Tags: Iraq in Crisis | War on Terrorism | al-qaida | technology | twitter | magazine

ISIS Proving Prowess Through Technology

By    |   Saturday, 30 Aug 2014 04:31 PM

Just a few years ago, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden had to record his messages in Arabic and have them smuggled out for release to a limited audience, but today's jihadists now have a world of modern technology at their fingertips, and they know how to use it to spread their messages instantly.

Islamic State (ISIS) extremists have captured parts of Iraq and Syria in their quest to establish a caliphate, but Western intelligence specialists say their command of all forms of media may end up being dangerous on a much wider scale, reports The New York Times.

However, while terrorists like bin Laden used videos and violence to make attacks on the West their main goal, ISIS propaganda is much more subtle. Aside from the video showing the brutal beheading of American journalist James Foley, ISIS' videos, tweets, and even magazines promote expanding their goal of creating its Islamic state.

ISIS also distributes annual reports that keep track of statistics such as knife murders, checkpoints, cities seized, and "apostates repented," and publishes an English-language magazine, Dabiq, to disseminate its message for each other and to spread to the outer world.

That's not even mentioning the Twitter messages, YouTube videos, Facebook pages, and other modern methods ISIS uses in its recruiting, and the tools are proving effective. An estimated 100 Americans have been drawn into fighting with ISIS, as well as many as 2,000 other Westerners, not counting people from the Middle East.

"The overriding point is that success breeds success,"said Emile Nakhleh, a former C.I.A. analyst. "The perception of quick victories and territory and weapons and bases means they don't need to try hard to recruit.”

For example, Nakhleh said that bin Laden talked for more than 20 years about re-establishing the caliphate, but ISIS, with its violent actions and blatant self-promotion, convinces disassociated foreigners that it is getting results, and that attracts young recruits.

But in comparison to bin Laden, whose long addresses in formal Arabic were not geared to attract new followers, things started to change rapidly with the messages of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in 2011 by a drone strike. Awlaki, an American-born cleric, had a Facebook page, a blog, and helped print the English-language magazine Inspire.

And ISIS has gone even further, with Twitter accounts, professionally-shot videos, and the use of services like JustPaste for battle summaries; SoundCloud for audio reports, WhatsApp for videos, and Instagram for its photography.

"They are very adept at targeting a young audience,"said John Horgan, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell who studies terrorism. "There's an urgency: 'Be part of something that's bigger than yourself and be part of it now.' "

Once ISIS recruits westerners, it puts them to work on videos to attract other westerners. In one video, a Canadian recruit urges Muslims from North America to come to Syria and bring their families.

"Your families would live here in safety, just like how it is back home," he tells potential future jihadist fighters. "You know we have expanses of territory here in Syria.”

But the English-language videos are much softer than the ones disseminated in the Arabic countries, where the message is to join in the ISIS fight or be killed.

Hassan Hassan, a Syrian analyst with the Delma Institute in Abu Dhabi, said that ISIS is painting itself as a return to early Islamic eras.

"ISIS tries to reflect an image of being the continuation of the system of the caliphate," he said. "In people's minds, the caliphate is about victory and dignity of Muslims. A caliph is a defender of Muslims against the enemies from within and without.”

Meanwhile, the State Department's Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications is fighting back on social media on its own, under the name ThinkAgainTurnAway on Twitter.

A typical message under the government's Twitter site recounts the horrors of ISIS through the words of a child:


But even the government's messages are being overpowered in some cases by ISIS. For example, a man named Abu Turaab, who says he is an ISIS fighter tweeted:

His tweet was "favorited" 32 times and retweeted 17.

The State Department replied:


The response received three "favorites" and got 10 retweets.

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Just a few years ago, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden had to record his messages in Arabic and have them smuggled out for release to a limited audience, but today's jihadists now have a world of modern technology at their fingertips, and they know how to use it to spread...
al-qaida, technology, twitter, magazine
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2014-31-30
Saturday, 30 Aug 2014 04:31 PM
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