The Social Jihad

ISIS’s use of social media may be the greater danger.

By Animesh Roul.

The accusation that ISIS is attempting to set up a “medieval-era” caliphate vastly underestimates the modernity of the threat the organization poses. With its digital outreach efforts, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a whole new entity. Along with its military advances within the Iraq and Syrian hinterlands, ISIS has stretched its virtual footprint beyond its territory through robust online media management and operations. It seeks to reach a wider audience with regular Islamic discourse and propaganda. By exploiting all available web outlets and forums, ISIS has managed to penetrate online social media, blogging, and publishing platforms to communicate and spread its message across the world, and it has succeeded in inspiring many individuals and groups towards its cause, without necessarily leaving any trace of contact.

Reports released in 2015 estimated that between 27,000 and 31,000 foreigners from 86 countries have been recruited to the Syrian war theatre, 70 percent of whom have joined the ranks of ISIS. While the Muslim nations of the Arabian and Sub-Saharan region contributed the highest number of fighters, European countries like France, England, and Belgium have also been major sources of foreign fighters for Jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq.

The Islamic State, however, is not only scouting talent for its fighting force and day-to-day governance and services within its caliphate: it is intent on spreading its message of hate around the world. While the number of recruits who have crossed international borders can be estimated, it is completely unknown how many more online followers have become sympathetic to ISIS at home. How is ISIS managing this recruitment? How successful have they been? And how can they be stopped?

The Virtual Jihadi Sphere

By and large, ISIS and other jihadi terrorist groups use Internet social media for four broad reasons: recruitment, propaganda, fundraising, and strategic …

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