How ISIS Used Social Media to Gain and Retain Recognition

After causing havoc all over the world, ISIS has gotten itself recognized as one of the biggest terrorist organizations of today, with pretty much every nation and individual wanting to take it down. However, it’s easier said than done as ISIS is not just operating from the caves. The group is very much active on the social media and always try to get its message across to the general public. They make videos about their agendas on regular basis and post about them on different social media accounts that are associated with them. This terrorist group has had a lot of success on the social media and we will be shedding light on how they managed to achieve such a feat.

It All Began on Social Media

When ISIS invaded the Iraqi city of Mosul in June 2014, they didn’t just keep their focus on destroying everything that moved – they also ran a Twitter campaign with hashtag #AllEyesonISIS. Their marketing strategy that worked rather well as they got extremely popular, or rather notorious, really fast. In just a few hours, ISIS was trending all over the world because of their barbaric actions. Their actions spread a wave of fear all over the city of Mosul as citizens were afraid for their safety. This was just the beginning as ISIS started to expand their wings and is now considered one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.

The Rise of ISIS through Social Media

Unlike other terrorist organizations, ISIS utilized social media to their advantage, and even to this day, it is one of the reasons behind its popularity among extremists. Having a strong social media presence allowed them to spread their message all over the world – a feat which other terror groups have been unable to accomplish. ISIS used social media to communicate and recruit new members. As they gained more members, their confidence increased as well. Now they have become way more arrogant and feel no remorse whatsoever of the actions they take. By having social media at their disposal, they have ensured that they are not restricted to any country or border. They can recruit new members anywhere and send them to attack any place. There have been a couple of non-ISIS related mass shootings in the recent months where the culprits said that they took inspiration from ISIS. This is the reason this group has become a huge threat to the people all over the world.

Dummy Twitter Accounts

Having one official account certainly makes things easier, but ISIS knows that if they settle on one account, it can get hacked and all the shared information would be lost. This is why they have created hundreds of dummy Twitter accounts where they share everything about themselves. A choreographed execution video of James Foley trended on Twitter because a large number of dummy ISIS accounts were retweeting it. A good chunk of population got a look at that video just because the social media was utilized incredibly well. It seems that Twitter has finally realized the implications of allowing terrorists to use their platform, which is why they’ve begun blocking their accounts.

Different Tactics Deployed by ISIS

As established above, ISIS has a huge presence on social media and they use it for intimidation, coordination, reassurances, and recruitment. They make choreographed videos of executions and mass murders to strike fear in the hearts of general public. Sometimes they even hack trending hashtags to convey their message across. The biggest example of the hashtag hacking occurred during 2014 football world cup when ISIS released an image of a decapitated head saying that it’s their football and used the hashtag #worldcup to end the tweet.

ISIS is not restricted only to Twitter though, as they communicate with each other through different platforms including Skype, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Silent Circle. This is their way of staying in touch with each other even when they are long distances away. That’s not all as they also give out press releases just like any business or government. Furthermore, ISIS runs a regular Q&A session where they answer public queries. All of this is a ploy to keep people engaged with the ISIS activities.

Threats from Hacking Groups

With such a huge presence on social media, it was inevitable that ISIS would eventually face some sort of threat from the different hacker groups, and they did. In the past years, several hacking groups have vouched to take down ISIS, but haven’t been able to do so successfully. However, there is one group called Anonymous that has really damaged the online presence of ISIS. They took down hundreds of websites related to their agenda, and took down dozens of dummy Twitter accounts that were associated with the terrorist group. This group of hackers has been a thorn in ISIS’ side for quite some time as it has taken down anything it can, whenever it can. Anonymous began rivalry with ISIS when the terrorist group claimed responsibility for Charlie Hebdo attack, and it escalated follow the Paris attacks in 2015. The hackers have been at ISIS’s throat ever since, and have tried their best to take them down, but as mentioned above, it has become very difficult to damage this terrorist organization because it’s scattered all over the world.

Social Media Presence of ISIS on the Rise

ISIS is using perfect marketing strategy to get themselves known to the whole world. They are grabbing the concept of branding and implementing it on their organization. They have a vision to kill all ‘enemies of Islam’, and they have their own flag, which is rather easier to design. It’s just plain black with Islamic scriptures in the middle. By having a name and flag, they have created an identity for themselves. Now they don’t need to tell anyone who they are, as others can pretty much guess it on their own.

They are also staying in contact with the people through social media as they share pictures about their daily activities. These pictures are posted to show the routine lifestyle of people who have become part of the terrorist organization. The images range from depicting normal conversations to having a meal or sharing a laugh. By sharing such photos, they are trying to highlight their human side and engage people to see what they are up to all the time. With the amount of notoriety that they’ve garnered lately, you can safely bet that people are now interested in seeing what this group does when it’s not busy terrorizing and massacring innocent people.

There’s no questioning the fact that ISIS is dangerous, but with access to social media and the knowledge of how to utilize it, it has made them even more dangerous than any other terrorist group before them. Now it has gotten just as hard to silence them as it is to eliminate them. Through social media, ISIS has spread all over the world, so it will take a lot of work to eradicate them from the face of the earth.