There's a new jihadist recruiter on the Internet. Based in San Francisco and backed by a multimillion dollar bankroll, the recruiter orchestrates thousands of introductions every day, connecting people at risk of radicalization with extremist clerics and terrorist propagandists -- even facilitating online meetings with hardcore al Qaeda members.
The recruiter is Twitter, and it's shaking up the world of online radicalization in ways both large and small.
Here's how this nefarious operator works. First, you sign up by going to Twitter.com and creating an account, which can even be anonymous. Then you pick someone to follow.
Let's say your interest in terrorism was sparked by al Qaeda's newest affiliate, the Syrian group Jabhat al-Nusra. So you follow their well-publicized Twitter account. That's when the recruiter makes its move. Once it knows you're interested, it starts making introductions.
In a trial run, Twitter's very first recommendation was the official account used by Ansar al-Mujahideen, one of the most important and notorious jihadist message boards. This recommendation is right on target, so you follow Ansar.
In a moment, you've gone from a casual interest in Syrian jihad to following a major node in the online infrastructure of terrorism.
This choice instantly prompts a new round of recommendations, which are prominently displayed at the top of your Twitter timeline.