Anne Aly, Stuart Macdonald, Lee Jarvis, and Thomas Chen, “Introduction to the Special Issue: Terrorist Online Propaganda and Radicalization,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 40, issue 1 (2017): 1 – 9.(read less)
Recent studies have identified thousands of overtly jihadi websites operating on the Internet today. IS [the Islamic State] has been particularly active and successful in recruiting foreign fighters, notably from Europe and America, using Twitter, YouTube, Diaspora, and other online social networks.
IS's propaganda strategy is modern and sophisticated, which includes not only extensive use of online social networking but also high quality video production and publications. A highly publicized instance was a slickly produced video of the beheading of American journalist James Foley in August 2014. The New York Post published a graphic image on its front page, and screenshots from the video spread widely on Twitter. Most media outlets and journalists declined to share the graphic video or photos, but IS was aware that social media was an easy way to bypass the checks used by media organizations to stop the spread of propaganda.
IS's sophisticated propaganda campaign depends prominently on social networking. Thousands of IS's Twitter followers installed a custom-developed app called Dawn of Glad Tidings that allows IS to send out centrally written tweets through their accounts. Released simultaneously, the messages swamp social media and extend IS's online presence much further than normal. … Also, an online fan club of thousands of IS supporters retweets its hashtags and translates messages from Arabic to Western languages….
IS is believed to operate one of the most sophisticated social media campaigns. It is highly visible and well funded. Reportedly, IS also benefits from its considerable wealth, earning £3 million a day through oil smuggling, extortion, theft, and human trafficking. It is deliberately slanted toward foreigners, both in its content and its target audience. For instance, IS produced a 20-minute video at the end of Ramadan in August 2014 that highlighted shots of the Mujahideen repeating variations of the same message — British, Finnish, Indonesian, Moroccan, Belgian, American, and South African. Important IS messages are commonly released simultaneously in English, French, and German, then later translated into other languages, such as Russian, Indonesian, and Urdu.