Column: Daesh and the Use of Digital Media

The wrong policies of the United States toward Iraq following the 2003 invasion, along with the biased and sectarian-based policies of an Iraqi government that ignored the needs of an already marginalized Sunni community, triggered the appearance of radical groups and exposed the country to the abuse of intelligence services of the countries which have secret plans for Iraq.

The biggest difference between Daesh and other radical terrorist organizations is the control of territory. Daesh Leader Baghdadi, after declaring the establishment of the so-called ‘Islamic State’, ordered the terrorist organization to create social media accounts in order to spread the messages of a cyber caliphate.

Daesh, with the symbols that it is using, appears like a unique terrorist organization in terms of logistics and weapons support, yet it shares many similarities with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists.

Terrorist organizations are using the internet and social media in many ways in accordance with their goal to take advantage of their non-centrally based structure and easy web access. This enables users to reach large masses while remaining anonymous (via fake accounts) and provides a fast flow of information at almost no cost.

The internet and social media are being used by the terrorist organizations in order to gain information, disseminate propaganda, create sources of income, deploy resources, radicalize their adherents, train recruits, communicate wıth followers, and for the coordination and planning of terrorist activities.

The internet aids terrorist organizations in spreading their ideology and to promote so-called valid reasons behind their acts of terror. Just like many other terror groups, Daesh is using the internet for publishing video and audio messages and for publishing online magazines. Daesh shapes its messages in accordance with different target audiences and makes appearances to deliver ideological messages while broadcasting footage of their atrocities.

Daesh is also taking advantage of the popularity of video games among boys and young men by making changes to popular video games. By reprogramming popular games and inserting terrorists, the players are allowed to conduct terrorist attacks and suicide bombings, which indoctrinates the boys and encourages them to join the terrorist organization.

Different messages to different audiences

They also publish propaganda that aims to reach women, trying to convince them to be wives of the Daesh terrorists. In these videos, women who work to promote the terror group say that being a wife of the ‘young, strong and handsome’ fighters is a very noble thing to do, saying that the feeling of being the wife of a fighter is ‘indescribable’.

Daesh also tries to normalize the idea of becoming a terrorist’s wife by posing daily questions such as: “Are we going to drink tea or coffee?” “Where can I find a clothes dryer?” “Don’t forget to bring your winter clothes with you because the winter is tough here.”

Daesh also publishes information about the preparation of explosives and weapons usage and they present terrorist training in many different languages. The websites also include information about how volunteers and contribute to the terrorist activity.

Having e-trade portal

Internet and social media are also being used as a source of income where the terrorists ask for donations and sell items such as clothing, decorative materials, books, magazines, cassettes and videos.

When using the internet to communicate, Daesh terrorists often use Gmail, mail2tor, sigaint, ruggedinbox and Yahoo. Messages are also being sent via smart phone applications such as telegram, signal, WhatsApp, wickr, surespot.

In terms of social media platforms, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and are the most popular social media among Daesh terrorists.

Daesh also uses open source programs such as Google Earth to obtain information that may be useful in planning and conducting terrorist attacks. They also use the website, along with Twitter, to pass information to the terrorist organization.

Creating propaganda

Daesh publishes magazines, video and audio recordings through the central media organization Al-Hayat Media. These propaganda pieces are also shared on social media. The very first media portals of Daesh were Islamic State Report and Islamic State News, which began publishing in 2013.

Daesh published these magazines until 2014, at which time they also began to publish another magazine, this one in English, called Dabiq. The magazine’s most recent issue appeared on July 31 of 2016. Another English magazine called Rumi was also recently published on December 7 of 2016.

Daesh has another propaganda tool, which is in Turkish, and it is called Konstanteniyye. Konstanteniyye has been published seven times with the most recent issue dated August 16 of 2016. Istok, their Russian language magazine appeared four times with the last issue posted on May 1, 2016. Dar al-Islam, in French, has been posted 10 times with the last issue appearing on August 20, 2016.

The magazines also include audio reports, called ‘Nashid’, from the so-called ‘provinces’ that have been designated by the ‘Islamic State’, and are often posted by fighters in the conflict zones. Daesh can still produce this type of content despite the high security measures aimed at preventing internet users from accessing the terrorist propaganda. This propaganda is a significant recruiting tool for Daesh, as evidenced by the proliferation of foreign fighters who have joined the terrorist organization.

Threatening Turkey

The most significant tools of Daesh being used in Turkey are the terrorist’s social media accounts and the magazines. The magazines are easily accessible with a quick search on the internet and they reveal the level of hatred the terrorist organization has toward Turkey. The terror group clearly aims to promote the incorrect perception that Turkey is the ‘extension of the crusader army’ and that the leaders of Turkey are ‘infidels’.

Accusations that Turkey helped Daesh, which have been reported by a number of Turkish and Western media outlets, don’t reflect the facts. Anyone who is literate and has internet access can easily understand that Turkey is the target of these terrorist organizations.

Well, what should we do against the terrorist organizations like Daesh, which are actively using the internet to spread their propaganda? While the state is putting all its efforts toward the fight against this terrorist material, parents also have a responsibility to prevent our children from falling into the traps of the terrorist organizations by tracking the children’s activity on the internet, using readily available tracking tools .

It should not be forgotten that the rapidly developing internet, which is certainly being used for the benefit of humanity, is also being used by terrorist organizations and we must always be on the watch.

*By Mehmet Nesip Ogun/ Columbia University