Washington / AFP
US authorities and Internet giants are boosting attempts to counter the IS group’s online propaganda, though it is unclear how effective these efforts are in hampering the extremists’ public-relations machine.
With calls to holy war and highly produced videos of IS fighters in battle or killing captives, the IS group has long used the Internet and social media to recruit fighters for its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and to incite individuals around the world to commit terrorist attacks.
To try to stop this, web giants like Twitter and Facebook are working hard to shut down extremist accounts, though these often pop back up under a new name. “Twitter has publicly said they’ve taken down close to 200,000 handles. They’ve taken down way more than that,” Richard Stengel, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs said at a recent seminar aimed at countering IS’s “brand.”
“YouTube has taken down literally millions of videos. Facebook has hundreds of people who are working 24/7 to take down this noxious content,” added Stengel, who also was the former managing editor of Time magazine.
‘Amplifying moderate voices’
At the same time, US efforts are being led by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which was overhauled this year and brought under the leadership of Michael Lumpkin, a former US naval officer.
The center “is not going to be focused on US messages with a government stamp on them, but rather amplifying moderate credible voices in the region and throughout civil society,” said Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama’s top homeland security advisor.
The US military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, is “actively engaged” on social media to counter IS propaganda.
“The command has a robust online engagement program that harnesses the professional talents and expertise of both military members and contractors working together,” Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said.
“We operate using truthful information directed toward regional audiences to combat ISIL’s lies and deception,” he added, using an IS acronym.