ISIS Opponents Take Aim at Its Online Presence

Groups as different as Anonymous and the U.S. government are taking the fight to ISIS on the Internet.

An Iraqi man uses a computer at an Internet cafe in Baghdad.
National Journal
Kaveh Waddell
June 30, 2014, 9:34 a.m.

The Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and Syr­ia has taken to Twit­ter to spread its mes­sage, trum­pet bloody suc­cesses, and re­cruit po­ten­tial ji­hadists, but its so­cial-me­dia cam­paign has come un­der at­tack from forces that range from the U.S. State De­part­ment to the mys­ter­i­ous group of hack­er-act­iv­ists who call them­selves An­onym­ous.

IS­IS has main­tained a not­ably act­ive pres­ence on Twit­ter, us­ing cre­at­ive and tech-savvy tac­tics to amp­li­fy its mes­sage, main­tain­ing ac­counts that tweet in Eng­lish, Ger­man, and Rus­si­an in ad­di­tion to Ar­ab­ic, and post­ing pol­ished videos with very graph­ic ac­tion se­quences and spe­cial ef­fects straight out of a Hol­ly­wood play­book. Some of these tac­tics are tar­geted to­ward young Syr­i­ans, Ir­aqis, and oth­er Muslims in the re­gion, im­plor­ing them to join the fight to carve an Is­lam­ic state out of the Le­vant. Oth­ers, like a re­cruit­ment video that in­cludes testi­mo­ni­als in Eng­lish from IS­IS fight­ers with Aus­trali­an and Brit­ish ac­cents, are meant to at­tract sol­diers from West­ern coun­tries.

The U.S. gov­ern­ment has an an­swer to IS­IS’s re­cruit­ment cam­paign. Long be­fore Pres­id­ent Obama an­nounced he would send mil­it­ary ad­visers to Ir­aq, the State De­part­ment launched a pro­gram to en­gage ter­ror­ists on Twit­ter. A veri­fied Twit­ter ac­count called Think Again Turn Away sports the State De­part­ment’s of­fi­cial seal as its avatar (“Some truths about ter­ror­ism,” reads the ac­count’s bio), tweet­ing replies to ji­hadi pro­pa­ganda and calls to ac­tion. “Your de­luded opin­ions are in­cap­able of jus­ti­fy­ing #IS­IS’ acts of bar­bar­isms against ci­vil­ians,” read a re­cent tweet from the ac­count.

The State De­part­ment an­nounced last week that it will ex­pand the Think Again Turn Away coun­terter­ror­ism pro­gram, award­ing a con­tract worth more than half a mil­lion dol­lars to a com­pany in North­ern Vir­gin­ia to run the ac­count. Of­fi­cials at the State De­part­ment would not com­ment on how ef­fect­ive the cam­paign has been.

Mean­while, an anti-IS­IS hasht­ag, #No2IS­IS, has cropped up in Ir­aq. In an at­tempt to coun­ter­act the power­ful IS­IS pro­pa­ganda ma­chine, hun­dreds are tweet­ing their op­pos­i­tion to the group and their tac­tics — in­clud­ing Ir­aq’s Am­bas­sad­or to the U.S., Luk­man Faily.

IS­IS’s op­pon­ents are joined by a Twit­ter ac­count with the handle @wikibagh­dady, which has been re­veal­ing in­sider in­form­a­tion about IS­IS’s deal­ings for the last six months, The Daily Beast re­ports. Al­though no one knows who is be­hind the ac­count, many of its tweeted pre­dic­tions have been borne out. @wikibagh­dady ex­posed the real name of the mys­ter­i­ous lead­er of IS­IS as well as those of many on his coun­cil, in ad­di­tion to in­form­a­tion about the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s struc­ture, fin­ances, and fu­ture plans. But al­though who­ever is be­hind the handle seems to be privy to some IS­IS secrets, the mole is prob­ably not a good samar­it­an — he’s likely a “fel­low ji­hadi play­ing dirty polit­ics against mem­bers of his own co­hort,” writes The Daily Beast’s Jac­ob Siegel.

This ragtag crew wa­ging war on IS­IS’s on­line pres­ence finds an­oth­er ac­com­plice in An­onym­ous, the shad­owy net­work of hack­er-act­iv­ists that uses cy­ber­at­tacks to fur­ther its causes. An­onym­ous is plan­ning to at­tack IS­IS’s spon­sors in what will be called “Op­er­a­tion No2IS­IS,” ac­cord­ing to a For­bes re­port. “We are un­able to tar­get IS­IS be­cause they pre­dom­in­antly fight on the ground,” a source with­in An­onym­ous told For­bes. “But we can go after the people or states who fund them.”

In a con­flict that’s in large part be­ing fought over the hearts and minds of Ir­aqis, Syr­i­ans, and po­ten­tial re­cruits, IS­IS’s so­cial-me­dia prowess has frightened its en­emies and brought new con­scripts run­ning. It’s no sur­prise, then, that an un­likely band of op­pon­ents is demon­strat­ing its res­ist­ance both on the bat­tle­field and on the In­ter­net.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×