WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has taken its offensive to a different platform – social media.
Analysts tell CBS News that ISIS had its social media blitz planned well in advance of the attacks jihadists have launched on Iraq and Syria.
“I think it was obvious very early on that they launched their offensive with a social media campaign well planned in advance,” John Little of Blogs of War told CBS News. “This wasn’t an afterthought. This wasn’t something that they made up as they went along.”
The extremist group launched a Twitter app for Android phones called The Dawn of Glad Tidings that gives the group permission to send tweets through users’ accounts and also updates users with news and information.
“Your account functions normally most of the time, but it will periodically broadcast tweets from ISIS that are also sent around at the same time to hundreds or even thousands of other accounts,” J.M. Berger, and author and analyst, told CBS News. “It’s one of many tools that ISIS uses to manipulate the perception on social media that their content is bigger and more popular than it might actually be if you were looking at just their organic supporters.”
Berger, who reported ISIS posted almost 40,000 tweets in one day last week, called it an “ambitious PR campaign.”
“Big corporations wish they were as good at this as ISIS is,” Berger explained to CBS News. “This is a combination of an extremely ambitious military campaign with an extremely ambitious PR campaign. Social media is most of that PR campaign.”
Berger added that ISIS probably has thousands of its fighters spreading the group’s message on social media.
“So if you’re in Baghdad, trying to figure out what’s going on with this conflict, and you put in a search and what comes up is a picture of an ISIS jihadi with the caption ‘We are coming,’ I would say that probably has some intimidation effect,” Berger told CBS News.
Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, warns that it will be hard to stop the group reaching out on social media.
“At this stage, with the addicted usage of Twitter by the jihadists, I’m not sure how it can be stopped,” Katz told CBS News. For the last three years we have been warning that social media is becoming a hydra, an uncontrollable source for jihad, due to its easy use, rapid updates with easy connection and unlimited viewers. Each fighter with a Twitter account is his own media organization.”
CBS News reports that Twitter shut down several accounts affiliated with ISIS last week. ISIS used the platform to disseminate to users the mass executions of government and militia soldiers it captured.
President Barack Obama notified Congress Monday that up to 275 troops will be sent to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the American Embassy in Baghdad after ISIS took control of Tikrit and Mosul over the past week. U.S. officials tell The Associated Press that Obama is considering sending a small number of American special forces soldiers to Iraq, too.
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