ISIL social media

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According to a text published by Time.com on September 11, 2014, “terrorists love Twitter. That includes the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Sunni Muslim extremists whom the U.S. is targeting in an expanded military campaign. ISIL has emerged as the most sophisticated group yet at using the service to spread its bloodthirsty message.”[1] It might seem odd, but at this very moment ISIS is a brand. And like any other modern brand, social media network presence is a must. Along the almost compulsory effort ISIL does on social media, it follows the same advertising vectors as any other entity using the same advertising tools. The main purpose of a terrorist organization is to convey fear. Without a proper audience, they cannot achieve their main goal. In a world where the need for unusual and shocking news is growing fast, social media networks are the perfect environment suitable for the propagation of such information. Even if the reasons for which information spreads are different (bad example, compassion for victims, sorrow), the message is sent to as many participants of social networks and the propaganda goal is accomplished, evil ideas reaching large or even immense target groups. Terrorist organizations are trying hard to make the most of social networks if there won’t be serious and effective countermeasures to suppress the message before it reach its goal: to terrorize.

Another problem is recruitment. According to Rt.com, on September 10, 2014, “the Austrian authorities have stopped two schoolgirls who were willing to leave the country and join the jihadists in the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL or ISIS). A third girl was also planning to join them, but was stopped by her mother.”[2] Ad the situation isn’t at all unique: we can read similar stories almost  anywhere in Europe (and in North America). According to Der Standard newspaper, Vienna has become a hub for European jihadists who plan to join extremists in order to wage the ‘holy war’ in Syria. It is estimated that about 160 Austrian citizens are among several hundred Europeans who already joined the Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria. And the number of European ‘volunteers’ is growing. Lacking a clear perspective at a difficult age, teenagers are easily falling into the attractive trap of ‘a dangerous adventure’, as it is presented in propaganda movies and posts on Twitter. It’s not about beliefs, as it is about breaking the rules and being different. There is clearly a need for presenting the reality as it is, and for a response to all ISIS messages. Apparently the U.S. CSCC (Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications[3]) assumed this role, and it’s trying hard to counter terrorist propaganda and misinformation about the United States across a wide variety of interactive digital environments that had previously been ceded to extremists.

Der Standard underlines another issue as well: “After returning from the war zone with battle experience, having had traumatic experiences and associated behavioral changes, and having deepened their radical beliefs”, those who have fought for ISIL “present a significant security risk for Austria" (and for the rest of the EU). It is a new situation that treatens to destabilize countries that didn’t had such a problem ever before. And the problem might be more serious than we thought: “The number of Islamic State recruits is much higher than that estimated by foreign observers – around 100,000, says one of Iraq’s foremost security experts with unique access to intelligence. The terrorists are swallowing up other insurgent groups. Foreign estimates put the figure between 20,000 and 50,000.”[4]

 

[1] Alex ALTMAN, “Why Terrorists Love Twitter”, Time, September 13, 2014, at the internet address http://time.com/3319278/isis-isil-twitter/?xid=newsletter-brief

[2] “Teenage jihad: 2 Austrian girls stopped en route to join ISIS”, September 13, 2014, at the internet address http://rt.com/news/186536-austria-schoolgirls-join-isis/

[3] See its ooficial webpage at the Internet address  http://www.state.gov/r/cscc/

[4] Ibidem

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