The extremist jihadist group leading the insurgency against the Iraqi government is deploying a sophisticated social-media strategy.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Sunni militant group that seized Iraq’s second-largest city last week and is now assuring to take Baghdad, is using apps, social media and even a feature-length movie to intimidate enemies, recruit new followers and spread its message. And its opponents—including foreign governments—are struggling to keep up.
Since the offensive began on 9 June, a sequence of Twitter accounts asserting to represent ISIS in Iraq and Syria have been active in providing live updates on the group’s operations and images showing their advances.
While ISIS has not officially endorsed the accounts, at least six of them have been suspended and the Iraqi government also blocked access to many social media accounts claiming it was necessary to stop ISIS from planning further attacks via those media.
So, what is ISIS’ gain on social media? They engage in social-media strategies that increase and control its messages. Many extremists are increasingly using social media to recruit, radicalize and raise funds, and ISIS is one of the most adept practitioners of this approach.
A Twitter application called “Fajr al-Bashaer,” or “Dawn of Good Tidings”, an official ISIS product promoted by its top users—which was taken down last month—was advertised as a way to keep up on the latest news about the jihadi group.
After requesting user data and personal information, the application – flagged by Twitter as “potentially harmful” – sends news and updates on ISIS fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Case and point of ISIS’ power on social media is when they stormed Iraq’s second city of Mosul in June, where analysis say their propaganda made the fight easier—through tweets.
Hundreds of users signed up for the app on the web or their mobile phones. The tweets included links, hashtags, and gory images. This gave ISIS a far larger online reach then their accounts ever would have—and it worked. Iraqi soldiers fled their post as ISIS stormed Mosul, aware that they would face a grisly death if they were captured.
While there has been a lot of attention to ISIS’ propaganda to join their campaign in recent months, only recently has there been an anti-ISIS campaign combatting these Islamist fighters.
A group of British imams has taken to social media to reach out to young Muslims and discourage them from joining ISIS extremists and fighting abroad.
Leaders from Sunni and Shia groups praise the unity of Briatina’s Muslims and describe ISIS as “cowboys” and “terrorists” in a video.
The video was published on the Imams Online website and posted on Facebook and YouTube with a message asking people to share it with a description that says: “We are Muslims united against ISIS, against terrorism, against atrocity, against pain and suffering.”
Originally published on IranWire.