Is Facebook the new terror launching pad?

TERRORIST groups are using Facebook to recruit loners from Western countries like Australia to their cause and authorities are struggling to stop it, a leading counter-terrorism expert says.

The Australian Ambassador for Counter Terrorism, Bill Paterson, says terrorists have embraced the rise of technology, particularly the internet, to spread their messages and attract followers.

Social media is making things even easier still, he says.

“Established terrorist cells have found social media to be a useful communication tool – Facebook, Twitter, that sort of thing,” he told AAP.

“Facebook can be a recruitment tool … (but) Twitter is more for operational communication.”

He said social media has also encouraged the rise of home-grown terrorism, particularly among “disaffected loners sometimes on the margins of society”.

Accused Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik is a prime example, he said.

Mr Paterson said that while the trend has been more prevalent in Europe, it could catch on in Australia.

“It’s something that we are concerned is a possibility,” he said.

But in democratic countries where internet censorship is seen as an “infringement of freedom of information” or a breach on civil liberties, stopping terrorists from communicating on social media is difficult.

“If you’re in an authoritarian country you just do it but you can’t in a country like Australia,” he said.

Mr Paterson will discuss the issue and other ways terrorism is changing during a public lecture at Brisbane’s Griffith University tomorrow.

The Australian