Rapid Rise of IS Sympathizers in Indonesia via Social Media

In less than a decade since the advent of social media, over 1,000 Indonesians embraced IS sympathies, a stark contrast to the fewer than 300 sympathizers in the nearly three decades preceding the technology's emergence.

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Pictured are members of Indonesian counterterrorism force Densus 88 during a demonstration. (Photo: Densus 88)

by Zam Yusa

Thousands of Indonesians became IS sympathisers in a relatively short period of time with the advent of social media, a counterterrorism official reportedly said.

Marthinus Hukom, the head of counterterrorism police force Densus 88, in a news report, said more than 1,000 Indonesian citizens became ISIS sympathisers in just five years.

“When social media was undergoing extraordinary development, in just about three to five years, more than 1,000 of our citizens went to ISIS,” Marthinus was quoted as saying in a recent dialogue on the strategy for the prevention of terrorism and radicalism.

Marthinus said social media played a major role in the spread of radical ideas and terrorism in society.

The development of terror networks both in Indonesia and abroad has increased significantly due to technological advances in recent times, according to him.

Marthinus made a comparison with the 1980-2000 period, when the spread of radicalism and terrorism in society was limited and the role of social media “was not yet felt”.

“An example is the phenomenon of the (Indonesian terror group) Jamaah Islamiyah and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. For 20 years (or) almost 30 years, it absorbed no more than 300 sympathisers from Indonesia,” he said.

The influence of radicalism and terrorism at that time was still relatively low because the spread was carried out conventionally through studies, books and pamphlets.

This condition, he said, was inversely proportional to the post-2010 period when the digital era and social media actively developed.

Zam Yusa is a Malaysian journalist focusing on Southeast Asia terrorism, conflict, insurgency and militancy news and analysis for his publication seamilitancy.substack.com and Dubai TV station Akhbar Al Aan.

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