Could individual Facebook statuses indicate a person’s plan to carry out a terror attack?

“Lone wolf” attacks have become more common during this wave of terrorism. Individuals carry out attacks on their own without extensive previous planning. Security forces can’t do much to identify these people in advance, making this terror very difficult to stop.

Attackers often post on social media platforms before executing acts of terror. Can spotting these suspicious statuses prevent future terror attacks? Could Facebook and Twitter help us save lives?

Mahdi Akas

On November 8, 2015, Mahdi Akas stabbed an Israeli man near the community of Alfei Menashe. The day Akas carried out the attack, he changed his profile picture on Facebook to a masked man with an accompanied text stating he was a martyr on a “waiting list.” Additionally, he posted pictures of armed terrorists to his Facebook profile.

Muhannad Halabi

On October 3, 2015, Muhannad Halabi killed two Israelis and seriously injured two others, including a two year old in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem. Halabi, a resident of al-Bireh near Ramallah, was a law student at Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility and Hamas praised the attack. A week before, Halabi posted a Facebook status declaring an intifada and demanding a response to Palestinian “humiliation.”

“According to what I see, the third intifada has started. What is happening at Al-Aqsa will also happen at our other holy places. That which is being done to the women of Al-Aqsa will also be done to our mothers and sisters. I don’t think the nation will accept this humiliation. The people will rise up (intifada). People – rise up!”

Bassim Nassan and Kasem Sabana

On October 30, 2015, Bassim Nassan and Kasem Sabana attempted to stab an IDF soldier at the Tapuah Junction in Samaria. Before the attack, Sabana wrote a status asking for forgiveness. Nassan, before the attack, wrote a status stating, “we will die for the sake of the homeland. Al-Aqsa – we are under your command.” Additionally, he posted a song praising previous stabbing attacks. A week before the attack, he added a picture of Adolf Hitler to his Facebook.

Social media has played an important role in the wave of Palestinian terror. Extreme religious language, anti-Semitic visuals, wills, and suicide notes have been used in numerous instances. As social media continues to rise in popularity, it’s essential to identify the activities and patterns of would-be attackers before terror hits.