How To Combat ISIS? Use Their Power, Social Media, To Destroy The Idea Of Islamic State


Experts at the 7th annual Halifax International Security Forum tackled a wide range of issues, from combating the use of social media as a communication, recruiting and fundraising tool in the war against the Islamic State, to the need for the world to accept its collective responsibility to welcome refugees fleeing conflict zones, and agreed that the only way to defeat ISIS is to destroy the idea of it.

“If you look at the investments Daesh [ISIS] has made in social media, videography, it would compete frankly with the best of us and we haven’t really fully grasped that, nor thought of a strategy that we need to deal with that,” said Janice Stein, a professor in the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

Reaffirming and defending the government’s commitment to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year, despite opinion polls that show a significant number of Canadians question the safety of such a move, Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said a coalition’s best strategy in fighting ISIS is identifying warning signs early through “the right indicators and the right intelligence”.

“We also need to understand the linkages across the various threat streams — how criminality, oppression and ideology can interact and feed off of each other. We need to understand their critical points of convergence and the real targets of vulnerability. Not just vulnerability of failed and failing states, but vulnerability of young alienated by a lack of opportunity,” he stated.

In an interview to The Daily Signal in June, Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings Institution senior fellow specializing in defense and foreign policy, pointed directly to ISIS’ propaganda machine as key to its recruitment success.

“There is no doubt in my mind that social media has helped ISIS enormously. Its glossy, glitzy, romanticized version of jihad and the caliphate it is trying to create—even if seriously perverted and twisted and brutal by any fair standard—is made to seem appealing by truly expert propaganda,” he said, explaining that the group still draws about 1,000 foreign recruits a month to Iraq and Syria from nearly 100 different countries.

Using social media as well as encrypted online communications beyond the reach of law enforcement surveillance, the Islamic State is increasingly reaching new sympathizers and encouraging attacks. The terror outfit has built a sophisticated and effective online propaganda machine, exploiting many mainstream networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Telegram, WhatsApp, Diaspora and LinkedIn. Their efforts resemble a well-oiled marketing department, employing experts in PR and design to ensure a legitimate appearance and making the voices of a few sound like the voices of millions.


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