Wednesday, December 9th 2015
On December 6, 2015, The New York Times ran a “Room for Debate” feature, “How Can America Counter the Appeal of ISIS?”
Four essays were included. San Francisco journalist Sama Saeed argued “Muslim-American Communities Should Not Be Blamed for Violent Extremism.” Eboo Patel is president of Interfaith Youth, and his contribution was “Encourage and Support a ‘Big Tent Citizen’ Islam.” Muktedar Khan of the Delaware Council for Global and Muslim Affair wrote, “This Is What Happens When Modernity Fails All of Us.”
Nicholas A. Glavin of the Naval War College’s Center on Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups added the fourth essay, “Counter ISIS’ Narratives on Social Media.”
Here are some key quotes from the Glavin article:
- ISIS exploits social media to engage with young potential recruits who are drawn to be both fighters in the caliphate and lone-wolf terrorists where they live.
- The U.S. must combat the terrorist group's draw on social media by identifying its most effective narratives, penetrating its online echo chambers and promoting countermedia and information literacy.
- To reach potential recruits online, amplify the firsthand accounts of fighters who return to Western countries, disillusioned from ISIS' battlefield.
- In order to conduct effective countermessaging, it is important to understand the multiple narrative themes ISIS employs in its propaganda: brutality, mercy, victimhood, belonging, war and utopianism.
- Unfortunately, extremists and their followers will not be persuaded by counternarrative efforts attached to U.S. Government social media accounts. The Peer-to-Peer: Challenging Extremism initiative, a public-private partnership between the State Department and EdVenture Partners, on the other hand, hosts competitions for millennials to create social or digital campaigns to counter violent extremism.
- One of the most effective ways for the West to reach potential recruits online is to amplify the firsthand accounts of fighters who return disillusioned to Western countries from ISIS' battlefield.
- These narratives include those of defectors who say ISIS’ atrocities are “far from the principles of Islam” to those who warn that the reality of the caliphate is “totally different” than what ISIS propaganda portrays.
- But extremists exploit the algorithms that social media platforms use to suggest similar accounts, constructing echo chambers that exclude dissenting opinions. To infiltrate those echo chambers, public-private initiatives should take a page from ISIS' playbook and conduct “hashtag hijacking” . . .
- Ultimately, though many young people are adept in information technology, they may not yet possess skills to cognitively identify the logical gaps and fallacies embedded in extremist propaganda. It is critical that the U.S. find ways to amplify those flaws.