Intro: The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham knows too well to utilise communication strategies as a propaganda tool to lure youth from across the world to join its ranks.
Initially, tackling terrorism was limited to Intel and police services, but with ‘Brand Caliphate’ getting prominence among jihadists, and spreading wings online, defeating ISIS, and its violent extremism, will require fighting them at ground level and online. With ISIS utilising communication technology to propagate its ideology to radicalise disaffected youth to its rank, we’re today facing communication challenge of historic proportion.
Twitter is under immense pressure to undertake a clean up act. Not only is there pressure from India, but from several other countries following a report that there are 46,000 twitter accounts sympathetic to the ISIS. Each one of these accounts plays a major role in propagating the ISIS ideology and for anti-terror squads from across the world; this is a headache that is growing leaps and bounds. In the first week of September 2014, the intelligence agencies in Kolkata stopped four young men from Hyderabad from crossing over to Bangladesh, reportedly to join ISIS. During interrogation, the youngsters revealed that they were inspired by content on social media–pages on Facebook about ISIS and messages from a handler.
46000 ISIS Twitter accounts
Several security agencies from across the world have compiled information on the growing menace of the ISIS on Twitter. It was found that there were at least 46,000 accounts sympathetic to the ISIS which put out tweets regularly in a bid to spread the propaganda. None of these accounts are officially run by the ISIS. They belong to sympathisers who tweet and retweet information about the ISIS on a regular basis. The ISIS media wing called the Al-Hayat provides information to these twitter handles which in turn put out the information for the rest of the world to see. They provide information regarding recruitments and also the beheading videos shot by them to these handles.
Twitter magic worked for the ISIS
Analysts and Intelligence Bureau officials point out that Twitter has worked wonders for the ISIS and also the rest of the terror groups. Free flowing information, the lack of monitoring have all worked wonders to spread the message of the ISIS wide and far. The videos that are put out by these sympathisers have the biggest draw and believe it has helped the ISIS lure several youth into their fold.
What about YouTube and Facebook?
While the problem is immense on Twitter, officials say that YouTube and Facebook too act as good mediums for the ISIS to spread their propaganda. Reports would suggest that the ISIS may be running nearly 30,000 accounts on YouTube and Facebook. However, Twitter continues to be the biggest draw for the ISIS as they feel that the posts get more traction out there.
What should Twitter do?
Intelligence agencies say that they monitor several accounts every day. However, they would expect Twitter to be more pro-active in their approach. If Twitter could scan some of the accounts by themselves and take them down it would go a long way. Not everything is about free speech, the officer added. Normally Twitter takes down an account only if there is a specific complaint. However in many cases, agencies have requested Twitter to keep some accounts active so that they could track down information.
Intelligence Bureau officials in India who have a tough time in keeping tabs on ISIS sympathetic accounts say that Twitter too must play a more pro-active role.
What does Twitter have to say?
Twitter feels that it is being wrongly accused of not doing enough. They state that the social media policy being followed by them is no different from the one the other mediums are following. Twitter also says that they are actively working with agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation behind the scenes to curb the problem. This often goes unnoticed and hence it is wrong to suggest that they are not doing enough.
Vicky Nanjappa (The writer is a Social Media Activist and can be visited at : http://vickynanjappa.com)