Implications of ISIS’ Social Media
Written by Kailey Nordgran
The Islamic State’s use of social media has evolved over the past few years to attract more members. ISIS quickly built a brand on social media with tens of thousands of followers (DiResta, 2018). The organization’s strategic use of social media demonstrates the resourcefulness of the terrorist organization (Ward, 2018). Over time, ISIS maximized its reach through several social media platforms (Koerner, 2017). ISIS has been repeatedly the most adept terrorist group at using Internet and social media propaganda to recruit new members (Alfifi, Kaghazgaran, Morstatter). As ISIS continues to lose territory, they have adapted their use of social media to maintain power (Ward, 2018). Rather than calling followers to the front lines, ISIS’s social media strategy cultivates them at home in the United States, Europe, Africa, and Asia (Singer, Emerson, 2015). Social media has given terrorists the ability to directly come into contact with their target audience and either spread terror or recruit (Alfifi, Kaghazgaran, Morstatter).
In a fight against ISIS, several tech companies are lending a hand. In recent years, Twitter has shut down more than 360,000 ISIS-linked accounts. Google is “pioneering technology that redirects people who are searching ISIL propaganda and serves up to them instead videos of moderate clerics and testimonials from former extremists” (Encarnacao, Harold, 2016). This major effort from tech companies helps not only the US government from fighting terrorism, but every other government fighting against this Islamic State to protect their country. On the other hand, due to social media platforms taking a stand against ISIS, this terrorist group is adapting to still reach their key audiences. The creation of new accounts every day and their own networking site, called KhelafaBook, are just a few examples of how this Islamic State is adapting (Alexander 2017). Actions against ISIS and taking down their social media platforms should continue in order to create a safer online environment.
The attempts of technology companies have decentralized the Islamic State group in the digital world, ultimately making the group less organized. Although, this causes ISIS in the digital world to be harder to monitor due to the multiple accounts they have as “insurance against shutdowns.” The more platforms ISIS uses, the more difficult it becomes for law enforcement officials, and others to reach advocates and understand how deep the group truly is. (Alexander 2017). In response to the increasing difficulties of ISIS on social media and other online environment, considering ways to encircle the organization where it exists with regulations, censorship, and suspension controls the group.
Although the future of ISIS and their use of social media is a constant battle, the world can expect an ongoing fight against them in the digital sphere. Technology companies won’t give up on their efforts to creating a safer online environment. New tactics will emerge in the helping cause to putting an end to the use of social media by the Islamic State.
Alexander, Audrey. “How to Fight ISIS Online.” Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs Magazine, 8 June 2017, www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2017-04-07/how-fight-isis-online.
Alfifi, Majid, Parisa Kaghazgaran, James Caverlee, and Fred Morstatter. Measuring the Impact of ISIS Social Media Strategy. Publication. Department of Computer Science & Engineering, Texas A&M University. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University. 1-4. http://snap.stanford.edu/mis2/files/MIS2_paper_23.pdf
DiResta, Renee. “How ISIS and Russia Manufactured Crowds.” Wired. March 14, 2018. Accessed February 13, 2019. https://www.wired.com/story/isis-russia-manufacture-crowds/.
Encarnacao, Jack, and Boston Herald. “Tech Companies Are Lending a Hand in Fight Against ISIS.” Government Technology State & Local Articles – E.Republic, GovTech, 29 Sept. 2016, www.govtech.com/social/Tech-Companies-Lending-a-Hand-in-Fight-Against-ISIS.html.
Koerner, Brendan I. “Why ISIS Is Winning the Social Media War.” Wired. May 01, 2017. Accessed February 13, 2019. https://www.wired.com/2016/03/isis-winning-social-media-war-heres-beat/.
Singer, P.W., and Emerson Brooking. “Terror On Twitter.” Popular Science. December 11, 2015. Accessed February 13, 2019. https://www.popsci.com/terror-on-twitter-how-isis-is-taking-war-to-social-media.
Ward, Antonia. “ISIS’s Social Media Use Poses a Threat to Stability in the Middle East and Africa.” RAND Corporation. December 11, 2018. Accessed February 13, 2019. https://www.rand.org/blog/2018/12/isiss-use-of-social-media-still-poses-a-threat-to-stability.html.