Islamic State dominates the digital battlefield

(From Bloomberg View)

By Farah Pandith

In the first 24 hours following the terrorist attacks on Paris, there were hundreds of thousands of celebratory tweets from supporters of Islamic State. Some 46,000 Twitter accounts send out a steady stream of photo essays, audio, video, news bulletins and theological writings on behalf of IS.

This is the digital communications battleground in the fight against IS. It’s where the rest of the world is losing. Without at least as swift and powerful action in the digital theater, air attacks may bring only temporary victories and could even help IS’s effective recruitment drive.

A group calling itself the “Cyber Islamic State” hacked the European Union-funded website of the Office of the State Minister of Georgia on European& Euro-Atlantic Integration, eu-nato.gov.ge in July

A group calling itself the “Cyber Islamic State” hacked the European Union-funded website of the Office of the State Minister of Georgia on European& Euro-Atlantic Integration, eu-nato.gov.ge in July

Similarly, better intelligence is necessary but not sufficient. IS recruits not only in the neighborhoods of Brussels and the suburbs of Paris, but among nearly 1 billion digitally native Muslim millennials around the world. These young people are much more likely to come across IS messages promoting extremist ideology than messages pushing back.

IS issued more than 1,146 communications in a single month on their official channels, an October study found. Those messages are the work of a determined army of online IS foot soldiers that has won over tens of thousands of recruits worldwide.

Like all marketers trying to influence millennials, IS uses social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and SnapChat as well as peer-to-peer platforms such as Telegram and Kik and video gaming platforms. Videos of beheadings and bombings send a message of indomitability and build momentum; but there is also poetry, music, promises of communal brotherhood/sisterhood and portraits of a caliphate utopia finely gauged to woo Muslims who face a crisis of identity.

Though there has been much talk of the “soft war” in the 14 years since 9/11, the West’s approach has been hugely lacking. So has the response from Muslim countries. Read more



Categories: AT Opinion, Middle East

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