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The Phenomenon of ISIS

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One way that this issue could be addressed is by monitoring social media accounts. According to J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan, authors of The ISIS Twitter Census: Defining and describing the population of ISIS supporters on Twitter, show the comparison between suspended and non suspended supporters of ISIS Twitter activity. Data shows that 1,995 followers have been suspended and 969 followers have not been suspended. Suspended users tweeted 46.6 tweets per day while non suspended supporters are tweeting 14.5 tweets per day. While the number of followers and tweets have decreased, there is still a large amount of non suspended ISIS followers out on Twitter trying to lure people into joining ISIS. Since ISIS has lost a lot of important social media accounts, ISIS is taking on a new way of recruiting by using education as propaganda.

According to FOX News, Iraqi troops found English textbooks at an orphanage in February. In the book the English alphabet is represented by B is for bomb and S is for a sniper. There are pictures of AK-47s and bombs used for math problems. An estimated 1 million kids have been affected by the education propaganda. The orphanage where these books were found was a school to teach kids how to become ISIS soldiers. The kids have been forced out of school or they are forced to learn ISIS tactics. More advanced courses teach students how to make suicide bombs and beheading techniques. Ex-Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism division, Michael Steinbach, talked with ABC News about how the U.S. government is ‘losing the battle’ to stop ISIS online. Steinbach stated that the FBI and other U.S. agencies have implemented “an effective narrative” online, but “the sheer volume” of ISIS messaging online, specifically social media, “eclipses our efforts”.

ISIS is reaching out to Americans online who are frustrated by an inability to leave the United States or just can’t afford it. Steinbach added “So what they’re doing it… saying, ‘Hey, if you can’t come to Syria, do something in the U.S. or Western countries.’”. The head of the FBI’s field office in New York, Diego Rodriguez, said in a statement that he urges community members to flag “those who could be radicalized” because “we cannot do this alone.” David S. Sorenson, professor of International Security Studies at the US Air War College, proposes a way for the government to reduce ISIS recruitments and possibly ending the group altogether. Sorenson proposes that the U.S. government covert information operations to other countries teaching the people about the true meaning of the Islam religion and how joining ISIS will not lead you to paradise but rather lead you to a “fiery eternity”. Such as making movies, comics, and newspapers. Sorenson says that this can “help accelerate ISIS opposition already growing in European Muslim communities”. Most of the people who join ISIS and founded the terrorist group are uneducated people about what the actual Islam religion teaches. Teaching people the true meaning of Islam can stop people recruiting to ISIS and possibly help retaliate to end them. Lone wolf terrorist acts without membership in, or cooperation with, an official or unofficial terrorist organization, cell, or group and uses traditional terrorist tactics—including the targeting of civilians—to achieve explicitly political or ideological goals.

A lone wolf may be an individual or a small group of individuals. They are recruited, radicalized, and trained on the web. According to Dr. Gabriel Weimann, a Fellow at the Wilson Center and Professor of Communication at the University of Haifa in Israel, this is the new way of recruiting and carrying out attacks from ISIS. The New York Police Department has developed a Cyber Intelligence Unit, in which undercover cyber agents track online activities of suspected violent extremists and interact with them to gauge the potential threat. The unit has played a key role in several recent terrorism investigations and arrests.ISIS is considered to be among the most skilled terror organizations in the use of social media. A March 2015 Brookings Institution study found that the fall of 2014, ISIS supporters were using at least 46,000 Twitter accounts. Three-quarters of the supporters listed Arabic as their first language, but nearly one in five chose English. These accounts also had a higher than an average number of followers (1,000 each) and a higher than an average number of tweets.

ISIS controls now more 90,000 Twitter accounts and reaches 100 million people a day through social media campaigns. A concern associated with taking action in taking down ISIS social media accounts is that such action could hinder American citizens’ rights to free expression and free speech. Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, told NBC News, “But expecting to have free speech on a social network is kind of like expecting you can walk into a church service shouting obscenities, It is one’s right to free speech somewhere, but not necessarily anywhere”. When it comes to threatening people, that’s when free speech comes out of play. You are threatening to harm that person and possibly other people which are not tolerated on any social media site. The point to where someone is making threats is where they cross the line of the meaning of free speech. Under 18 U.S. Code 2339B, it is unlawful for a person in the United States to “knowingly provide ‘material support or resources’ to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Material support is defined as “any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel, and transportation, except medicine or religious materials.”

And training is defined as “instruction or teaching designed to impart a specific skill, as opposed to general knowledge” and “expert advice or assistance means advice or assistance derived from scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge.” (Title 18 Crimes and Criminal Procedure.) Taking this statute into consideration, does it mean that if social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. provide a service to a foreign terrorist organization such as ISIS by allowing its members to open accounts and tweet pictures and inflammatory rhetoric – are they violating U.S. law?

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The phenomenon of ISIS. (2018, May 23). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 27, 2022, from
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The phenomenon of ISIS. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 May 2022].
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