Social media a key tool used by ISIS to radicalize Americans

- Even though questions still surround the San Bernardino, California mass shooting, the research on Muslim extremists is starting to paint a clearer picture of ISIS in America.

It was just two days ago that the Program on Extremism at George Washington University came out with a report, “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa.”

In the report, researchers specifically looked at Americans who have become radicalized. Law enforcement knows of 250 Americans who have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria or Iraq to join the Islamic State. And there are investigations underway in all 50 states.

Social media is one of the main tools for ISIS to recruit teenagers. Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, the co-author of the report, said for some, specifically younger individuals, it can be a sense of rebellion and adventure, almost like a video game to them and they don't understand the reality of it.

For adults, ISIS knows exactly who they are looking for and how to groom them into joining their cause.

“ISIS approaches vulnerable people -- people who are just looking for friends online, looking for meaning,” said Vidino. “And the initial approach is very soft. ‘Let’s talk. I'm a friend. Let’s talk about Islam. Let’s talk about the poor children and families being killed in Syria.' Things a lot of people can relate to and that’s exactly like how pedophiles groom people online. It's that softer approach, and with time, it becomes harder and then you hit with the really violent part.”

Some who are already of the Islamic faith could be feeling attacked or alienated. Also from a security standpoint, this is a serious issue. Statistically, Vidino said it is only a few hundred individuals that are of concern out of two million American Muslims.

Another interesting point Dr. Vidino talked about is that we always think of American Islamic extremists traveling overseas to Iraq and Syria to receive training. But that is not always the case. ISIS can groom online and aid in a violent attack without their asset ever leaving the country.

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