Authors: Rafał Zgryziewicz et al.
Date of Publication: 2015
Journal / Publisher: NATO StratCom, Riga
Purpose of the study
Daesh information strategy
Examining the issue from a number of aspects related to strategic communications such as social psychology, communication, and social media analysis.
Daesh has launched an extremely sophisticated information campaign targeting a wide range of audiences around the world to gain support for its expansion in the Middle East.
Daesh is divided into specialised councils and departments at both the global and regional levels. A specific group within the structure is responsible for shaping the information environment by disseminating different kinds of messages.
Daesh narratives can be divided into three main themes: Political, Religious, and Social.
The main efforts of the information strategy can be divided into four types of messages or Lines of Effort (LOE)—to Unite, Frighten, Support, and Inform.
The most effective LOE for western audiences from the point of view of the organization is the one spreading information about success of the group. The group seems to be aware of this, since informative messaging has increased significantly since the beginning of the information campaign.
Twitter is used as an umbrella media platform that connects various media sources into one easily browsable and searchable information index.
Daesh uses the Twitter community structure as a defensive structure against account deletion and suspension. The structure is able to recover quickly by organizing in a number of small communities and some larger ones.
Daesh is well versed in persuasion techniques that manipulate not only its adversaries, but also its own members and supporters.
Various audiences perceive the name of the organization differently. Since ‘perception is reality’, the choice of name used for communication purposes is crucial.
Testimonials from disaffected and critical foreign fighters (defectors) or supporters, can be used to reveal the true face of the terrorist group.
The key to success in countering Daesh at every level and building resistance to Daesh messages through the education of home audiences, is understanding how the structure works and who the potential target audiences are.
From the psychological point of view, intimidation or ridicule will not be effective counter narrative strategies. Illustrating how Daesh propaganda actually works to reach its audiences and pointing out its manipulative nature will undermine the credibility of Daesh and provide a much more productive strategy.
The NATO StratCom COE was asked to conduct research into Daesh information strategy in order to gain a better understanding of how the Daesh information campaign is managed, and to propose practical solutions concerning the situation in the Middle East.
Six approaches were employed to reveal the essence of Daesh information strategy (well explained in study):
- Source, Content, Audience, Media, and Effect analysis (SCAME)
- Brainstorming in Syndicates
- Visual Framing
- Eye Tracking
- Applied Persuasive Techniques
- Social Media Analysis
This report seeks to provide information about the communication tools and persuasion techniques used by the terrorist group, as well as give an overview of the structure of the organisation, so that the scope of Daesh information campaign and the way in which structural units support the campaign can be properly appreciated.
Language and terminology matter. Therefore, the words used to spread information and counter messaging should be carefully chosen.
The strategy will be much more effective if the messages come from the Middle East instead of Western countries—‘don’t come here’ is a much stronger message than ‘don’t go there’.