The success of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) information-warfare strategy relies on the group’s ability to distribute propaganda to targeted audiences online. Moreover, to ensure the longevity of its material, ISIS has taken considerable measures to prevent its content from being removed from the internet.
Jihadist groups have a long history of leveraging the internet to facilitate a wide range of activities, including recruitment, financing, internal communication, and propaganda distribution. After Al Qaeda’s first official website was repeatedly shut down following its launch in late 2001, members and supporters relegated their activities to jihadist social networks and forums.
Maintaining a decentralized presence online has proven to be a sustainable approach for jihadists, which is why propaganda materials are typically uploaded to multiple content-hosting platforms. If one platform or account is shut down, such material will still be available on other platforms, ensuring the operational continuity of jihadists’ propaganda strategy.
More social-media savvy than its predecessors, ISIS is known for its ability to radicalize and recruit individuals from around the world and leverage network effects to amplify extremist messages. Recognizing the strategic advantages of maintaining a presence on the open web and Deep & Dark Web (DDW), ISIS has been known to operate across a wide variety of online platforms, from encrypted messaging applications such as Telegram, to its abuse of mainstream websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
As the internet landscape continues to evolve, the relative popularity of various online platforms for distributing ISIS propaganda has grown in recent years. To support ongoing efforts to combat ISIS’s online presence, Flashpoint conducted a high-level assessment of various aspects of ISIS’s propaganda distribution strategy, including:
- ISIS’s use of social media and online content-hosting platforms to reach target audiences
- The most frequently shared URLs within ISIS forums
- How ISIS seeks to ensure longevity and accessibility of its online content
To learn more, download An Analysis of Islamic State Propaganda Distribution.