Sunday, May 8, 2016

ISIS in India: The Writing on the (Facebook) Wall

Shruti Pandala,

Image from article, with caption: ISIS online images via GongTo

India needs to take the threat of ISIS recruitment on social media seriously.

The West’s experience tackling ISIS holds lessons for India. Despite larger coffers and media specialists in play, the counter response has been lacking, says the former chief of the U.S. Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. He recently told CBS News, “There is a fantasy in Washington that if you somehow put magic social media or public diplomacy pixie dust on a problem, it will go away. “It’s not that ISIS is so great. It is that the response against ISIS is both limited, and weak.” He reiterated that dismantling the group’s Twitter feeds was a temporary solution; the challenge remains the wide range of audiences to target with counter propaganda.
For companies who host these social-media platforms, the Damocles sword hangs perpetually overhead. The sheer volume of propaganda that needs to be sifted through, not to mention the precarious balance between enabling people to discuss and access information about ISIS without being a distribution channel for its propaganda, becomes challenging.
India has worked on a multi-layered response, from surveillance and monitoring to involving religious heads in de-radicalization programs designed to reach out to disenchanted youth. Yet the scale of the challenge requires an institutionalized, not ad-hoc, response. Agencies warn that ISIS propaganda is already fueling competition between terror groups on social media, driving other non-state actors to bandwagon on the Islamic State brand and even prompting insurgent groups to copycat recruitment strategies.
ISIS has complicated the theater for warfare into a battle of ideas which it, at least in perception, seems to be winning. It is time to be aware and fight this “spam.”

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