Social media is perhaps the greatest tool for mass communication–and for attracting like-minded individuals. That is not new. Back in 2005, for instance, the Journal of International Security Affairs reported on the increased web presence of several major Islamic militias.

Threat intelligence analysis, however, indicates that information and activities within social networking sites is now viewed as one of the primary sources of cyber intelligence on extremist groups and terrorists.

Intelligence sources have warned that terrorist groups have sought to exploit new and alternative media channels, particularly on the Internet, to openly distribute their messages (propaganda) and provide operational and tactical guidance to their supporters through websites, forums, chat rooms and blogs.

Evidence also suggests that terrorist groups have expanded their online capabilities and are focusing on the mass audience of social networking to grow their online communities, and it’s working! A July article on Yahoo News titled “Extremists flocking to Facebook for recruits” addressed this growing issue.

Consider this: The English Defence League, a group fed up with Islamic Extremism in the UK, began operations about two years ago with about 50 members. Now, the group has more than 10,000 people. The leaders of this group have attributed their dramatic growth to the global power social networking sites.

This and sites like are also examples of what is driving intelligence organizations to increase their investment in technologies that monitor and analyze blog content and in some cases blog viewership.

The monitoring and evaluation of potential threats on these social media sites is extremely difficult and costly, but valuable for safeguarding against the hostile actions of extremists and terrorists.

Kevin G. Coleman is a long-time security technology executive and former Chief Strategist at Netscape. He is Senior Fellow with the Technolytics Institute, where he provides consulting services on strategic technology and security issues.