It’s hard to believe a terrorist group could use social media to push its agenda, but the Islamic State is doing just that. ISIS is dedicated to pushing a worldview that was mostly adapted in the 7th century. Now they are using 21st century technology to do so.
Phillip Smyth, a researcher of jihadist groups at the University of Maryland, started seeing increased social-media activity by the Islamic State and its sympathizers in June. The social media accounts often post pictures and videos of beheadings, and make violent threats to the U.S.
ISIS is using the beheading videos of American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, for propaganda. The terrorist group filmed the videos from multiple angles and edited them together. They picked an uncluttered desert background so there were no distractions.
ISIS targets willing Westerners to help carry out their social media attacks.
“If you do have a European language ability, if you have computer skills, if you are quite clever and you come join ISIS, you are likely to be used for social media output,” said Peter Neumann, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR). “A lot of Westerners do not have formal military training, but they do have precisely those skills.”
The State Department is working to rid the social media presence of terrorists. The Department engages with ISIS supporters through its Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. In July of this year, The State Department established a strong presence on Twitter, in hopes of preventing ISIS recruits from becoming committed militants.
The State Department’s Twitter account is called “Think Again Turn Away.” The Department regularly uses hashtags that the Islamic State has adopted to reach more people. For example, ISIS supporters often use #CalamityWillBefallUS to tweet pictures of terror attacks from 9/11. The State Department counters those tweets by using the same hashtag, but attaching news articles of U.S. airstrikes. The purpose of the account is to shed light on what terrorism truly is and how it destroys lives.
Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook ban terroristic activity in their terms of service agreement. Once an account posts terroristic content, it is usually deleted soon after. The problem is that there are many of these ISIS accounts, sometimes it is hard to delete them all before new accounts are made.
While ISIS continues to push its terroristic agenda on social media, the group is also causing many Syrians and Iraqis to flee to the northern Kurdish region of Iraq for safety. World Compassion is working to provide these people with shelter, food, and the Gospel. Click here to learn more about how you can join World Compassion’s efforts aiding refugees and families displaced by the violence of the Islamic State.