Weapons of Mass Distraction



Ever since the web-published beheading of American journalist James Foley, the world has been watching as ISIS wages a war on two fronts; one real, and one digital.

Social media companies like Twitter have been rigorously scrubbing themselves of Jihadist content, but in response, ISIS has resorted to creating their own social media to bypass such decisions and use people’s Twitter accounts like conduits.

According to The Atlantic, “One of ISIS’s more successful ventures is an Arabic-language Twitter app called ‘The Dawn of Glad Tidings, or just Dawn.” This app, an official ISIS product, subscribes users to the latest news about the Jihadi group, and posts tweets to their accounts – “the content of which is decided by someone in ISIS’s social media operation.

These tweets include links, hashtags, and images that all users of the app collectively tweet out in a method that doesn’t trip Twitter’s spam algorithm, says The Atlantic.

According to CBS News, other products of ISIS’s high-tech propaganda machine include the creation and distribution of glossy magazines, highly produced videos that incorporate drones and GoPros, and “mujatweets”, which are short promotional videos aimed at showing “the softer side of jihad.”

Elliot Zweig, the deputy director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, told CBS News that ISIS videos like mujatweets show “messages of camaraderie.”

“The message is very much, here we are at the beach, here we are eating pizza, the guys, it’s pizza night,…” Zweig said, “…almost as an aside it says ‘death to Jews.'”

And these methods are not only aimed at the Middle East and Europe. ISIS has been using these and other methods to recruit members from the US; a recent target being teens in Minnesota’s large Somali community.

According to the Associated Press, roughly 100 members of Minnesota’s Somali community met to address and condemn the recruitment of their youth.
USA Today reported the FBI’s Minneapolis bureau has been investigating the recruitment efforts in the Twin Cities.

“Americans are being recruited in a litany of ways,” said FBI investigator Kyle Loven to Fox 9 News. “Social media is a big way.”

According to The New York Times, digital operators at the State Department have also taken to social media to counter ISIS’s online presence with one of their own. They are engaging young people – and sometimes jihadists – on websites popular in Arab countries by publishing their own stream of anti-Islamic State messages via Facebook, Youtube and Twitter using the hastag #Think Again Turn Away.