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Twitter and Jihad: the Communication Strategy of ISIS


Title: Twitter and Jihad: the Communication Strategy of ISIS

Author: Monica Maggioni and Paolo Magri

Date of Publication: 2015

Journal / Publisher: ISPI (Institute for International Political Studies)

Country of publication: Italy

Purpose of the study

Key questions 

Relations between jihadist movements and communication.

The appeal of IS’s communication on young Muslim generations in Europe.



Theoretical approach


The use of social media to spread propaganda and gain new supporters

Key findings 

Social networks allow young aspiring jihadists to engage in a horizontal communication environment where every recipient and every consumer is a potential sender and producer of propaganda and information materials. The shared material is able to circulate according to decentralized patterns, leading to a striking increase in the number of potential recipients and creative know-how.

While it is clear that IS has not used social media in an innovative way, it has managed to include them in a wider scheme: they are part of the overall media strategy that IS has developed giving proof of remarkable competence.

The main characteristic of their communication style is the shift from a vertical structure to a bottom-bottom, horizontal approach; this creates a communication environment where each addressee and consumer is also a potential issuer and producer of materials.

Key recommendations 

Given the specificities of the media conflict, responses must be based on the development of specific counter-strategies in the context of the hybridization of the conflict, where actors and tools blend and communication is a real and virtual battlefield at the same time.

Also, we need answers to more general issues such as the impossibility to govern the Web, given the absence of legal instruments that define the freedom of action of each individual according to shared rules.

Reviewer's Notes

This study offers a very good understanding of historical events in Muslim world that led to the formation of self-proclaimed IS caliphate.

The study analyses particular events such as first appearances of IS in media, first beheadings, evolution of its video messages, online magazines, tourist brochures, its e-books (the black flag books) etc. It also provides a summary of IS’s communication strategies

Nothing in IS’s communication is left to chance. Everything is carefully thought-out and focused on reaching out on the inside (to gain credibility) and on the outside (to proselytize).

The brutal use of violence by Dawla al-Islamiyya and its aesthetic representation marks a qualitative leap forward in the direction of an activity that contemporary jihadism has appeared, particularly concerned with since the early appearances of al-Qaeda.

IS has proved more effec-tive at producing counter-information and counter-narratives than the coalition fighting it.

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