Iraq offensive: Twitter is Jihadists' new weapon

Iraq offensive: Twitter is Jihadists' new weapon
Baghdad, June 18: The violence in Iraq has been aided by an unprecedented social media blitz, saysanalysts.

Sunni militants in Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who are conducting mass executions, suicide bombings and blasts in Baghdad are using social media platforms to spread their propaganda.

Jihadists using technology platforms isn't new. But this time, it is far more sophisticated and extensive. They are using it as a powerful recruitment tool.

(Read more: MEA denies reports of Indians abducted in Mosul, Iraq)

ISIS has developed a Twitter app for Android phones called The Dawn of Glad Tidings, which offers users news and information about ISIS. When users sign up, they give ISIS permission to send tweets through their own personal accounts.

A CBSNEWS report says that during its 2013 attack on Kenya's Westgate mall, a Somali militant group al-Shabab mixed tweets with gunshots.

The jihadists' campaign is very coordinated and disciplined, observes analysts.

"This is a combination of an extremely ambitious military campaign with an extremely ambitious PR campaign. Social media is most of that PR campaign", CBSNEWS quotes J.M. Berger, an author and analyst who specializes in social media and extremism.

How the app works

"Your account functions normally most of the time, but it will periodically broadcast tweets from ISIS that are also sent around at the same time to hundreds or even thousands of other accounts," Berger told CBS News.

"It's one of many tools that ISIS uses to manipulate the perception on social media that their content is bigger and more popular than it might actually be if you were looking at just their organic supporters."

Reportedly, ISIS posted almost 40,000 tweets in one day last week and the messages were then retweeted by many internet users, who are in no way associated with the war.

"They have at least hundreds and probably more like thousands of fighters who are on social media, and then in addition to that they have many thousands of people who are casually or intensely interested in them as supporters online," Berger told CBS NEWS.

They post on Twitter photos showing mass executions of Iraqi soldiers. It helps boost recruitment, get funding and compete with Al Queda, another Islamic organisation.

The images posted on social media are also an attempt to inflame sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, analysts told CBWNEWS.

"They're an organization that does not shy away from extreme brutality and violence and they're quite proud of it. It's a tactic for them and social media is a way for them to broadcast that," said Little. "It's a multiplier just like a conventional terrorist attack being broadcast on global media is a multiplier."

Twitter reacts

Reacting to the extensive use of the social media platform by Jihadists, the Twitter shut down many accounts affiliated with ISIS last week.

According to reports, the Iraqi government has blocked access in the country to Twitter, Facebook and other social media. But ISIS circumvents this, analysts say.

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