Behind the Screens: Women of ISIS and the Threat of the Internet
A few weeks ago on May 29th, CNN published an article that reads, “The women of ISIS: Who are they?” There are five main kinds of women described in the article: The Blogger, The Schoolgirls, The Recruiter, The Child, and The Widows. To add to this troubling news, the influx of western women who have chosen to leave their homes to join the extremist group, ISIS, has only grown. There are about 550 western women, between the ages 14 and 45, who are leaving their families and homes behind to become wives of the fighters.
These numbers should come as a desperate awakening for those who are watching these women leave their homes. It raises the question of homegrown terrorism, as countries all over the world overlook potential dangers of people who are getting in contact with either ISIS members or hidden ISIS supporters through the Internet. ISIS’s power and presence is growing, and it may be due to one thing that is ubiquitously used: the Internet.
The world needs to retain its attention on the impact that extremists have on Internet users because they are beginning to build a formidable online presence and alliance. This goes with saying that extremism is not birthed from one religion, but it can also begin with an idea, a person, another religion, and more. And the Internet, inevitably, is a melting pot of loquacious as well as voracious minds. It is the perfect tool for targeting people all over the world and potentially manipulating them to commit to a cause that is diffusing more harm and hatred than peace.
Should we become more responsible consumers of Internet content and be careful of the radicalization efforts online? What does this mean for the Internet and its safety? And most importantly, what is the role of individual rights when it comes to terrorism and the spread of terrorism? The Internet stores personal and private information that has the possibility of being seen by people behind anonymous screens.
Regarding the issue of privacy, President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act of 2015 on June 2nd that lessens NSA surveillance on Americans. Congress was unable to agree on what degree to which Americans should be under surveillance, resulting in the collapse of the Patriot Act. The bill allows phone companies to have authority over the rights of sharing private records, which means that in order for the government to go through these records, it will need search warrants. In connection to the threat of the Internet and privacy of its everyday users, was this the correct move for the American government and the President to take in the midst of the ongoing threat of homegrown terrorism?
The CNN article that I mentioned in the beginning states that five American women have already left the country to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The possibility of the “Women of ISIS” and other members of the extremist group reaching even more Americans is a threat to the nation’s safety as well as the citizens’ individual rights. While there is the danger of ISIS’s full control of its neighboring countries, there is also the possible danger of the group’s control of what is intangible, using the Internet as a deadly weapon: the minds of those who use it. Unless we know how we can contain or even decrease the amount of online presence ISIS has, there is no guarantee that everyone is guarded from its threats.
- Yeho Hwang