Islamic State’s propaganda capabilities have been weakened, not defeated

 

By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

 

Islamic State’s propaganda capabilities have been weakened, not defeated

Islamic State’s self-proclaimed ‘Caliphate’ has seen a series of setbacks in its core areas in Iraq and Syria. Despite heading towards a crumbling stage, the Islamic State (IS) has been able to preserve its global terrorism capability through its slick propaganda skills. IS has been using its multitude of glossy propaganda outlets and social media platforms to spread its propaganda messages on a regular basis.

Despite the nature of medieval ideology IS has been very tech-savvy. Cyber space has been its effective weapon to advance psychological warfare against its enemy as well as the group’s key backbone in its entire operation such as recruitment, radicalization, and communication among others. Modern world hasn’t seen such scale of atrocities, horror, massacre and brutalities in internet and social media platforms.

 

IS has been exercising entirely new ways in the exploitation of modern technologies. It has aggressively and swiftly transformed its previous relatively immature propaganda productions capabilities into modern form. Their carefully formulated spontaneous gain popularity in internet has provided their inspirational interest into operational form. IS’s media apparatus has deep grassroots to global scale in the day-to-day functional basis with highly persuasive activities than other groups.

 

IS’s glossy propaganda machine has far-reaching capabilities than any other terror groups. They have formidable knowledge on information warfare to terrorize the world to gain their influence. The world saw IS wave of horrific violence in various nations during the holy month of Ramadan. Such vicious violence and atrocities has been inspired, instigate or directed by IS from cyber space. Evolution of IS has not only been the start of the new phenomenon on the ground but also in the digital arena.

 

IS’ online and social media presence as well as its influence has dramatically reversed the concept of terrorism. Landscape of online terrorism has seen a rapid and significant change after Islamic State (IS) gained the ground in Iraq and Syria. After the self-declaration of ‘Caliphate’ in June 2014, IS has been able to attack in heart of the modern tool — the internet. Cyber has become a key backbone for them.

 

Islamic State’s online strategy had extremely succeeded, which has boosted their global ambition. IS’ central leadership has emphasized on the utilization of modern tools for its savage acts. Media propaganda has been one of the key instruments of IS core operation. Dissemination of propaganda messages is the group’s most potential weapon which plays a very significant and consistent role to expand its terrorism capabilities and brutal idea. Other terrorist groups have never exercised such scale of informational influence in history.

 

IS’s abroad operation has heavily relied on online. Cyber space has become IS’s exceptional marketing tools. The group skillfully utilizes online and social-media accounts which eventually proved their lifeline to spread their message globally. IS has slickly-produced multitude of platforms such as apps, info-graphics, charts, photos, videos, magazines, newspapers, radio station, cartoons & others.

 

IS has a very wider, organized and effective hierarchical propaganda structure which their propagandists has presence in online for information gathering, radicalize followers, networking aimed at directing to inspire the terror attacks, regular interaction with potential recruits thousand miles far from the core territory through social media accounts & encrypted methods.

 

According to recently released pro-IS media released info-graphic, they have 46 official media offices and products which has so far released more than 41,230 media releases (32,140 photo reports, 4,540 text releases, 2,880 video releases, 1,670 audio releases) in three years on the declaration of self proclaimed “caliphate”. They had once operated 1,000 media points known as “nuqat i‘lamiyya” in their control areas.

 

Use of social media, especially in Twitter,Telegram, Tumblr, Justpast, Youtube & Facebook to expand global reach & influence has seen a dramatic shift. Magnifying their success on the battlefield has been a tremendous success to recruit foreign fighters. IS has been able to portray the group’s multi-faced strategy to approach foreign fighters recruitments. Adventure tourism to take revenge has also been a subject matter of propaganda to attract more followers.

 

IS has been able to anonymously distribute its variety of propaganda products. Despite anti-IS digital efforts IS’s A‘maq news agency is fully operational in 24/7 operational, al-Bayan radio bulleting is circulating on a daily basis with multiple languages, Pro- IS Nashir News Agency has fully operational with more than 150 telegram channels. al-Naba’ Arabic weekly newspaper & glossy Rumiyah Magazine continue to publish to its audience. Telegram’s secret chat has been ongoing and other decentralized media propaganda outlets are still able to release videos and other forms of production.

 

Significant reduction of IS propaganda presence in online is a positive sign but Arabic, English, Russian, French and Bengali social media accounts are still operational. Most of the tragic terrorist attacks sources have back-tracked on online in propaganda materials in online which is either direct or inspired linked to group messages.

 

Anti-Islamic state counter-measure in digital arena has been in progress for some months which has significantly decreased the group’s online ability. Despite some positive indications in the ongoing digital battle, IS still has extraordinary techniques and abilities to exaggerating the terrorist causes through online.

Barrage of IS active propaganda has been significantly feeding the increase of radical Islamist activities in different regions as well as various terrorist attacks. IS’s online propaganda apparatus has succeeded to reach their prospective global audience by accomplishing its objectives.

 

Now-a-days, IS floods of information warfare campaign has significantly crumbled. The group’s online propaganda and media reach is gradually decreasing. Social media accounts have dropped and IS rapid success on online has seen a tremendous slowdown. High value IS’s propaganda department leaders has taken off from the online battlefield one another by U.S.-led airstrikes.

 

IS astonishing propaganda mechanism has remained regular operational in Telegram with daily dozens of mirror accounts to reliance to survive before shot down but their active Twitter and Facebook accounts has no longer been able to sustain more than one hour. IS dramatic vicious online operation has slowed down but they are still been able to wage online war to spread barbaric acts of violence, fear & terror across the globe. Extensive coverage of IS’ activities in mainstream global media also serve its objectives.

 

IS remains capable of producing highly influential propaganda materials. IS is still successfully messaging its followers to carry out attacks against western nations. Their threaten to ramp-up attacks against the west in chilling messages successfully reached the targeted audience far from their captured areas. Their intensive efforts to orchestrate the sophisticated & dynamic attacks against various nations which has seen widely successful.

 

After series of different measures and growing pressure, IS has chosen the end-to-end encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram. Their online propaganda activates has increasing reliance on Telegram which is difficult to monitoring the encrypted communication or social media accounts. IS online influence campaign has remain effective as well as able to maintain their secret communication to spread their intended messages.

 

As I continue to follow almost all primary IS media outlets & collect their primary materials for examining since June 2014, I can say that their propaganda campaign has reached to a critical stage than ever before. Since most of the IS’s influential propagandists have disappeared, such achievement is certainly a milestone for online counter-terrorism effort but not enough for final victory. Anti-propaganda efforts still requires more organize and effective broad effort. They still have capabilities to reemerge immediately if they feel free to relief of relentless pressure from multiple directions.

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