Authors: Jeff R. Weyers and Camie Condon, iBRABO
How many large corporations do you know of that advertise in virtually every language? Coca Cola, Microsoft, Apple… how about the terrorist group ISIS? Many people have speculated how ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham) has grown so spectacularly over the last year in its campaign to seize Syria and now a large portion of Iraq. It seems at least part of that answer lies in the extremist groups’ ability to advertise. Whether in English, French, Danish, Spanish, Dutch, German, or Arabic (to name a few), their global approach towards social media has been massive. While Facebook has gone head-to-head with ISIS trying to limit its exposure on the social media platform, ISIS has demonstrated persistence in its ability to regenerate pages and spawn new ones (at last count some ISIS pages have been re-spawned 70 plus times).
Recruiting and propaganda pages in virtually every language can be found on Facebook and Twitter in an extensive co-ordinated social media campaign by the extremist group. The fact that ISIS has now made significant gains in Iraq only seem to have emboldened its media strategy in its new push towards what ISIS is calling an “Islamic State” (@islamicstatee). It is exactly these successes that may also be driving external support from western jihadists who may have been hesitant to join lesser established groups.
So how successful has their approach been? Well while the true number will likely never be known, it is estimated that tens of thousands of individuals have travelled to fight along side ISIS already. In examining just their social media campaigns there are easily 10 times that many supporting the group online. From a prevention perspective this is where we are most likely to see potential recruits. This is also one of the best opportunities for intelligence and law enforcement agencies to intervene early on in interrupting that pathway.
Of greater concern are those individuals trained by ISIS who have an intention to return to their home countries. Having had para-military training in weapons and fighting, with extremist contacts and being indoctrinated with an extremist ideology it is these individuals who will pose the greatest risk. Thus the need to identify persons who have engaged with terrorist groups (like ISIS) will be paramount moving forward.