ISIS and social media

Like many large organizations in our high tech world, ISIS has mastered the usage of social media. Companies often use social media to market their products and encourage new people to use their brand. ISIS is not any different.

But recently, many of the big name platforms ISIS used to spread their propaganda have removed them almost completely from their sites. Twitter and Facebook are continuously working to keep this terrorist organization off of their platform. ISIS has since moved to more encrypted networks, which makes it more challenging for them to recruit from across the internet. 

 

introduction

 ISIS uses social media in many ways, and experts attribute a large part of the group’s success to their abilities to market, recruit, and spread propaganda online. ISIS uses Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms relentlessly. In 2014-2015 when the group first gained territory in Syria and Iraq, their existence online was very overwhelming. The group and their supporters were estimated to have hundreds of thousands of accounts.

Recently, social media companies have been working very hard to remove the accounts and the extremist content from their platforms. Twitter has removed approximately 125,000 extremists’ accounts.

The goals ISIS has for social media are vast, but they all come back to one main goal: gain more support and more followers who can share their message of hate.

 

Tactics

They use professional videos, commercial like ads, graphics, and articles to try convince individuals from around the world that their jihad is worthy. Not all of the content that they post is violent though.  Actually, the group made a very big effort to make their caliphate seem like an Islamic paradise.

For a while, the group posted photos of parks, happy children, great food, and pets to encourage people to come to their territory. This trend has not been as common recently though because the group has been losing a lot of territory.

The other large goal ISIS has for their social media content is to make people hate the western world (America, Canada, Europe, etc). They post propaganda that sheds the west and its governments in a bad light to make their war of jihad seem more credible. They believe that if they can make some western people hate their own country then these individuals will take action in support of ISIS, such as doing terrorist attacks, or traveling to Syria. In some cases this has happened.


foreign fighters have gone to join ISIS since 2014.

were from North America and western Europe.

were from the United States.


foreign fighters

One of the consequences of ISIS’ large social media campaign is that it likely played a large role in encouraging people from around the world to leave their home countries to go join ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Over 30,000 fighters have left to join ISIS, many more individuals (foreign fighters) have left to join other extremist groups such as al Shabab, Boko Haram, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and al Qaeda.

These people come from all backgrounds and religions. Many were largely radicalized online (see Berger’s model), and some were radicalized through an extremist mosque or people they met in person.

Radicalization is a process an individual goes through that causes them to take on radical or extremist ideas as their own. Some people have radical ideas and could be considered radicalized, but they live a fairly normal life. Other radicalized people though, can become dangerous and carry out violent acts in the name of their extreme ideology.

A problem western governments are concerned about is the fact that many of these foreign fighters are returning home to their original countries. There are many reasons why this is happening, but experts seem to come back to two main issues: ISIS is losing territory and they want their fighters to return home to carry out terrorist attacks in the name of ISIS.

The number of individuals leaving the west to go to Syria has been decreasing over the past year. One reason is because ISIS is losing its standing and people are less likely to fight for a ‘losing team.’ The other reason is that ISIS is now encouraging people they have recruited online through social media to stay in their home countries and carry out attacks.

Map of Middle East and North East Africa: Syria and Iraq, shown in green, still have areas of ISIS controlled territory

Map of Middle East and North East Africa: Syria and Iraq, shown in green, still have areas of ISIS controlled territory