New York, NY, July 14, 2014 … Beyond the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, is particularly adept in the use of social media, broadcasting hateful views of Israel, the United States and Jews to followers around the world. That’s one of several findings of a new report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued today.
“Hashtag Terror: How ISIS Manipulates Social Media” analyzes the terrorist group’s social media activity and shows how it actively uses Twitter and other platforms to attempt to recruit Westerners and others to its cause.
ADL expressed “serious concern” at the breadth and sophistication of the terrorist organization’s outreach through Twitter and other social media platforms.
“The sophisticated use of Twitter and other America-based social media platforms to spread their propaganda around the world is alarming,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “We believe that social media companies, particularly those in America, need to respond aggressively to ISIS and other terrorists that use their services to disseminate hateful anti-American terrorist propaganda and anti-Semitism. Social media networks share a responsibility to ensure that their platforms are not being taken advantage of to recruit terrorists and spread hatred.”
Designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization, ISIS has been fighting inside Syria and Iraq, conquering a surprising amount of territory over the past few months. The involvement of American and other foreign fighters with ISIS raises particular concerns that they may pose a risk to their home countries upon their return.
ISIS Maintains Twitter Accounts & Promotes Hashtags
ISIS maintains Twitter accounts for several of its official media outlets and, according to Oren Segal, Director of the ADL Center on Extremism, employs various hashtags to have a multiplier effect on how that message is spread. “ISIS not only uses social media to spread its messages and recruit followers, but also to empower its supporters to take part in that process,” said Mr. Segal. “They are tweeting at members of the media and government, they’re encouraging Westerners to join the organization, and they’re even developing full-fledged social media campaigns complete with hashtags designed to help their messages trend on Twitter.”
Among the active ISIS accounts currently being monitored by ADL:
- Al-Hayat Media, which mostly distributes propaganda pieces in Arabic, although it maintains Twitter feeds in various other languages, including English. (As of July 12, the feed was inactive);
- Al Medrar, which publishes in a variety of languages;
- Platform Media, which primarily tweets news updates in Arabic;
- Al-Battar Media, which tweets news, graphics, official statements and videos in English and Arabic;
- Multiple ISIS regional groups that maintain Twitter feeds posting news, images and video of their activities.
According to ADL, ISIS has organized hashtag campaigns, skewing trending terms by encouraging supporters to repeatedly tweet various hashtags such as #AllEyesonISIS or #CalamityWillBefallUS. Similarly, ISIS encourages tweets of “active hashtags,” or hashtags that are already trending. Recently it has encouraged supporters to tweet ISIS messages with popular hashtags such as #worldcup, so that people searching for those hashtags might inadvertently come across ISIS messages.
Messaging Targets U.S., Israel and Jews
While primarily focused on recruitment and bolstering its own image, ISIS also frequently attacks America and Israel, and incorporates anti-Semitism into its messages. The following is a sampling of some of the group’s recent tweets:
- “Patience, Jews, our appointment is at al-Quds [Jerusalem] tomorrow, for the one who waits is close.”
- “We fight in the Levantine and our eyes are toward Jerusalem:
- “Wherever our war goes, Jewish rabbis are humiliated.”
- “If the United States bombs Iraq, every citizen is a legitimate target for us.”
- This is a message for every American citizen. You are the target of every Muslim in the world wherever you are.”
- “Every American doctor working in any country will be slaughtered if America attacks Iraq.
- “Don’t come to Iraq unless you want another 11th September to happen.”