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More than the medium: how the communication literature helps explain ISIS’s success in recruiting Westerners


Intelligence and Counter TerrorismJournal abstract
As increasing numbers of Westerners joined ISIS or adopted their ideology, those who study the phenomenon shifted their focus to the role that social media has played. This paper delves deeper into ISIS communication strategy by setting aside the medium, how the message is being delivered, and analysing what is being said, by whom, and how it is being presented and packaged. It argues that we have neglected to account for additional factors which create effective and efficient communication. This paper engages the communication literature and identifies that ISIS, whether purposefully or by accident, follows the template for providing efficient and effective communication. ISIS is not the first or only terrorist group to harness social media and that in this context their success is equally predicated on the messages they send, delivered by credible messengers and their rapid ascent in legitimacy. This analysis is important because it provides additional lessons on how we might mitigate their success and identifies broader lessons concerning how those in terror organisations may attempt to recruit individuals not just today, but moving forward as well.

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