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ISIS propaganda campaign threatens U.S.

This story originally appeared on ADL.org.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) announced a new social media cam­paign this week designed to threaten the U.S. and warn it against send­ing mil­i­tary assis­tance to Iraq.

The cam­paign, “Warn­ing to the Amer­i­can Peo­ple,” is being orga­nized on social media around the hash­tag #Calami­ty­Will­Be­fal­lUS and is being directed through one of the many Twit­ter han­dles pur­port­edly belong­ing to ISIS. Par­tic­i­pants are encour­aged to tweet using that hash­tag in Eng­lish or Ara­bic, although “tweet­ing in Eng­lish is pre­ferred.” Par­tic­i­pants are also encour­aged to repost offi­cially sanc­tioned tweets that appear on the ISIS “union page” and use “pho­tos of signs or designs with warn­ing to Amer­i­cans” when possible.

A num­ber of images and slo­gans were pre-released begin­ning on June 24. These include images of the falling World Trade Cen­ter, quotes by the Amer­i­can Al-Qaeda pro­pa­gan­dist Anwar al-Awlaki, and pic­tures of advanc­ing ISIS fighters.

The offi­cial slo­gans fea­ture threats against Amer­i­can inva­sion and a range of par­tic­u­larly inflam­ma­tory mes­sages, including:

  • “If the United States bombs Iraq, every cit­i­zen is a legit­i­mate tar­get for us.”
  • “This is a mes­sage for every Amer­i­can cit­i­zen. You are the tar­get of every Mus­lim in the world wher­ever you are.”
  • “For every drop of blood shed of the Iraqis, Amer­i­cans will shed a river of blood.”
  • “Every Amer­i­can doc­tor work­ing in any coun­try will be slaugh­tered if Amer­ica attacks Iraq.”
  • “Don’t come to Iraq unless you want another 11th Sep­tem­ber to happen.”

ISIS is par­tic­u­larly adept at har­ness­ing the power of social media. The orga­ni­za­tion main­tains a vari­ety of Twit­ter accounts in mul­ti­ple lan­guages and sev­eral ISIS regional groups main­tain Twit­ter feeds as well. ISIS also runs an app that auto­mat­i­cally directs its pro­pa­ganda onto sup­port­ers’ accounts, sig­nif­i­cantly aug­ment­ing its mes­sage and reach.Terrorist exploita­tion of online forums has become an increas­ingly impor­tant ele­ment of the rad­i­cal­iza­tion process in recent years.

In addi­tion, ISIS reg­u­larly takes advan­tage of hash­tags that enable ISIS’s mes­sage to trend on Twit­ter. It also main­tains a Twit­ter feed ded­i­cated to inform­ing sup­port­ers of trend­ing hash­tags. Sup­port­ers can then tweet ISIS mes­sages that will be viewed by any­one look­ing at a trend­ing topic (for exam­ple: an ISIS user might post a pro-ISIS mes­sage along with the hash­tag “#world­cup” as demon­strated by the image at right).

The cur­rent cam­paign marks a depar­ture from stan­dard ISIS pro­pa­ganda. The major­ity of ISIS’s past atten­tion has been geared to bol­ster­ing its image and recruit­ing fight­ers; sur­pris­ingly lit­tle has been directed against the U.S. But ISIS has nonethe­less always expressed anger and sus­pi­cion about U.S. pol­icy. An April 2014 speech by the group’s main spokesman, for exam­ple, con­flated the U.S. with Satan, say­ing, “Yes, ver­ily the plot of Shay­tan [Satan] is weak. Amer­ica came to Iraq lead­ing a fren­zied crusade….The Cru­saders thought that no one would be able to over­come them; how­ever Allah the Mighty and Majes­tic dis­graced them and showed us the weak­ness of their plot.” In the same speech, he claimed that ISIS “is America’s tough­est enemy.”

In addi­tion to Twit­ter, the “Warn­ing to the Amer­i­can Peo­ple” cam­paign is being posted on Face­book, in YouTube videos, and on var­i­ous extrem­ist forums.

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