The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has taken to Twitter to spread its message, trumpet bloody successes, and recruit potential jihadists, but its social-media campaign has come under attack from forces that range from the U.S. State Department to the mysterious group of hacker-activists who call themselves Anonymous.
ISIS has maintained a notably active presence on Twitter, using creative and tech-savvy tactics to amplify its message, maintaining accounts that tweet in English, German, and Russian in addition to Arabic, and posting polished videos with very graphic action sequences and special effects straight out of a Hollywood playbook. Some of these tactics are targeted toward young Syrians, Iraqis, and other Muslims in the region, imploring them to join the fight to carve an Islamic state out of the Levant. Others, like a recruitment video that includes testimonials in English from ISIS fighters with Australian and British accents, are meant to attract soldiers from Western countries.
The U.S. government has an answer to ISIS's recruitment campaign. Long before President Obama announced he would send military advisers to Iraq, the State Department launched a program to engage terrorists on Twitter. A verified Twitter account called Think Again Turn Away sports the State Department's official seal as its avatar ("Some truths about terrorism," reads the account's bio), tweeting replies to jihadi propaganda and calls to action. "Your deluded opinions are incapable of justifying #ISIS' acts of barbarisms against civilians," read a recent tweet from the account.