Toronto Jane's Twitter trail through Syria

pkg newton toronto jane tracking tweets isis_00031116
pkg newton toronto jane tracking tweets isis_00031116

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    Tracked from Toronto to Syria via Twitter

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Tracked from Toronto to Syria via Twitter 03:13

Story highlights

  • Canadian counterterror research group tracks woman on ISIS' Syrian lines
  • Until a few months ago, "Toronto Jane" or "LA" was tweeting from Canada

(CNN)She has a picture of an ISIS beheading on her Twitter profile page, and tweets support for the terror group from Syria. But what worries researchers the most about this woman they call "Toronto Jane" or "LA" is that only a few months ago, she was tweeting from Toronto.

Jeff Weyers, a senior analyst with the Canadian counterterror research group iBRABO, has been tracking her movements through Syria with every tweet.
"I don't think she knew that she was broadcasting," Weyers said, while looking at a map of Syria with markers at every location where LA has tweeted. "What we're starting to see is -- with some particular types of cellphones -- they tend to broadcast, or be set up to default broadcast, more than others."
    Likely unbeknownst to LA, her 100 or so tweets since November have each been geo-tagged, allowing Weyers to see her tweets: first, in Toronto, then ar Raqqah, Kobani, Aleppo and Mosul.
    What strikes Weyers is LA's access to the front lines of battles between ISIS and other militant groups in Syria. He points to a tweet she posted from just outside Kobani in December, right in the middle of a battleground between ISIS and the YPG.
    "Why is a female right in the center of these two groups battling it out?" Weyers said. "This is something we've never seen in a female profile before. For ISIS to give her permission to be on those front lines, it would have to come from a high-up source."
    Weyers tracks LA along with about 20 other Canadians in Syria who are suspected to have ties to ISIS. But to him, LA is the most fascinating because he believes she is a woman.
    "The fact that she's in these forward positions suggests that ISIS is trying to change up their strategy, or that they're under stress in terms of some of their recent losses," Weyers said.
    Indeed, LA claims to be treated with respect by ISIS. While outside Kobani, LA tweeted in December: "Quote me: They treated me as a sister and I have seen no kindness like theirs."
    But, could LA's tweets cause her trouble in Canada?
    Janice Stein, professor of conflict management at The University of Toronto, said she believes proposed Canadian legislation would allow law enforcement in the future to not only stop people who have publicly shown support for terror groups to travel abroad to fight for them, but would also give cause to arrest someone for simply voicing support for a terror group.
    "It will be -- when this legislation passes -- a criminal act to support terrorism," Stein said. "So, that is criminalizing speech rather than behavior. That one, I bet, will be tested in the courts."
    The question for Weyers and other researchers is: What is LA's plan in Syria? The choice between encouraging authorities to take down her Twitter feed for fear of radicalizing others is complicated by the need for her to keep tweeting so authorities and researchers can gather more intelligence on her and ISIS.
    Despite Weyers' best efforts to track LA unnoticed, her Twitter account no longer exists as of last week. Twitter would not comment on whether the account was taken down by the user or by Twitter.