The battle against the Islamic State (IS) has taken form over multiple fronts, and when it comes to the digital theater of operations, the U.S. appears to be gaining ground. According to the Obama administration, the Islamic State’s Twitter traffic has taken a nosedive of 45 percent over the last two years, due largely in part to American and allied efforts at combating the terrorist organization via social media. By using images and messaging detailing the suffering and brutality endured as a result of IS activity, U.S. Twitter forces appear to have beaten back a significant portion of its online traffic.
Included in anti-IS content have been images like that of a teddy bear bearing a message in Arabic noting that the Islamic State “slaughters childhood,” ”kills innocence,” ”lashes purity” or “humiliates children.” There’s also an image of a male hand covering a woman’s mouth, with a caption noting that the organization “deprives woman her voice.” And one of the most powerful, perhaps, is a woman wearing a black veil weeping bloody tears, and the message, “Women under ISIS. Enslaved. Battered. Beaten. Humiliated. Flogged.”
The social media battle has been a key one against IS, as the extremist group is known for using the web to not only spread propaganda, but recruit other would-be followers to their ranks as well. But with its own anti-IS propaganda, the U.S. and other countries hopes that they may dissuade individuals from joining.
“We’re denying ISIL the ability to operate uncontested online, and we’re seeing their social media presence decline,” Michael Lumpkin, head of the Global Engagement Center, which coordinates the American government’s approach to fighting extremist messaging, told the Associated Press. He added that “anti-ISIL audiences are increasingly vocal on social media. This only weakens ISIL’s ability to recruit, a key aim of our messaging efforts.”
Social media companies like Twitter and Facebook have also agreed to step up their own efforts against terrorism, and while there’s no official partnership in place between the government and these Silicon Valley giants, their collaboration seems to have yielded positive results. For example, Twitter noted earlier this year that it had banned 125,000 IS accounts since mid-2015, and as efforts against terrorism intensify, we can only expect this figure to rise.