Social Media and Terror

In Lifestyle, News, Social Media by Andrew Selepak

The July 14th, 2015 terrorist attack in Nice, France on Bastille Day was yet another sad reminder of the dangerous world in which we live. Terrorism has become all too common in too many places around the world. Terrorism is a global scourge that our politicians, world leaders, militaries and law enforcement struggle to combat.

Terrorism has also become all too common on our timelines and newsfeeds.

Social media shows us the horror of these events. Photos and videos of human destruction at the hands of terrorists populate our timelines. These images then appear again on our televisions as anchors and news pundits discuss the carnage. Real time video from Facebook Live and Periscope appear from the locations of the horrific violence. And terrorists use social media to spread their propaganda of hate.

The suffering shown through social media can become too much. So much in fact that we want to put down our phones, close our laptops, and shut down our computers.

But social media is not a platform to show us the terrorists are winning.

No, social media is how we show the terrorists they cannot win.


After terrorists attack, we post photos that read – Je suis Charlie. We change our profile photos to the French flag, the Belgian Flag, or Pray for Orlando. Facebook turns on Safety Check to let friends and family know we are OK. We express our sorrow and anger on Twitter. We create crowdfunding sites for victims. We post photos to Instagram of when we were in the same place as the terrorist attack and let the world know we will be back.

The terrorists want to crush our spirit. They want to make us scared. They want to make us too afraid to go to work, fly on a plane, attend a concert, eat at a café, shop at a mall, pick up a loved one at the airport, or have fun at a club on a Saturday night.

For too long we have let too much divide us. We have allowed race, political party, country, nationality, class, gender and sexual preference make us enemies of one another. But we are not our enemies.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” His words ring true today just as they did over 150-years ago.

So let us show not our divisions but our unity. Not our differences, but our similarities.


Those killed in Nice on France’s National Day were not just French citizens. They were people from all over the world who were celebrating France and the French spirit of freedom.

Scores died on Bastille Day from terrorism. We mourn for those who lost their lives. We mourn for the families and friends of those who died. And we continue to mourn for the innocent people who have died from terrorism in too many countries and cities around the world. We must mourn for those who died in Paris and Beirut, in Baghdad and Istanbul, in Brussels and Dhaka, and everywhere evil attempts to create terror.

But we must not grow numb to these attacks.

We must be vigilant. We must be brave. We must not let them win. And we must not let them silence us.

We use social media for many things. And we spend countless hours on different sites and apps connecting with friends and family. We now must connect with mankind.

We must show our support in defense of humanity. All of us, globally, regardless of the differences that too often divide us, must rise up and show we are united.

Facebook offers Profile Pic Frames for sports leagues, teams, and events, as well as some causes. But where is the filter that shows we are one people standing in defiance of terrorism?

It is time Facebook and other social media platforms offered a filter for the greatest cause – our humanity.

Websites can add a filter to a photo such as the one above of the world over the Eiffel Tower. But social media as a change agent should be leading this charge and doing more.

Billions have been made from the billions of us who use social media. But temporary filters offered by Facebook after only some of the attacks are not enough. A new profile picture we find on the Internet after a tragedy is not enough. It is well past time for social media platforms and companies to stand together with users against terrorism rather than let the users stand alone.

We know the terrorists are on social media. We know they use social media to recruit and encourage attacks. We should flood their timelines with our defiance just as they try and flood ours with their barbarity.

We must show our defiance to those who seek to kill innocent people. We must show the terrorists that there are many more of us than there are of them.

This will not defeat terrorism. But it will show that we are not defeated.

Our strength must be on display on the world stage of social media.

A house united cannot fall, and the terrorists need to see, as French President François Hollande said after the Nice attack, we “will always be stronger.”


About the Author

Andrew Selepak


Dr. Selepak is a professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, and director of the graduate program in Social Media.