Islamic State Propaganda Is Persistent

Official propaganda from the Islamic State (IS) dwindled during 2020 after disruption from Western coalition forces, but informal supporter networks continue to spread its message far and wide, Europol has warned. Many pieces of Islamic State propaganda, was crafted not just to inspire potential recruits but also to boost the organisation’s reputation and to reinforce perceptions of the Islamic State as ruthless.

All terrorist groups seek to cultivate this kind of image because their power derives from their ability to inspire dread out of proportion to the threats they actually pose. But the Islamic State has been singularly successful at that task, thanks to its mastery of modern digital tools, which have transformed the dark arts of making and disseminating propaganda. 

Europol’s latest  report analyses the key trends of last year, highlighting the persistence of terrorist content across multiple online channels. Focusing on the Islamic State and al-Qaeda as well as their offshoots, the report addresses the trajectories of these groups and how they have responded to shifting dynamics and attempted to overcome setbacks. “Jihadist terrorist groups dedicate significant efforts to set up effective online communication campaigns. The production and dissemination of propaganda content is integral to these efforts,” explained Europol executive director, Catherine De Bolle.

“Driven by digital innovation, these groups do not refrain from exploiting the latest technologies to broadcast their message to intended audiences.”

IS’s official propaganda capabilities remained muted in 2020 after significant losses of infrastructure and personnel, with video releases becoming increasingly rare, the report says. However, “committed IS supporters and their networks” are stepping in to spread the group’s messages and advance operational activity both online and off. IS-supporting media outlets have expanded their digital output and offered assistance to these supporters on how to use private online channels to stay hidden.

“IS-aligned media outlets that specialise in cyber security, privacy, and encrypted communications remained committed to their mission of providing online security awareness to IS supporters,” according to Europol.

Campaigns from media outlets have also helped to inspire Supporter-Generated Content (SGC) productions across encrypted platforms like Telegram. These, in turn, help to direct and inspire lone actor attacks in the EU and elsewhere, the report noted. Now, Efforts are being focused on staging an IS revival in Iraq and Syria, publicising its military gains in Africa and spreading the message that freeing IS prisoners around the world is a priority.

Europol:      Brookings:      Wired:    Infosecurity Magazine:     Oodaloop:    ISDGlobal:        ISDGlobal:

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