ISIS Supporters Capitalize on Attacks with New Hashtag Campaign

  • by:
    • Jessica Reaves
  • September 22, 2016

ISIS supporters are attempting to capitalize on the September 17 and 18 attacks in the U.S. – bombs placed in locations in New York and New Jersey and a stabbing in a Minnesota mall – with a new hashtag campaign on social media. The campaign began on September 20 but has yet to achieve levels of participation seen in previous ISIS hashtag campaigns.

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The campaign, which uses an Arabic-language hashtag that translates to “In the heart of their land,” includes statements and images warning the U.S. and other Western countries of future attacks on their soil. Some of the statements also urge ISIS supporters to commit these attacks. The campaign’s hashtag phrase comes from a June 2014 speech by ISIS’s former spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, stating, “the smallest action you do in the heart of their land is dearer…than the largest action by us.” Adnani was reportedly killed in an airstrike in August.

Like previous ISIS hashtag campaigns, the new campaign attempts to actively engage ISIS supporters online by encouraging them to repost statements and images related to the campaign. These online engagement tactics foster a sense of community, and encourage supporters to get involved in the extremist cause. The current campaign also bears similarities to past ISIS hashtag campaigns in its attempts to “piggyback” on trending hashtags, inserting ISIS propaganda into other conversations and increasing the campaign’s visibility. Some posts for this campaign have featured popular hashtags including #Brangelina, #TerenceCrutcher and #UNGA.

Unlike previous ISIS hashtag campaigns, however, participation in this campaign has been very limited on Facebook and Twitter, which points to the impact of efforts by those platforms to shut down pro-terror accounts. Many of the accounts posting and Tweeting on the campaign’s behalf appear to have been created recently, and specifically for the purpose of the campaign. A majority of them were created in the last couple of days, and many have fewer than 50 followers.

It is noteworthy, as well, that the campaign is being conducted primarily in Arabic, rather than in English (although a number of the images include English text).  Previous campaigns featured multiple languages in attempts to recruit an international audience of supporters -- and further intimidate non-supporters worldwide.

The threats themselves are also not unified, indicating an absence of coordinated effort. They include threats against the U.S., Brussels, France, and LGBT communities.

The following are examples of images used in the campaign:

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