Mere hours after Omar Mateen slaughtered 49 people inside a gay Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning, ISIS sympathizers began using images of the Muslim gunman to recruit other jihadis.
As selfies Mateen previously posted to personal social media accounts flooded the Internet soon after the deadly shooting at Pulse, pro-ISIS social media accounts started posting the pictures slickly photoshopped alongside slogans such as “Today in Florida Tomorrow in Berlin!” In one example, Mateen’s name is emphasized by fiery letters and the description “Soldier of the Khlafah.”
“Our social media platforms are being used to radicalize people,” said an analyst for GIPEC, a software company that monitors illegal activity and terror-related social media accounts.
While terror groups have long utilized photos of their “martyrs” in promotional material, groups such as ISIS are increasingly able to produce the propaganda even faster and disseminate it to an even wider audience on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube by using hashtags and exploiting algorithms.
One Facebook posting celebrating Sunday’s attack used the phrase “ORLANDO IS BURNING” in an appeal to spur on other potential ‘lone wolf’ actors.
“So if you hashtag ‘Orlando is burning,’ they’re saying, ‘Who wants to be next? Who wants to be the next lone wolf?’” the analyst told FoxNews.com. “There’s absolutely nothing positive in any kind of trending tool when you hashtag ‘is burning.’”
Mateen’s bloody attack included three separate gun battles with authorities – he died in the final one – an initial burst of deadly gunfire inside the club and a three-hour siege inside a club bathroom, alongside terrified hostages.
During the assault, which also wounded 53, Mateen called 911 to pledge allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and also expressed his sympathies with the Boston Marathon bombers and an American-born suicide bomber who blew himself up in Syria in 2014.
And the pro-ISIS accounts lauding Mateen’s butchery may soon have another figure to praise. Fox News confirmed Tuesday that FBI investigators were interviewing Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, and could arrest her for alleged complicity in the attack. Salman was at least somewhat aware of Mateen’s plot and did not warn authorities, a source told Fox News.