ISIL Increasingly Desperate As Twitter & Facebook Turn The Screw
“If you close one account we will take 10 in return and soon your names will be erased after we delete you [sic] sites, Allah willing, and will know that we say is true,” claims text in a new video released by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), unintentionally revealing how successful the campaign against the group has been.
Without the distribution network of Twitter and Facebook, ISIL would be almost completely unable to disseminate its message to a new audience. The group is posturing when it claims it has the ability to spawn multiple accounts to replace suspended ones, and ISIL continues to lose access to one of its most important channels. The latest threat appears to be born from the frustration of high-profile accounts being closed down as technology chiefs tackle extremism of all forms on various platforms.
The text continues, “You announce daily that you suspend many of our accounts. And to you we say: Is that all you can do? You are not in our league.” Even if this was the only action that could be taken, it is still enough to have got under the skin of ISIL’s online activists. The suspension of a high-profile account is at least an irritant, but more likely a disheartening blow. Building a large following from scratch is a daunting undertaking, even with dedicated teams, particularly when the ‘quality’ of the followers is of such importance.
A report from the University of Washington released this month claims “suspensions [of English language social media accounts] held the size and reach of the overall network flat, while devastating the reach of specific users who have been repeatedly targeted.”
Tech giants are moving to degrade the ISIL message on their platforms, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg telling the Davos World Economic Forum last month “The best thing to speak against recruitment by Isis are the voices of people who were recruited by Isis, understand what the true experience is, have escaped and have come back to tell the truth. Counter-speech to the speech that is perpetuating hate we think by far is the best answer.”
But the power ultimately rests with the people. In Germany Facebook users flooded a neo-Nazi page with positive messages, and similar actions have led to pages on the site being ‘Private’ making it harder to get their ideology to new eyes. Hacking collective Anonymous declared war on ISIL in the wake of the Paris attacks last year, and alongside identifying and taking down ISIL sympathetic accounts, injected humour into the campaign – the photoshopped ‘duck head’ meme went viral quickly. ISIL have yet to respond with anything resembling a sense of humour.