ISIL vs Turkish parties in social media

ISIL vs Turkish parties in social media

In the coming years, there will probably be a Harvard Business Review article entitled: “A Case study: ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] on the Iraqi front, a best case in social media management by a terrorist organization.”

It is not a farfetched fantasy, as J.M. Berger’s article at the Atlantic suggests this week. Berger published an article in which he studied how ISIL managed to dominate social media in their assault. We understand from his comments below that social media has become a vital part in managing a terrorist organization, as ISIL uses social media outlets not only to let the world know about themselves, but to also recruit new fighters and raise funding.

Berger wrote: “One of ISIL’s more successful ventures is an Arabic-language Twitter app called ‘The Dawn of Glad Tidings,’ or just ‘Dawn.’ The app, an official ISIL product promoted by its top users, is advertised as a way to keep up on the latest news about the jihadi group.

Hundreds of users have signed up for the app on the web or on their Android phones through the Google Play store. When you download the app, ISIL asks for a fair amount of personal data.

Once you sign up, the app will post tweets to your account—the content of which is decided by someone in ISIL’s social-media operation. The tweets include links, hashtags, and images, and the same content is also tweeted by the accounts of everyone else who has signed up for the app, spaced out to avoid triggering Twitter’s spam-detection algorithms. Your Twitter account functions normally the rest of the time, allowing you to go about your business.

Another way is the use of organized hashtag campaigns, in which the group enlists hundreds and sometimes thousands of activists to repetitively tweet hashtags at certain times of the day so they trend on the social network. This approach also skews the results of a popular Arabic Twitter account called @ActiveHashtags that tweets each day’s top trending tags. When ISIL gets its hashtag into the @ActiveHashtags stream, it results in an average of 72 retweets per tweet, which only makes the hashtag trend more. As it gains traction, more users are exposed to ISIL’s messaging. The group’s supporters also run accounts similar to @ActiveHashtags that exclusively feature jihadi content and can produce hundreds of retweets per tweet. The ISIL hashtag consistently outperforms that of the group’s main competitor in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, even though the two groups have a similar number of supporters online.”

For more info you can visit the article on The Atlantic's website.

I have been closely monitoring how social media is being used by Turkish political entities; unfortunately none of them are as progressive as ISIL when it comes to using social media and having an impact. The governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) has thousands of trigger accounts to discredit and lock down people with different opinions than the official AKP stand. While they do it, they can be mean and even curse at regular citizens. Even ISIL knows that it is a bad idea to do so.

Whether ISIL should be allowed to have social media accounts and keep on promoting their twisted world view is another debate, but I know the best way to keep people from following these types of radical entities is to embrace people who are not so radical yet in order to show them a more peaceful way. The AKP is doing just the opposite. When the governing party uses a harsh tone, then this translates as hatred to the youngsters who are uneducated and unemployed. Therefore, many youngsters from Turkey join ISIL every day. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) seem more unorganized, therefore, their views are not really in circulation. If a Turkish person searches Twitter for Iraq visuals all he/she can find these days are of ISIL origin. This must be changed.

All of the Turkish parties have an obligation to the Turkish youth and to our neighboring countries. They must act fast and counter ISIL on every front of the social media landscape.

We must never forget social media hastens the spread of evil as fast as the good. We cannot let people only hear one side of the story in Iraq.