We Might Be Winning the War Against the Islamic State, At Least on Social Media

By Angela Chen on at

Islamic State remains a terror in the Middle East, but there is one place its influence seems to have diminished: the wilds of the internet. Twitter traffic to pro-Islamic State accounts has fallen 45 per cent in the past two years, according to the Obama administration, which of course is also taking most of the credit.

Two years ago, the administration put together an international coalition to fight Islamic State, with one of the goals being to discourage the burgeoning popularity of the group online.

The coalition was unsuccessful early on, making several blunders that seem rather amateur in retrospect. A lot of the content was written solely in English, and back then social media networks were struggling with the problem of disabling and recruiting prospective members much more than now.

Now, the coalition uses memes—like a teddy bear that says Islamic State “slaughters childhood”—written instead in Arabic, and spreads information through Muslim governments and organisations instead of directly trying to blast it out in the echo chamber of the interwebz.

The changes (and the two years the coalition has had to work on things) seem to be working. According to data obtained by the Associated Press, there is now a 6-1 ratio of anti-to-pro Islamic State content online, better than last year. Nowadays, most pro-Islamic State Twitter accounts have about 300 followers, down from an average of about 1,500 followers back in 2014.

The Obama administration is far from the only group that is trying to fight Islamic State. Social-media networks are doing their part too, and back in February, Twitter claimed that it shut down 125,000 pro-Islamic State accounts since May of 2015. Anonymous declared war on Islamic State last year with, most recently, a member trying to shame Islamic State by hacking their accounts and posting sexy photos of women. Researchers are using maths to both study how people get sucked into pro-Islamic State groups and predict terrorist attacks. Good job, everyone. Looks like we might be getting somewhere. [AP via Engadget]

Featured image: AP file