The power of social media is examined in the new book entitled “ISIS – The State of Terror”, by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger. The book looks at the rise of ISIS particularly during 2014 and how the group and its supporters have been able to harness the power of social media – specifically Facebook and Twitter – to advance its cause. Initially ISIS aimed its broadcasts at the world’s media but found censorship meant that their message could be limited. No such restraints were present on social media, however, and it has the added advantage of a huge and immediate audience.
Twitter has been a particularly popular platform with young people sympathetic and vulnerable to the messages, in turn spreading the word amongst their peers. The benefits to ISIS are endless with the potential for converts to the cause and the oxygen of publicity and propaganda. The social media site is behind the curve in its attempts to control the accounts of ISIS sympathisers, which has in turn led to criticism of the company.
Such is the success of this new weapon for extremists that Twitter and others may well find that they have to take more proactive steps going forward to stem this rising tide as intelligence agencies alone cannot control it.