Web-Page/About-Malaysia

Nextupasia. (2013). 22 Facts that You Must Know about Social Media in Malaysia. Retrieved from: http://www.nextupasia.com/22-facts-that-you-must-know-about-social-media-in-malaysia/

Ressler, S. (2006). Social Network Analysis as an Approach to Combat Terrorism: Past, Present, and Future Research. Retrieved from: http://www.hsaj.org/?article=2.2.8

Rivers, D. (2013). How terror can breed through social media. Retrieved from:                 http://edition.cnn.com/2013/04/27/world/rivers-social-media-terror

Prempeh, A.(2013). Social Media in the Era of Terrorism. Retrieved from:                 http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2013/04/28/social-media-in-the-era-of-terrorism/

Public safety. (2013). Currently listed entities. Retrieved from:   http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/ns/le/cle-eng.aspx

The Malaysian insider. (2013). MNLF strongly condemns terrorist acts in Sabah. Retrieved from:                 http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/mnlf-strongly-condemns-terrorist-acts-in-sabah

Towson. (2013). Major Terrorist Groups. Retrieved from:http://www.towson.edu/polsci/ppp/sp97/terror/groups.html

Sario, R And Lee, S. (2013). Lahad Datu: Eight Filipinos charged with terrorist activities. Retrieved from: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2013/3/21/nation/12866321&sec=nation

Soon, E, B, T. (2008). Impact of Terrorism and Anti-Terrorism Measures in Asia: Malaysia.Retrieved from:                 http://www.malaysianbar.org.my/human_rights/impact_of_terrorism_and_anti_terrorism_measures_in_asia_malaysia.html

United for sight. (2013). Module 2: Study Design and Sampling. Retrieved from: http://www.uniteforsight.org/research-methodology/module2

University of Maryland. (2013). Terrorist Organizations in Malaysia. Retrieved from:                 http://www.start.umd.edu/start/data_collections/tops/terrorist_organizations_by_country.   asp?id=MY

Vergel, G. (2013). Security Expert: Social Networking Sites Are Hotbeds of Terrorism. Retrieved from:                 http://www.fordham.edu/Campus_Resources/eNewsroom/topstories_1916.asp

Wee,T , C. (2012). Malaysia ‘not terrorist recruitment ground’. Retrieved from: http://www.asianewsnet.net/news-38379.html

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This entry was posted on May 11, 2013 by in MEDIA, terrorism.
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