On Twitter and Terrorists

26Oct08

It seems that US Army intelligence has just released a report on the potential for terrorists to use twitter (which I’m a big fan and user of):

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A draft US Army intelligence report has identified the popular micro-blogging service Twitter, Global Positioning System maps and voice-changing software as potential terrorist tools.

The report by the 304th Military Intelligence Battalion, posted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), examines a number of mobile and web technologies and their potential uses by militants…

Wired.com’s Danger Room broke the story with some specific fears from the report:

Then the presentation launches into an even-more theoretical discussion of how militants might pair some of these mobile applications with Twitter, to magnify their impact. After all, “Twitter was recently used as a countersurveillance, command and control, and movement tool by activists at the Republican National Convention,” the report notes.”The activists would Tweet each other and their Twitter pages to add information on what was happening with Law Enforcement near real time.”

I’m inclined to agree with John Biggs at CrunchGear. Not only is Twitter notorious for connection problems, which make it a lousy “command and control center,” but its functionality could also easily be duplicated through other means like text messaging or email. Twitter is only a terrorist tool insofar as it enables conversation.

Perhaps making the authorities aware of Twitter’s existence is a good idea, and as long as Twitter doesn’t get branded as a staple in the terrorist’s tool bag I’ll allow it… but I do have some worries about potetially going overboard, restricting innocent tweets for national security reasons would get very sticky very quickly.

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