Jihadist activity in social media
Dr Marcin Styszynski
Dr Marcin Styszynski
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arabic and Islamic Studies
Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan (Poland)
Jihadist propaganda became everyday more sophisticated and is very different now from the years 2001-2011 when Al-Qaeda, organization celebrated triumphs after the September 11th attacks. Jihadist media campaign focused then on manifestos presented by leaders such as Osama bin laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri or Musab al-Zarqawi ,who delivered their messages and sermons in official websites or TV channels like Al-Jazeera. After each terrorist attack, insurgents and followers were waiting for an official statement of Al-Qaeda leaders and they respected all ideas, slogans and objectives of the message.
The following pictures illustrates logos and graphics of popular jihadist websites, which dominated in the past :
Ansar al-mujahidun (Supporters of Mujahideen)
Shabakat al-jihad al-alamiyyi (Network of Global Jihad)
Shabakat ash-shumukh al-islamiyya (Islamic Glory Network)
The Internet services included various materials produced by media centers such as As-Sahab (Cloud), that focused on global issues as well as local services like Furqan (Victory) and Al-Fajr (Dawn) from Iraq, or Kataib (Battalion) from Somalia, Al-Andalus (Andalusia) from Maghreb and Al-Malahim (Epics) from the Gulf.
In fact, counter-terrorism campaign has decreased the role of the official websites that have beeb censored, blocked and suspended. Jihadist webmasters limited access to internet services to devoted militants who used suitable passwords and logins.
However, the successful offensive of the Islamic State and its strong influences on local and Western audiences have change the situation and enabled to spread different sorts of propaganda techniques, especially in social medias such as Twitter or Facebook.
Contrary to the previous experiences, all militants can express their opinions, manifestos, graphics and films. It is also more and more difficult to identify potential supporters, militants and terrorists because they use various avatars, profiles, symbols and particular words that unite them and facilitate communication and exchange of materials. The following examples demonstrate some new forms of jihadist propaganda.
It should be pointed out that communication between jihadists relies on appropriate words and phrases in Arabic. They identify internet accounts and hashtags in Twitter service. The stylistic forms usually refer to examples like:خلافة – khilafa (caliphate), دولة اسلامية – dawla islamiyya (Islamic State), شبكة الجهاد العالمي – shabakat al-jihad al-alamiyyi (worldwide jihadi network) or أنصار المجاهدين – Ansar al-mujahidin (followers of mujahids). The names are often modified and include additional epithets in Arabic. They also require suitable avatars (logos, pictures and graphics), which distinguish them from less known accounts or false profiles.
The whole process enables to find sophisticated internet services concerning various tweets, manifestos, reports from battlefields or films and graphics glorifying jihad and attacks against enemies. The following picture shows the concept of communication in social media:
The left side of the website hereunder contains appropriate avatar that identifies the profile and character of materials. Besides, the right side of the page reflects various tweets, which refer to individual accounts of users who sympathise with jihadism. The tweets also regard official services like Al-Andalus from Maghreb, Somood from Afghanistan or less known media centres like Qabas and Rimah, which focus on the Islamic State policy in the world or Syria and Iraq conflicts. It should be pointed out that every tweet generate other similar accounts reflecting common ideas regarding jihad, glorification of combatants and condemnation of local and Western authorities as well as further threats.
The present concept of jihadist propaganda reflects new forms of communication in social medias like Twitter. Various profiles and tweets enable to express jihadist ideas and expand extremist activities among internet users in order to promote radical ideas, recruit new militants and inspire terrorist attacks.
Besides, propaganda campaign in social medias is a result of counter-terrorism policy that blocked and suspended a lot of jihadist websites. However, the counter-terrorism policy affected at the same time liberalisation in communication between jihadists who started to post different materials without consultations and orders from their leaders like it was before. In this context, it is more and more difficult to censor jihadist propaganda because one particular account in Twitter generate dozens of other similar profiles referring to common ideas and objectives.