The Rendon Group’s Media Analysis Team works 24/7/365 to provide clients with global real-time news and information coverage. As our analysts follow the global information environment, they have noticed numerous emerging trends in media and communication throughout 2014. Our 2014 in Review series highlights fifteen (15) specific examples of how media and communications played a decisive role in some of 2014’s most talked about geopolitical issues and events. These examples, divided by region, will be posted on the Rendon Group’s website on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays over the next two weeks. Links to previously posted sections can be found at the bottom of each blog post.
The Islamic State’s Use of Social Media
What sets the Islamic State (ISIS) apart from other terrorist groups is its use of social media and the Internet to broadcast its atrocities and recruit new members. Throughout 2014, ISIS released numerous videos, such as one of its fighters executing dozens of captured Iraqi soldiers. Combined with poor leadership and corruption within the Iraqi Army, this climate of fear prompted thousands of other Iraqi soldiers to flee the battlefield as ISIS approached. Thus, ISIS was able to conquer much of western Iraq’s territory and a considerable amount of military equipment with little resistance.
These brutal images ISIS’ treatment of its enemies are juxtaposed with glowing depictions of the benefits ISIS provides to its loyal subjects. The Islamic State’s media reports headlines like “Farmers reap the rewards of their harvest by giving Zakah [charity]: Picture report on how the Islamic State is collecting the Zakah and thus helping the farmers purify and grow their wealth.” These messages are often in English, German and other western languages; they strategically target an audience of frustrated, disaffected Muslim youth around the world.
However, ISIS’s use of social media has also proven to be a liability. In December 2014, Indian police arrested Mehdi Masroor Biswas, previously known only by his twitter handle, @ShamiWitness. Rather than physically fighting with ISIS in Syria, he worked unmasked as a comfortable tech executive in India’s Silicon Valley. Other ISIS fighters have been ridiculed for their misplaced convictions: A December 2014 Daily Mail article, for example, profiled fighter Abu Hamza al-Britani, a 21-year-old Londoner of Pakistani origin who complained on twitter about missing his pet kitten and junk food. Additionally, some fighters have accidentally revealed their exact location while tweeting, giving foreign intelligence agencies a view into where ISIS stations its fighters. If tweeting risks precision airstrikes, ISIS’ ability to broadcast its message to the world will be severely limited.