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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