A Virginia teenager who operated a powerful pro-Islamic State Twitter account and helped a friend travel to Syria to join the terrorist group was sentenced Friday to 11 years in prison.
Prosecutors said the sentencing of 17-year-old Ali Shukri Amin demonstrated the U.S. government’s efforts to aggressively confront the Islamic State — also known as ISIS and ISIL — and the extremist group’s efforts to spread jihadi propaganda and recruit new members using social media.
“Today’s sentencing demonstrates that those who use social media as a tool to provide support and resources to ISIL will be identified and prosecuted with no less vigilance than those who travel to take up arms with ISIL,” U.S. Attorney Boente said in a statement. “The Department of Justice will continue to pursue those that travel to fight against the United States and our allies, as well as those individuals that recruit others on behalf of ISIL in the homeland.”
Amin confessed earlier this summer to running the @Amreekiwitness Twitter account, which at its peak had more than 4,000 followers and routinely offered up propaganda in support of the Islamic state group. The account also instructed people how to use the virtual currency bitcoin to covertly fund the Islamic State.
Additionally, the teen arranged for a supporter to travel to Syria to join the militants’ ranks. The supporter has since been arrested and charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorism.
The Islamic State group “continues to use social media to send their violent and hateful message around the world in an attempt to radicalize, recruit and incite youth and others to support their cause,” said John Carlin, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for national security. “More and more, their propaganda is seeping into our communities and reaching those who are most vulnerable.”
FBI Director James Comey said the bureau is ramping up efforts to follow leads connected to the Islamic State in every U.S. state, and that dozens of people have been arrested in recent months for supporting the terrorist group.
Critics say the government in some cases may be too quick to file charges against people who express hateful views online, but likely would not be able to actually carry out an attack.