ISIS and Social Media


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A social media platform is currently being developed by militants aligned with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in order to avoid discovery of their communications and propaganda, according to European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Eurpol). “It was revealed ISIS is now developing its very own social media platform, its own part of the Internet to run its agenda,” said Eurpol director Rob Wainwright in London on Wednesday, as quoted by The Straits Times. “It does show that some members of [ISIS], at least, continue to innovate in this space.”

The platform was uncovered during a Europol-coordinated crackdown on ISIS and Al-Qaeda material. It was then that 2,000 extremist items on 52 social media platforms were identified. Social media is frequently used by extremists in order to spread propaganda and recruit others, especially through private channels on messaging apps like Telegram. Other social media sites, such as Google and Facebook, are facing pressure to put an end to extremist material hosted on their websites.

According to Europol, these attempts may be misguided. “Efforts made by numerous online platforms to remove inappropriate content have driven supporters of terrorist groups to simultaneously use multiple platforms to promote terrorism and incite violence.” They have also been searching for new service providers to make sure their messages reach potential supporters, while a growing interest for platforms that do not require identification has been witnessed.

Meanwhile, the growing use of social media among Indonesian supporters of the Islamic State (IS) helped the group reach a wider audience, the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) has claimed.  Sidney Jones, the director of the Jakarta-based IPAC, said in a statement that the report titled ‘Online Activism and Social Media Usage Among Indonesian Extremists’ that was released on Saturday found that social media usage among Indonesian IS supporters did not change the group’s recruitment patterns, but helped it spread its message more widely.  Social media usage is ensuring that IS propaganda is reaching new audiences.

The report looks at how Indonesian extremists use Facebook, Twitter and various mobile phone applications like WhatsApp and Telegram. The report divides Indonesian extremism from 2002 to the present into four periods and examines how each period has been characterized by new communications technology. One thing that has remained consistent until today, is the face-to-face contact for radicalization and recruitment.

ISIS propaganda, which was disseminated via social media, could interest individuals in the idea of an Islamic caliphate. The report found that involvement in radical religious discussion groups seem to precede the actual decision to leave. The propaganda seems to be having an impact, particularly the depictions of daily life in the Islamic State and the camaraderie of Indonesian fighters, smiling broadly with their new weapons or enjoying a dip in a hotel swimming pool after battle.

Government reports have said that more than 500 Indonesians were believed to have joined IS since the conflict began and about half had gone on to fight in Syria or Iraq. The government to have more skilled personnel to to analyse the content of extremist communications, because otherwise the government will not be able to develop effective counter-measures.

IPAC cited government’s statistics that women and children may constitute more than 40 per cent of the Indonesian foreign fighters with IS.  The report said that the increasing IS propaganda being spread through individual Twitter accounts had also raised concerns about the possibility of ‘lone wolf’€ attacks. However, the report pointed out that such attacks were extremely rare in Indonesia. Extremist violence in Indonesia until now has been a social activity. Belonging to a group is part of the appeal.

Moreover, an interesting finding of the report is that Indonesian extremists use smart phones for marriage-by-video which unites Indonesian women in the country or overseas with Indonesian extremists in prison, in Syria or in radical groups. “These marriages are used for a variety of purposes: to cement alliances, reinforce social hierarchies, satisfy the ‘biological needs’€of prisoners, or bring women out to the Middle East for unmarried fighters.

 

Long-lasting Fighting Against Extrimist and Terrorist

According to Iraqi Vice President, Ayad Allawi as quoted from Reuters and Al Arabiya, there is a possibility if ISIS and Al Qaeda will be reunited after several ISIS’s losed at Mosul, eventhough ISIS had been separated from Al Qaeda since 2014 which was triggered by the differences of a battle strategy. Al Qaeda had been condemed outrage ISIS’s strategy through beheading, human sinking and burning.

According to Newsweek, ISIS’s fighters in Mosul approximately 2.000 and in Suriah, ISIS has approximately 9.000 until 12.000 fighters which comes from several countries including Indonesia. Recently, although ISIS had been beaten in Mosul, Iraq but ISIS still exist in Qaim, Hawija, Tal Afar and Raqqa in Suriah.

The outrage of ISIS has been phenomening which could show from several mass graves in Suriah and Iraqi. According to Associated Press, it had been founded 5.200 until 15.000 corpse in 72 mass graves in Iraq and Suriah.  ISIS and Al Qaeda’s threat has still been existing and it would be spreaded through a technology and an information progress such as social media. Remembering these threat, ISIS and Al Qaeda have been haunting the global harmonious and the safety of humankind, so that it would be long-lasting fightened facing extrimist and terrorist.

The government of Indonesia must be anticipated the global terrorist landscape shift if ISIS and Al Qaeda will be joining. Either ISIS or Al Qaeda has been judgingh that Indonesia as a Muslim majority country until today as “ a far enemy” because ISIS and Al Qaeda have faced a simultaneous attacks from US and their allies either in Suriah or Iraqi.

However, a terrorist groups in Indonesia has still been capability to launch their attacks in Indonesia. A rise-up sectarian tensions which occured in Jakarta which is triggered by Ahok’s case and in Aceh, Papua, West Kalimantan and North Sulawesi which is triggered by the rejection of FPI and HTI, it could be created “gap security” which can be used by a terror groups to launch their attacks to fragile target and “un-protected target”.

It must be realized that terror threat in Indonesia isn’t faded-away but it has been haunted the human security in Indonesia. Meanwhile, being admitted or not, the government will not be able to develop effective counter-measures against a terrorist group propaganda. The government must be intensified their effort to tackled those problem through social media and mainstream media. Cyber patrol, cyber counter attack, social media’s user conditioning, media literation and spreading an effective counter measure against a terror propaganda and ideolofgy must have been done. The problem is being admitted or not, Indonesia didn’t have an integrated counter measures against terrorist.

*) The author is a strategic issues observer both domestic and foreign issues at CERSIA, Jakarta. He was earned his master at the University of Indonesia (UI). Preveiously, he was earned his bachelor degree at political science at the University of Jember (Unej).