Twitter has launched an offensive against Jihadist propaganda by closing down accounts belonging to Islamic extremist groups, mostly those affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), now rebranded as a self-proclaimed caliphate, or Islamic State.
Back in my PSYOPS days, about 5 years ago, part of our job was to conduct “counter-PSYOPS” operations, by capturing and analyzing enemy propaganda so we could use it against them. For instance, “Night letters” – death threats pinned the houses of Afghans working against the Taliban – became “day letters” sent to the enemy.
But most shocking were always the DVDs found in bazaars featuring successful suicide attacks against military convoys with voice-overs quoting the Quran, disseminating these videos as a show of force to convince the civilian population that they were winning and, most likely, to recruit young men and fool them into thinking they just bought their one-way ticket to Paradise aboard a suicide vest.
This was 2008, an era future anthropologists will likely refer to as the “Pre-Twitter Age.” Nowadays, anyone with an internet access and a Twitter account is able to follow ISIL’s advance on Iraqi cities, and the Taliban posts regular updates about their operations on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s account, @ABalkhi. Anyone, including young Muslims all over the world who only needed a little nudge to push them into the downward spiral of radicalization. An era when a Pakistani internet user in Abbotabad tweeted that he was hearing “helicopter noises” minutes before DEVGRU operators stormed Osama bin Laden’s lair.