In recent years, Somalia’s al Shabaab has been an early adopter of Twitter and been known in the terrorist world as a leading user of openly available social media rather than closed forums to spread its message. Many analysts saw this as a worrying sign; Shabaab tweets could radicalize previously uninfected young minds. However, Twitter, unlike other platforms, allowed for the open countering of Shabaab by the Kenyan military and the censorship of Shabaab as the group was kicked off the platform for violating terms of service (as described by @intelwire).
More recently Twitter has again undermined Shabaab as the group’s defectors, realizing the hypocrisy of the Shabaab’s words when compared to Shabaab’s actions, have taken to the social media platform to voice their frustrations. Apparently Shabaab struggles with the same problems as the U.S. government and other open democracies – controlling message.
Omar Hammami’s persistent countering of Shabaab on Twitter has likely eroded the group’s appeal amongst foreign fighters seeking to join the struggling group. Now, Hammami’s band of Twitter dissenters appears to have expanded and the “Muhajir” in Somalia have taken to the Twitterverse to express their resentment to Abu Zubayr (Godane) – Shabaab’s leader. The “Muhajir” (foreign fighters) continue exposing the rift between local Somali Shabaab members and the global foreign fighters that have joined the group only to be treated as second class. Here, @jawshan7, a Shabaab loyalist, and @abuu_haajir, a Muj dissenter, illuminate the divisions in Shabaab – in awful Twitter English.
So what does Shabaab do when foreign fighters in their midst behave badly on Twitter? The same thing American parents do to their teenagers – They take away their cell phones!
So the mighty Shabaab, rather than taking care of business on the front lines, is instead Twitter stalking its former “Muj” trying to control their speech. Ahhh, the double edged sword of Twitter.