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Jihadi Web
ISIS Winning the Online Popularity Contest

Fueled by its territorial expansion in Syria, Iraq, and Libya during the past year, ISIS has been gaining ground in South Asia’s cyberspace. “The Taliban and al Qaeda have almost been written out of the picture,” one analyst told Reuters, “Most of these sites have converted their content to an Islamic State platform.” Though ISIS is still a relatively minor player in Afghanistan, the Taliban issued a letter earlier this week warning the organization from meddling in the region.

Should the U.S. stand by and write reports on ISIS’s social media prowess—or should it be shutting those sites down? According to James Van de Velde’s article in our upcoming issue of the magazine, cutting off ISIS from its many followers on the web is paramount. Contrary to common belief, shutting down sites isn’t a useless game of whack-a-mole. It deals both real and lasting setbacks to jihadi groups, who network and exchange an extraordinary amount of information within virtual havens from which they can reach anywhere in the world. Furthermore, ISIS may be content to post grotesque videos with better production values than al-Qaeda’s for the moment, but what if it links up with someone who could design a real cyber weapon? That possibility should be of gravest concern—and as Van de Velde makes clear, it’s not far-fetched. For the full account of why and how we should confine ISIS to radio silence as best we can, read the whole thing here.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. The war against all of broader Islam—-and the “Islamic State” (a so-called Caliphate) in particular—-is a messaging war more than anything else. We should be doing everything possible to thwart THEIR messaging in every place and all the time.
    This is especially true of messaging using all of the electronic tools which were invented and maintained by everything but seventh-century Islam.

    American citizens have freedom of speech. America has no duty whatsoever to give respect to “freedom of speech” around the world in the face of the colossal fib of Islam. We would be on much higher ground to electronically “blow up” certain communications than to later find ourselves needing to actually blow up people and property.

  • Fat_Man

    Better than shutting off their web feeds would be poisoning them by adding bogus or satirical material. Imagine what would happen if we posted a false report of the martyrdom of an important commander. Or showed a bunch of ISIs soldiers at a pig roast stuffing their faces with pulled pork and arguing about whether Tennessee Barbeque is better than North Carolina.

    • fastrackn1

      And washing that pig down with Budweiser….

  • jeburke

    I’ve been saying this for years with respect to various jihadist groups. The line that sabotaging these sites or the line thst it’s better for our intelligence gathering to leave them alone online is transparent poppycock — sort of like saying that if we could have hampered Japanese naval communications by jamming their radios, it would not have been worth it.

    The whole phenomenon of transnational Islamic terrorism has been made possible by myriad forms of internet-powered communications — whether for operations or propaganda. Al Qaeda was born in 1996 and could not have succeeded operating globally but for the internet.

    • ljgude

      A welcome point. I think a good intelligence agency would try to both disrupt and spy and deceive, deceive, deceive. The US spy agencies seem at least as interested in storing everyone’s email in Utah as they are in Jihadis but perhaps that is just a deep deception game. 😉

  • rheddles

    This is a leadership issue, not technical. Wait till 2017.

  • Andrew Allison
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