Japheth Omojuwa, an outstanding Legit.ng guest contributor, gives his comments on Boko Haram social media strategy and the consequences Nigeria may face if its social media agenda is implemented.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Legit.ng, its editors or other contributors.
Boko Haram want to be ISIS so bad. There is nothing to suggest they have a formal alliance yet, but Boko Haram has certainly been borrowing some of ISIS’ ideas. For instance, declaring a caliphate after capturing Gwoza villages last August. The way Boko Haram has started using social media may also be attributed to ISIS. Though Twitter has not made things easy for Boko Haram, it is important to look into how it could benefit from using social media tools.
Social media may offer Boko Haram enormous reach of audience that knows no borders or nationalities. With the help of the Internet it would get unlimited access to impressionable young people sharing similar ideas. Thus, social media would further promote Boko Haram ideology and beliefs. I believe, if there is anything that makes people show sympathy to Boko Haram and ISIS, it is the amount of media attention they’re granted. To commit crimes is not enough, it is crucial to make sure the consequences of the crimes get on the media platforms.
Apart from launching its now suspended official Twitter account in January, Boko Haram has been working with Afriqiyah Media, a jihadist site with a formal link to ISIS, to promote its social media agenda. Last weekend, it shared Boko Haram message relating to the group’s intention to align with the self-proclaimed Caliph of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: "We give you glad tidings that the group's Shura Council is at the stage of consulting and studying, and we will let you know soon the group's decision in respect to pledging allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, may Allah preserve him." It is perfectly clear now that their obsession with seizing territories and using social media along with the much improved video graphics are the signs of using ISIS’s promoting techniques.
Read also: FG Supposes ISIS Recruits Nigerian Youth
This says a lot about Boko Haram’s ambition. Despite facing the renewed onslaught from the multinational forces, the terrorist group is not thinking about getting out of the way soon. If it did it would not be bothered about social media now, especially as the group never really seemed to pay attention to social media in the past.
The danger is that if we allow Boko Haram to bring the war to social media, we will be dealing with something much bigger than we currently are. Those assuming Boko Haram is never going to find a social media willing to join the group are deceiving themselves. We once thought Nigerians would never get involved in suicide bombing. Now we know better.
In attempts to reach more audience and evade media platforms’ regulations Boko Haram has started using indirect forms of addressing the public. For instance, instead of focusing on posting their messages on Twitter timelines, it would probably concentrate on reaching Twitter users who appear to be open to its ideas. One may not know how much Twitter users can get involved with several accounts sharing private messages, but there is a danger here we cannot overlook.
Boko Haram will never abandon the attempts to gain the support of the social media, and I bet that one day it might succeed. One effective way to avoid this is to wipe them out or at least drastically weaken them. As long as Boko Haram continues to be strong offline, it will always look for the means of getting stronger and that is where their social media agenda should not be allowed to gather pace. Preventing Boko Haram from going online would be much easier than trying to defeat a strong Boko Haram on the social media.
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