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September 22, 2016

ISIS Supporters Capitalize on Attacks with New Hashtag Campaign

ISIS supporters are attempting to capitalize on the September 17 and 18 attacks in the U.S. – bombs placed in locations in New York and New Jersey and a stabbing in a Minnesota mall – with a new hashtag campaign on social media. The campaign began on September 20 but has yet to achieve levels of participation seen in previous ISIS hashtag campaigns.

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The campaign, which uses an Arabic-language hashtag that translates to “In the heart of their land,” includes statements and images warning the U.S. and other Western countries of future attacks on their soil. Some of the statements also urge ISIS supporters to commit these attacks. The campaign’s hashtag phrase comes from a June 2014 speech by ISIS’s former spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, stating, “the smallest action you do in the heart of their land is dearer…than the largest action by us.” Adnani was reportedly killed in an airstrike in August.

Like previous ISIS hashtag campaigns, the new campaign attempts to actively engage ISIS supporters online by encouraging them to repost statements and images related to the campaign. These online engagement tactics foster a sense of community, and encourage supporters to get involved in the extremist cause. The current campaign also bears similarities to past ISIS hashtag campaigns in its attempts to “piggyback” on trending hashtags, inserting ISIS propaganda into other conversations and increasing the campaign’s visibility. Some posts for this campaign have featured popular hashtags including #Brangelina, #TerenceCrutcher and #UNGA.

Unlike previous ISIS hashtag campaigns, however, participation in this campaign has been very limited on Facebook and Twitter, which points to the impact of efforts by those platforms to shut down pro-terror accounts. Many of the accounts posting and Tweeting on the campaign’s behalf appear to have been created recently, and specifically for the purpose of the campaign. A majority of them were created in the last couple of days, and many have fewer than 50 followers.

It is noteworthy, as well, that the campaign is being conducted primarily in Arabic, rather than in English (although a number of the images include English text).  Previous campaigns featured multiple languages in attempts to recruit an international audience of supporters — and further intimidate non-supporters worldwide.

The threats themselves are also not unified, indicating an absence of coordinated effort. They include threats against the U.S., Brussels, France, and LGBT communities.

The following are examples of images used in the campaign:

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July 5, 2016

Arabic-Language Social Media Glorifies Killing of Israeli Rabbi

On July 1, Rabbi Miki Mark was murdered by Palestinian terrorists who shot him from their vehicle as he was driving with his wife and three of their ten children in the Hebron area, near the settlement of Otniel where he headed the local Yeshiva. His wife and two of their children were wounded in the attack.

As was the case in the recent Tel-Aviv shooting, hash tags glorifying the attack began appearing on Arabic-language social media. They included #thehebronoperation, #theramadanjihad, #road60 (the highway where the shooting took place), as well as #thequickresponse, implying that this attack was in revenge for the killing of Sara Al-Hajjouj earlier that day, who according to reports, had attempted to stab Israeli Border Police soldiers at a checkpoint near the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Glorification of the attack was also referenced under hash tags relating to the ongoing wave of Palestinian terror which began in September of 2015, including #thejerusalemintifada and #theintifadacontinues.

Images posted on Twitter in aftermath of the attack showed the wrecked car (below) with the caption “A Settler is Killed and Three Others Wounded in a Heroic Shooting Operation in Hebron”, with the hash tags #road60 and #thequickresponse, along with the icon of the current wave of terror at the bottom left corner. Also appearing below is the caption “Your blood was not shed in vain. Blessed be your right hand, you who were quick to respond”. This refers to the killing of Sara Al-Hajjouj earlier that day.

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A cartoon links the attack to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by showing the rifle against the backdrop of a crescent, with the headline “Operation in Hebron in Retaliation for the Martyrdom of a Woman near the Cave of the Patriarchs.”

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Notably, Facebook pages claiming affiliation with Hamas student cells of Palestinian universities also circulated similar images. One proclaiming to be Al-Quds University’s Hamas student cell posted (July 1) an image of the attack’s aftermath, with the caption “This is the Pure Weapon … the Weapon of the Resistance: a settler is killed and three others wounded in a shooting operation on their vehicle near Hebron.”

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The same picture was posted (July 1) by another Facebook page proclaiming to be part of the Hamas student cell, this time of Hebron University. It also posted the following image, with the caption “The Month of Ramadan.. a Month in which the West Bank’s Men Recorded a Fierce and Heroic Battle.” Below appears the caption “A Settler is Killed and Three Others Wounded in a Shooting Operation on their Car near Hebron.”

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A Facebook page presenting itself as that of the Hamas student cell of Bir Zeit University in the West Bank posted (July 1) a picture of late Rabbi Mark with the caption “Crushed”. The picture even specifically states that represents the Bir Zeit University Islamic Bloc of Hamas.

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June 9, 2016

LA Times Editorial Board Criticizes EU Hate Speech Code of Conduct for Online Platforms

In response to a Code of Conduct adopted at the request of the European Commission by online companies Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft, the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board called the Code “a well-meaning but heavy-handed move against jihadist propaganda.”  The Editorial explained:

The code of conduct was presented as a set of voluntary commitments closely tracking what the four companies say they’ve been doing on their own initiatives. But it’s not as if they could have blithely refused to cooperate. Under European law, certain types of hate speech are illegal and must be removed on request. The commission also is a highly active regulator  — much more so than U.S. authorities are — having launched antitrust, tax and privacy enforcement actions against some or all of the four companies. In other words, they would have ignored the commission at their peril.

The LA Times Editorial Board itemized its concerns this way:

  • “The Commission’s move could lead the companies to censor legal speech as well. Rather than leaving companies to set their own terms of use, the code of conduct mandates that such rules “prohibit the promotion of incitement to violence and hateful conduct,” which is a vaguer and broader category than what European governments have outlawed.”
  • “It would fast-track the removal of content flagged by advocacy groups and other non-governmental organizations blessed by European officials, leaving those whose posts are blocked online with no due-process rights (the companies say they have internal appeals processes, but that’s a far cry from the court-supervised process under U.S. copyright law).”
  • “The code could set a precedent for other countries to force Internet companies to restrain speech more than their laws dictate or global principles of human rights support. For example, what if a repressive regime demands that social networks adopt rules banning “incitement to instability” or other code words for dissent?”
  • “But just as the United States has struggled to find the right balance between security and civil liberties, so too must the commission be careful not to squelch legal speech. The new code of conduct may be well-meaning, but it would have been better to have a truly voluntary effort by social networks backed by real due-process protections.”

While Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO has stated that the Code parallels ADL’s Best Practices for Responding to Cyberhate, and that empowering users to better report hate speech is the reason why ADL has brought it Cyber-Safety Action Guide to Europe, ADL acknowledges the concerns expressed by civil society and the Los Angeles Times, and continues to believe that voluntary efforts to combat online hate speech is preferable to government-imposed requirements.  ADL has committed to work with the European Jewish Congress and European Union of Jewish Students to expand ADL’s Cyber-Safety Action Guide for use by European citizens in the wake of the EU Code announcement.

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