The Federal Bureau of Investigation's least likely informant isn't a shadowy figure in a parking garage or an anonymous phone call -- it's a fast-paced social network with a short attention span: Twitter. According to FBI Director James Comey, the social network has proved to be an invaluable source of evidence against supporters of terrorism. An account that's constantly retweeting content from ISIS or ISIL could be a sign of criminal activity. That said, context still matters.
"I can imagine an academic sharing something with someone as part of research would have a very different mental intent than someone who is sharing that in order to try and get others to join an organization or engage in an act of violence," Comey told the Huffington Post. "The government is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted with a criminal intent to violate the statute." In other words, simply retweeting terrorist organizations isn't enough to get you arrested, but it might be enough to get the FBI to dig into your background.
So, what kind of Tweets will get you arrested? Statements, retweets and links that support and feed resources to terrorist organizations. The Huffington Post rounded up a few cases where Twitter activity was key to the FBI's charges, including the case of Ali Shukri Amin, a 17-year old who used Twitter to promote Bitcoin donations to ISIS and ISIL and Bilal Abood, who publicly declared his allegiance to Baghdadi on the social network.
"Knowing it was wrong, you provided material support for a terrorist organization or some other offence... that is the bulwark against prosecuting someone for having an idea or interest," Comey said. "You have to manifest a criminal intent to further the aims prohibited by the statute." So if you ever wondered what kind of activity prompts the government to make national security requests from Twitter, there it is. Check out Huffington Post's original report for more details.
[Image Credit: Amer Ghazzal / Alamy]