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August 20, 2014 0

ISIS Backs Up Threats Against U.S. With Beheading

Update – 9/3/2014: On Sep­tem­ber 2, 2014, an ISIS video was released show­ing the behead­ing of a sec­ond Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist, Steven Sot­loff, again blam­ing U.S. pol­icy in Iraq. A third indi­vid­ual, this time a cit­i­zen of Great Britain, was threat­ened at the con­clu­sion of the video.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Al Qaeda inspired ter­ror­ist group, released an English-language video in which it depicts the behead­ing of a kid­napped Amer­i­can journalist.foley-beheading-terrorism-isis

ISIS is claim­ing that it mur­dered the jour­nal­ist, James Wright Foley, because of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. The video closes with an image of another kid­napped jour­nal­ist kneel­ing next to what appears to be the same exe­cu­tioner, who states “The life of this Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”

The video is titled “A Mes­sage to Amer­ica.” It marks a new approach by ISIS, mak­ing good on threats against Amer­i­cans that the group only began cir­cu­lat­ing sig­nif­i­cantly this June. Such strate­gies have been used exten­sively by the ter­ror­ist group to intim­i­date ene­mies and oppo­nents on the ground, but had not pre­vi­ously been employed against Westerners.

In the video, footage of Pres­i­dent Obama announc­ing the airstrike cam­paign is fol­lowed by a state­ment by Foley in which he asserts U.S. actions are the cause of his death. Foley’s masked exe­cu­tioner then deliv­ers an address in British-accented Eng­lish in which he depicts the U.S. as an aggres­sor against ISIS and the Mus­lims who accept ISIS as a state, and says that any mil­i­tary action against ISIS will lead to more “blood­shed” of Amer­i­cans. The exe­cu­tioner then beheads Foley. After­ward, the other kid­napped jour­nal­ist is shown next to the executioner.

The release may improve ISIS’s recruit­ment capac­ity. ISIS broke with Al Qaeda Cen­tral in Feb­ru­ary, and the orga­ni­za­tions com­pete for recruits, fol­low­ers and influ­ence. ISIS’s rep­u­ta­tion for vio­lent action sur­pass­ing Al Qaeda’s has already con­tributed to its recruit­ment efforts, and if this video is seen by extrem­ists as a suc­cess­ful blow to the U.S. it may lead more to join ISIS.

The video was announced on Twit­ter and on the social media site Dias­pora on August 19, and was linked from the Inter­net Archive web­site, an online “dig­i­tal library” that is some­times used by ter­ror­ist groups as a repos­i­tory for online media storage.

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July 23, 2014 0

ISIS Faces Resistance From Social Media Companies

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has gar­nered atten­tion for its sophis­ti­cated use of social media. While the ter­ror­ist group has built on tech­niques pio­neered by other ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions to spread its mes­sages and recruit fol­low­ers, social media com­pa­nies are increas­ingly shut­ting down ISIS accounts and frus­trat­ing its pro­pa­ganda dis­tri­b­u­tion mechanisms.

On July 12, ISIS announced that sev­eral of its main media accounts would be sus­pend­ing their use of Twit­ter in favor of a social media ser­vice called Frien­dica. This came after sev­eral weeks dur­ing which Twit­ter shut down ISIS offi­cial sites and ISIS replaced them with new ones.

Almost imme­di­ately, mul­ti­ple ISIS sup­port­ers joined Frien­dica to fol­low the group.

On July 20, the con­tent was deleted from seven of ISIS’s new Frien­dica sites. Every page on the Frien­dica web­site now comes with a ban­ner at the top stat­ing “Islamic State not wel­come on friendica.eu.”

On July 20, ISIS tried again, cre­at­ing accounts on alter­nate social media sites Quit­ter and Dias­pora. Although the Dias­pora accounts remain up, the Quit­ter accounts were shut down on July 23, replaced with a pic­ture pro­mot­ing peace and coex­is­tence (see image), a link to a web­site sell­ing books about Mahatma Gandhi and text in Eng­lish and Ara­bic stat­ing, “When you fight evil with evil – evil wins.”isis-quitter-diaspora-twitter-terrorism

In the past week, Twit­ter also shut down mul­ti­ple accounts rep­re­sent­ing ISIS regional commands.

ISIS has already recre­ated some of its accounts on Twit­ter. Ale3tisam, an offi­cial ISIS media out­let that had unsuc­cess­fully attempted to migrate to Frien­dica and Quit­ter, returned to Twit­ter and cre­ated a new account on July 23.  Sev­eral of the regional groups have done so as well. There also remain mul­ti­ple ISIS sup­port­ers with Twit­ter accounts who them­selves reg­u­larly share offi­cial propaganda.

Ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions are resource­ful enough to find new out­lets when their accounts are shut down. ISIS has con­tin­ued to cre­ate and dis­trib­ute media to wide audi­ences through­out the last three weeks. How­ever, there is no doubt that they also lose plat­forms and power, fac­ing greater dif­fi­culty in spread­ing their hate. By respond­ing aggres­sively to ter­ror­ist accounts, social media com­pa­nies have the power to decrease sig­nif­i­cantly the reach of ter­ror­ists’ hate­ful messages.

Indi­vid­u­als can also aid in the process. ADL’s Cyber-Safety Action Guide enables the com­mu­nity to reg­is­ter con­cerns with Inter­net ser­vice providers when they encounter ter­ror­ist con­tent online.

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