Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Isis jihadists using World Cup and Premier League hashtags to promote extremist propaganda on Twitter

Jihadists using hashtags such as #Brazil2014 and #WC2014 in tweets to spread their recruitment messages

Islamists leading the jihadist advance in Iraq are using the World Cup and leading British football clubs to seek recruits and spread their propaganda via social media
Islamists leading the jihadist advance in Iraq are using the World Cup and leading British football clubs to seek recruits and spread their propaganda via social media

Islamists leading the jihadist advance in Iraq are using the World Cup and leading British football clubs to seek recruits and spread their propaganda via social media.

Tweets sent from the accounts used by the propaganda operation of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and its supporters are being labelled with hashtags such as #Brazil2014, #ENG, #France and #WC2014 to try to hijack the World Cup tournament to spread their message.

The tactic, which allows Isis to access millions of World Cup Twitter searches in the hope that some will click on links to its propaganda material, was being deployed this weekend to disseminate a video showing British and Australian jihadists trying to persuade other western Muslims to join their ranks.

The use of hashtag links also extends to English Premier League clubs. In recent weeks, Isis accounts have used #MUFC, #WHUFC, #LFC and #THFC, among others, on tweets promoting vile “public relations” material showing atrocities and beheadings committed by the extremist group’s fighters in Syria and Iraq.

The use of Twitter hashtags is just one part of an increasingly sophisticated social media campaign by ISIS as it seeks to capitalise on its dramatic territorial gains in recent days and establish a puritanical Islamic state or “caliphate” across a swathe of Sunni-majority Iraq.

The militants have developed an Arab-language Twitter app which updates users on the latest ISIS developments but also requires signatories to surrender a large amount of personal data and gives the terror group the power to send tweets from that individual’s account.

Extremism warning on Syria fall-out

Charles Lister, a terrorism expert at the Brookings Doha Centre, said the ISIS had developed an "all-encompassing" media strategy which was allowing it to outperform longer-established extremist groups in its search for recruits and publicity.

He said: “The slick nature of ISIS media releases has undoubtedly allowed it to become somewhat the 'celebrity' actor within the international jihadist community. On social media, not a day goes by without a foreign supporter - from London, to Mogadishu, to Manila - expressing their support and allegiance to ISIS’s cause.”

Sunni fighters expand offensive

Twitter and other social media providers have shut down a number of ISIS-affiliated accounts in recent days under rules which ban the use of threatening language and racial or religious hatred. But new accounts quickly take their place.

One account, @Alnhim, this weekend tweeted a link to the recruitment video entitled “There Is No Life Without Jihad”, featuring three Britons including Cardiff medical student Nasser Muthana, with seven World Cup-related hashtags.

With disenfranchised or disillusioned young Muslim men a priority for ISIS and similar groups when it comes to recruiting in the west, the harnessing of football-related tweets to its messaging strategy would seem to be a deliberate attempt to reach its target audience via their likely interests.

But ISIS propagandists, who last weekend announced an attempt to gain one billion supporters for an Islamic state on social media, are also determined to simply reach as wide an audience as possible.

An analysis of social media tactics being used by the group by The Atlantic magazine last week found it was using an Arabic language twitter account - @ActiveHashtags - which advertises the most popular hashtags to get its own material on the feed. When this happens, ISIS receives on average 72 retweets for every tweet it sends.

Source: Independent

Further reading

US military advisers on way to Iraq

Iraq is slipping over the edge as Isis advances on Baghdad

Obama deploying US troops to Iraq

Warning of a 'thousand Bin Ladens' in SOS plea to world for help stopping Isis advance

PM: Insurgencies are threat to UK

Assad’s enemies in Syria, whom Tony Blair’s bombing of Damascus would have helped, now threaten Iraq

Iraq crisis: Sunni caliphate has been bankrolled by Saudi Arabia

Syria conflict: The silence in Homs emphasises the city’s fate. There’s barely a breath of wind

CIA, MI6 and Turkey's rogue game in Syria

Sunni revolt in Syria has given al-Qa’ida more power in Iraq

Why the global 'war on terror' went wrong

Is Saudi Arabia regretting its support for al-Qa’ida groups?

On the march with Assad’s army in Yabroud, Syria

Exodus of Christians from the Middle East is a tragedy and a blow to the basic pride of Arab Islamic civilisation

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Exodus of Christians from the Middle East is a tragedy and a blow to the basic pride of Arab Islamic civilisation

Syria's al-Qa’ida rebels move personnel and weaponry ahead of expected US air strikes

Syria, the Saudi Arabia connection: The Prince with close ties to Washington at the heart of the push for war

Hezbollah takes fight to anti-Assad rebels as Syria’s war spills into Lebanon

UK-based extremists back from Syria

Syria rebels 'may have used chemical weapons'

ISIS Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant

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