“What worries me most is that ISIL’s investment in social media- which has been blossoming in the last six to eight weeks in particular- will cause a significant increase in the number of incidents that we will see”. These were the words of FBI director James Comey at last weeks’ Aspen Security Forum. He went on to state that ISIL has become a much bigger threat the US than al-Qaeda, due to their successful efforts in reaching vulnerable and impressible teenagers in the US.
The group has been targeting lonely and isolated teenagers across the country to convert them to their ideology. The tool for this is mainly Twitter, but also e-mail, Skype, Facebook and various forums and chat websites. The individual group members slowly build up trust and friendship with the target, patiently chatting with them for hours each day, answering all questions and muting any concerns. They send money and presents, listen attentively to every worry, give helpful advice and are always there for support, even in the middle of the night. Over the course of many months, the teenager is gently pressured into cutting ties with former friends and even family members until the ISIS online community is their main social circle. The constant attention and propaganda can even turn devoted Christians into ISIS supporters. It becomes difficult to believe that the kind, supportive people that have turned into friends are connected to the beheadings and other horrific acts of violence that the Western media accuses them off. To distance the teenagers from contra-ISIS views, they are discouraged from contacting any Muslims that do not support the terrorist group and warned not to display their connection with ISIS openly.
Once the teenager has become convinced of the ISIS ideology and indebted to the group for all their attention and presents, they are persuaded to travel to Syria to join them or to show their support of the group in other ways
At this point, they are in great danger because a journey to Syria would mean death or worse.
The FBI has been struggling to find ways to fight the group’s recruitment success. Facebook, Twitter and co have been requested to block and delete all ISIS/ISIL related content but seem to be overwhelmed by the task. For each account that is detected successfully and removed, two new ones spring up, making it almost impossible to keep up. But now it seems that the social networks have gotten support from an unlikely ally: The hacker network Anonymous has taken on the task of seeking out and disabling any Isis related social media pages. This comes after the network itself was the victim of a social media hack. In June, ISIS supporters used the Twitter account @theanonmesssage to post a large number of extremely graphic photos of violence.
Anonymous Reacted Responsibly to ISIS Hacking
Anonymous responded with a similar tactic, but the pictures that flooded the ISIS accounts were of Japanese anime characters. The group posted a list of affected Twitter accounts on their website, and it seems that many of them have been suspended in the meantime.
Experts are unsure, however, how much of a difference these measures will make. It is assumed that ISIS and its supporters control over 90. 000 twitter accounts and only 750 of these were targeted by anonymous.
However it did go some way in limiting their ability to spread their propaganda and forced ISIS to expand extra effort into rebuilding their network JM Berger, a social media analyst, told the BBC.