The Islamic State and the End of Lone-Wolf Terrorism

From Manchester to Orlando, the followers of the Islamic State aren’t operating “alone” anymore. And there are no easy answers to defeating an online community of terrorists.

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Media Outlet: Foreign Policy

Joshua Geltzer wrote for Foreign Policy  about ISIS's influence on the end of lone-wolf terrorism:

This is a core security problem for open Western societies: So-called lone actors may be inspired by the recruitment videos and hashtag campaigns delivered via social media by the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, but they move from inspiration to action on their own, without direct communication with terrorist groups’ leadership. They may respond to, for example, the generalized call of now-deceased Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani to “make [Ramadan] a month of calamity everywhere for the nonbelievers,” but ultimately they select their own targets, choose their own weapons, determine their own timing, and, increasingly, record their own press releases.
Is this new? Yes, but not quite in the way most people think. The Islamic State hasn’t unleashed lone-wolf terrorism; instead, its unique manipulation of modern communications technologies portends the end of lone-wolf terrorism.


Joshua Geltzer is an ASU Future of War Fellow at New America. He is writing a book exploring challenges associated with modern communications technologies such as social media platforms, file-upload sites, and internet search engines.