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Why ISIS Is Winning The Online Propaganda War (dailydot.com) 168

blottsie writes: The U.S. government has been unable to fight the Islamic State on the one battlefield it currently commands: the Internet. Exemplified by an August 2014 video produced by the State Department, the U.S. remains ineffective at combating violent extremism online. A definitive report by the Daily Dot explores how ISIS succeeds in spreading its message and recruiting new militants, and why the U.S. government continues to fail in its efforts to stop ISIS online.
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Why ISIS Is Winning The Online Propaganda War

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Young men whose culture expects a lot from them, but who have little options for employment or success due to cultural behaviors which limit their options, namely high birth rates and slow economic growth. This is both promoted by religious leaders and cultural prohibitions against lending

    Either lower the birth rate or increase their opportunities and there will be no more people wanting to join ISIS

    • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @06:56PM (#51803935) Journal

      Yes, they pay better than most other jobs in the region, in dollars. Apply the religious angle to get them to work for a little less. When ISIS cut wages a while back, many of the fighters jumped over to Al Qaeda. Toss the culture crap, it's plain old capitalism that motivates these guys. And maybe the drought, too. War is still more profitable than desalination.

    • by michelcolman ( 1208008 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @03:37AM (#51805919)

      Oh, sure, it's all our fault, we haven't given them enough opportunities.

      Take Salah Abdeslam, for example. He had a good job as a technician at the Brussels public transport company but got fired because he regularly didn't show up for work. We should have given him more opportunities, we deserve to get shot to bits for not helping these people more.

      • And the frustrating part is if we set up basic guaranteed income (something I am somewhat a fan of), he'd likely sit around complaining that it wasn't enough.

      • Two base principles of economics: People are rational in maximizing utility, and people have different utility functions. People value the religious aspect of ISIS at different rates. There are going to be a few who value it very highly and many who value it negatively (see, non-Muslims). The more people value the non-ISIS alternative, the fewer people will opt for ISIS.

    • You made a mistake by not helping this guy. You needed to communicate with him. You needed to ask him a deep, existential question that would cause him to question and reassess his actions, attitudes, and core beliefs in light of the impact he is having on the world and of the impact the world can have on him. You needed to ask him a question that would help him onto the path of nonviolent enlightenment.

      Sometimes you can even ask such a question without using any words at all. A question like - "You don'

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @06:36PM (#51803833)

    The only propaganda war ISIL is winning is spreading hatred of Islam far and wide. And it's not going to be these young men who have to wear that, it's going to be your normal suburban families who just happen to have a different religion from those around them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Aighearach ( 97333 )

      Yeah, it is pretty stupid because it doesn't establish what the goals are, or what "winning" means. The US isn't trying to stop people from being asshats online, so it can't "lose" at that. The strategy is actually instead to track them silently so as to know who to drop a missile on, and what bank accounts are big enough to be worse seizing.

      If some part of the US Government was actually tasked with disrupting online activities they don't like, then the premise might make sense.

      And as for the general concep

  • My two cents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @06:45PM (#51803865) Journal
    The world is in a great era to live if you happen to live in some of its countries, but even in the richest, there are disenfranchised people not enjoying their existence. From the 3rd to the 1st world, these folks are drawn to belong to something.

    If you can find something to believe in that is bigger than yourself, it can make all your doubts and insecurities go away.

    So either be grateful or hateful that you're smart.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you can find something to believe in that is bigger than yourself, it can make all your doubts and insecurities go away. So either be grateful or hateful that you're smart.

      Wanting or getting a sense of purpose in life has nothing to do with intelligence - at least whatever is measured by IQ and SATs. The most insecure people I know are quite brilliant and wonder why they're wasting their life on crap that's basically a consumer product that really doesn't better mankind. Or getting into a profession because they wanted a job but would rather have studied 19th century French literature - so they grit their teeth everyday and go to work. Some are lucky. I know an OB/GYN who s

  • It's US/ISIS, fighting against the Russians.

    • Ahhh, the Troll mod. Sorry if it hurts the Slashdot/ISIS crowd, but this phase of the war goes back to 1979 [arizona.edu].

      "What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?"

      Are you going to argue with success?

      And then the same man spills the beans in the very first response here [nationalinterest.org]. Qataris, and Saudis, and Turks! Oh my!

      "And it becomes clear that not all of those rebels are all that 'democratic.'"

      G

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @06:49PM (#51803895)

    I have already theorized that if online surveillance were really as all-powerful as paranoids think it is, the NSA would have no trouble pinpointing ransomware operators and having them picturesquely snuffed out.

    Reason two: wouldn't a cyberspy agency with real power be able to use the Internet to scramble ISIS communications with fake chatter, misdirected operational orders, and sites filled with doctrinal errors designed to turn wealthy Muslims against ISIS?

    • fake chatter, misdirected operational orders, and sites filled with doctrinal errors designed to turn wealthy Muslims against ISIS?

      The people who are good at that kind of thing are busy spamming comment threads on sites like Breitbart and DailyKos.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @07:26PM (#51804069)

      The NSA has better things to do than pinpoint ransomware operators. We pay their salary, but that doesn't buy us their loyalty.

      ISIS isn't a significant threat to Americans, but it creates an enemy to fear, which is extremely useful to those who wish to strengthen their own power base by taking freedom (or privacy) away from their citizens.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If the three letter agencies can’t make enough money selling drugs to finance their black ops, perhaps a foray into ransomware will pick up some business?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rmdingler ( 1955220 )
      Or.

      ISIS is actually less threatening to us than a mosquito/Zika outbreak or a sudden death from a fall on the stairs at your pwn home.

    • the NSA would have no trouble pinpointing ransomware operators and having them picturesquely snuffed out.

      :-) Well now, they don't snuff them out, so what obvious conclusion can we draw from that?

    • I have already theorized that if online surveillance were really as all-powerful as paranoids think it is, the NSA would have no trouble pinpointing ransomware operators and having them picturesquely snuffed out.

      Reason two: wouldn't a cyberspy agency with real power be able to use the Internet to scramble ISIS communications with fake chatter, misdirected operational orders, and sites filled with doctrinal errors designed to turn wealthy Muslims against ISIS?

      And when the NSA pinpoints the ransomware operator, what are they supposed to do? A drone strike in a place we're not at war with is a bad idea. A formal criminal action will fail because they live in corrupt countries. And even if you tried, you would be revealing sources and methods you use to spy on terrorists.

      Being good at spying is very distinct from being good at propaganda.

      • "And when the NSA pinpoints the ransomware operator, what are they supposed to do?"

        Hire local talent to do the "wet work" in some manner that will dissuade anyone else in the area from getting into the ransomware business. By handling it this way, the agency need reveal nothing about its intel techniques.

    • by sociocapitalist ( 2471722 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @04:31AM (#51806023)

      I have already theorized that if online surveillance were really as all-powerful as paranoids think it is, the NSA would have no trouble pinpointing ransomware operators and having them picturesquely snuffed out.

      Reason two: wouldn't a cyberspy agency with real power be able to use the Internet to scramble ISIS communications with fake chatter, misdirected operational orders, and sites filled with doctrinal errors designed to turn wealthy Muslims against ISIS?

      Reason 3: Our governments find it useful to have a perpetual war (sell more and more weapons!) in the middle east (away from home) with an aspect of terrorism that is scary enough (be afraid we will protect you if you give us your civil rights!) without it being any significant threat to us or our society and thus do nothing of significance to end the war.

    • US intelligence has a long history of working with criminals. They aren't a law enforcement agency.
    • Why would the NSA care about ransomware operators? Nobody important really got hit by them.

    • ISIS is great at hiding their communications in plain sight, which our (un)intelligence agencies seem to be awful at detecting. See: Paris terrorists' unencrypted communications.
  • "He who has the gold, makes the rules."

    WHO is funding ISIS ?

    Since we haven't evolved to live on a planet without money yet, the only effective way to stop any propaganda is to find out WHO financially supports them and cut off their money supply.

    All the Petabytes of Information the NSA has and they have to target American Citizens instead ??

  • The truth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @06:52PM (#51803907) Journal
    For the same reason why Climate-change deniers, anit-GMO campaigners, vaccine truthers and other Conspiracy theories find such fertile ground on the internet. People don't go looking for impartial information, they go looking for material that affirms their already held beliefs. The internet offers them the opportunity to find and like-minded people and form communities even when members are separated by large geographical distances
    • Re:The truth (Score:5, Informative)

      by turbidostato ( 878842 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @10:21PM (#51805055)

      "People don't go looking for impartial information, they go looking for material that affirms their already held beliefs."

      I remember Umberto Eco pointing it on his novel "Foucault's Pendulum" when making one of the characters saying (more or less) "conspiracists don't want new information, they want to be reasserted on their believings". Yes, tinfoil conpiracists are an extreme case, but I think you are right: to a shorter or larger extent everybody wants to be said that they are right and that they are special.

      • I think the reason for that is that when someone has spent much time/energy (preaching, praying, being constantly mindful of following rules, etc.) on something that they believe is worth while, they don't want to be shown to have wasted all that effort in something futile.

        It's easier, more comfortable, to find like minded people who justify all that effort. Thus begins the positive feedback loop that leads to unreasonably strong opinions (extremism).

        And if too many people still keep undermining those opin

    • I agree with you on that is what maintains an individual's investment in the conspiracy theory. I believe also that people are 1st drawn to a conspiracy theory because they are looking for easy answers in a world that is more chaotic than they are comfortable with. It's a belief that an all powerful entity (Illuminati, Government, Aliens, Corporations, etc.) truly is in control of all the bad things in the world and if we just know what they are up to we can solve the evils of the world.

    • Studies have shown republicans are more likely to look at both sides of an issue that democrats.

      They did the study by seeing which which sites/news sources people with different political views went to.

      The people who primarily read Fox News periodically check out other sites like CNN, MSNBC, yahoo!, etc.

      The libs are the ones in an echo chamber.
  • ? really? ISIS may not be Obama's JV team, but ISIS ain't in the Final Four.
  • They have failed to curb violent extremism online because if it's online, it's almost entirely fake. If anyone disagrees with me, I'll melt them in a vat of acid and post cum tributes of their cleaned skeleton.
  • Because we're helping them.

    Think about:
    1. Everything you know about ISIS.
    2. Who showed you these things?

    By portraying ISIS as evil incarnate and letting them provoke a reaction out of us, we are helping them get what they want.

    Without everyone being up in arms about them and feeding the media frenzy about a bunch of backwards goatherders, they would not have been able to successfully recruit their terror cells.
    • we are helping them get what they want.

      Do you even know what they want?

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Do you honestly see any other alternative? If you think a media blackout can keep explosions and gunfire, tens of deaths, hundreds of injured and huge heavily armed manhunts in the middle of major cities and occupying vast areas in the middle east a secret you must have missed the invention of cell phones and the Internet. Particularly in anything resembling a free and open democracy. And once you start losing faith that the mainstream media is telling you what's actually happening, the crazies start being

    • by swell ( 195815 )

      "2. Who showed you these things?"

      Answer- our government. But the important question is WHY? Our government (the US and Europe) has choreographed a scenario that propels us into perpetual war against 'the enemy', or 'terrorists'. This vague and frequently redefined 'enemy' is always at our throats, always willing to sacrifice good citizens in their blood thirst.

      And, as slashdotters know, our own propaganda has CREATED these 'terrorists' by marginalizing decent citizens to the point of desperation.

      There are p

      • Good points.

        I see how my own points were slightly ambiguous. When I say, "who showed us these things?", I meant to think past the people who shared them. I think our government and our media did what they think are correct in showing us these things. And I would agree with them.

        But ultimately, who created it? ISIS did. Everything we know about ISIS is only what they want/allowed us to know.

        Did you know ISIS sets up hospitals (not just for their own fighters) and provides healthcare to the people. They
    • By portraying ISIS as evil incarnate and letting them provoke a reaction out of us, we are helping them get what they want.

      The propaganda from ISIS themselves paints them as worse than anything I've seen from our government.

      • You're exactly right. I didn't mean our government.

        ISIS created the propaganda. Our government and media spread it. We listen to it.

        Each of these three steps are planned by ISIS. Every reaction to each step is exactly what ISIS wants to happen.
  • Reality is online extremism is not really all that much of a problem. Most countries have laws in place to cover certain kinds of speech and on line extremism is pretty much like criminals carrying around a sign stating their crimes and expecting not to be arrested. You are kind of meant to allow it to happen and then investigate and arrest it creators and prosecute them not only for those specific speech crimes (keep in mind, money is speech and paying someone to kill someone else is just free 'er' paid f

  • Not the usual kind of censorship, but that of the news not showing anything that might be upsetting. Have to wonder if minds would change if they showed pictures of a happy, active 5 year old, then a burned, twisted mass of stuff that was the kid's body after some asshole set off a bomb.
    • by jrumney ( 197329 )

      Not the usual kind of censorship, but that of the news not showing anything that might be upsetting.

      It's more like the news not showing anything that might not be sensational enough.

      There is apparently a group of 400 British citizens negotiating with the British government to be able to return to the UK without being deported (if they are dual citizens) or thrown in prison (if they are not). They stupidly went to Syria or Iraq thinking that they would join in a Holy War to form an Islamic Republic. Now

      • If I was the UK, I'd say screw that. These people have seen ISIS's website, they've read and heard the news for the past year, they have to have known what ISIS is really about and still they went. To help form a strict, severe, Islamic theocracy, and that's putting it nicely. There's no excuse, none. If they came back to Britain the first thing they'd do is hook up with Anjem "Chowderhead" Choudary.
        • I don't agree. Bring them back, put them on TV, find out what they know and have them explain how they were duped.

  • Hmmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Can someone explain to my why that in the United States of America, the right hates and wants to carpet bomb a bunch of right wing extremists who believe in God, Guns and family values, while the Wacky left wing wants to protect and defend a bunch of people who want to keep women covered and walking 6 paces behind the men.

    Why do we fight the wars we do? It is because someone in the media says those guys are evil. I remember when Russia was evil and the Mujahudeen were our buddies. What has changed?

    To me th

    • Sorry I've no mod points to award you.
    • by Jiro ( 131519 )

      Other people can argue the God and family values, but I highly doubt that ISIS really wants the civilians who live in areas it controls to own guns.

      ISIS wants guns for itself and its fighters, of course, but that isn't the same thing as wanting the general population to be permitted guns.

  • Simple... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 )

    It's also why Trump is doing so well. People in general are very gullible.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      In all fairness to Trump, he is an excellent con-man! I do however think he has not quite thought this through, because if he becomes president, he will have to deliver _something_ over those 4 years, quite unlike his usual modus operandi.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Black Parrot ( 19622 )

        In all fairness to Trump, he is an excellent con-man! I do however think he has not quite thought this through, because if he becomes president, he will have to deliver _something_ over those 4 years, quite unlike his usual modus operandi.

        Yeah, the most interesting question about Trump is "What is his face-saving end game?"

      • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

        Why? Do you think he cares if he stands a chance for reelection?

  • The internet will always give voice to the irrational extremes and will find those susceptible to it. You can't fight it in the conventional way and it's folly to try. It's better to be a more attractive option to their targets. But that would mean, money, compassion, and understanding and we are sorely lacking in at least two of those things.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They attack everyone's flaws and those are always plentiful... but in the long term they are nothing because they have no platform, no leadership, no ideas and they exist only as parasites on the system they claim to hate so much.

    As I said.. just like today's Republican politicians.

    It's easy to be critical of others and rally hate like that. We've seen this thousands of times throughout history and it's happened millions of uncountable times. However, when the shit hits the fan people demand reform and real

  • The finest trick of the terrorist is to persuade you to fear him.

    When you have angry, disaffected young men who feel slighted by society/parents/whatever, they'll gravitate to anti-authoritarian entities. Usually these are individuals or groups that cause a lot of angst for people in power, and the knee-jerk reaction of the powerful is to speak out against them. This is the same as lavishing attention upon these groups, and makes them even more attractive to the disaffected.

    I think the media probably need

  • Then again when it comes to ISIS/Daesh, I must admit the hard power approach looks very attractive.

    These extremist really like this propaganda line, when bragging about themselves and addressing the West:

    "We love death more than you love life."

    Given this sentiment I am inclined to say, let's help them along. Give them what they so dearly love.

    On the other hand, from a more rational point of view, the soft power approach would probably be more cost effective.

  • Nut Job Movements (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 )
    When these groups spring up they do attract followers for a while. But given a bit of time, the public tends to see through the false face that these groups present and they tend to collapse. Even in the US we have had lunatic movements that almost completely vanish. The KKK is an example. They used to have enormous power and now have only a few scraggly members with next to no influence at all. The prohibition movement is another such group although prohibition if heavy-handed would have been a g
    • Re:Nut Job Movements (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BetterSense ( 1398915 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @09:58AM (#51807441)
      This assertion itself illustrates the the disconnect in culture and assumptions.

      You are arguing from the typical, venerable, valid-in-post-enlightenment-culture dynamic in which ideas propogate on their own merit. In such an environment, the adaptive strategy for dealing with bad ideas is to ignore them and let them die on their own lack of merit, or "burn out" as you put it. This has been known to work as long as the immunity mechanisms against bad ideas are intact, and are capable of dealing with the particular strain of ideological pathogen.

      This strategy is not effective against ideologies not in that set, such as ones that spread themselves by the sword or by intimidation or in populations that believe ideas for reasons disconnected from the merit of the idea itself. The fact that said ideologies are bad or invalid or incompatible with civilization as we know it is not directly relevant to whether they will catch on or not. Such ideologies have spread themselves very effectively and they don't care that they are regression or that they are harmful. Effective disease agents dont care that they make the host organism sick, they are effective by definition if they propogate themselves, and just ignoring the symptoms and counting on typical immune mechanisms to make them go away doesn't always work.

      Westerners think that ignoring ideas or debunking them is going to always work, but those techniques only work in certain contexts and against certain threats. Ghandi's techniques were only effective because he was operating against the British Empire and pushing their buttons, for example.

      The West is not able to fight back bad ideas because, sometimes in an attempt to stop low level autoimmune problems, she has ingested massive doses of immune-suppression; immune mechanisms such as the nuclear family, shared but diverse Christian heritage, societal structures are weakened, made obsolete by technology, or dismantled, and ideological infections thought to be conquered are breaking back out in the unprepared populace, and getting some rest and drinking some fluids until it burns out may not work.
  • Muslims all over the world think the West is corrupt and immoral and it must be set on the right path.

    2nd and 3rd generation Muslims that live in western countries fill ashamed of and guilty to help maintain these western immoral and corrupt societies. Some of those react by embracing terrorism.

    1st generation Muslim immigrants that have struggled to get a place in western societies don't choose terrorism because they are torn inside: from one side, they dislike the West, and from the other side, they feel o

  • Feminism (Score:2, Funny)

    by Roodvlees ( 2742853 )
    Has used political correctness and 'respect' for muslims to stifle the anti-islam debate.
    Also governments can't take the moral high ground because they are corrupt.
    All power corrupts, we'd be better off without governments, no power to abuse.
    Unless you've got enough religious nutjobs, then you just need enough power to keep them from forcing their religion on everyone else.
  • The U.S. government has been unable to fight the Islamic State on the one battlefield it currently commands: the Internet.

    I don't get the impression that they/we have actually done much to even engage in a propaganda war online. Perhaps because he real battle has to be fought elsewhere, in the communities, where so many young people are vulnerable to the frankly idiotic nonsense from Daesh. I don't think it is only about lack of good opportunities; many of them seem to be genuinely motivated by moral concerns, even if they are perverted in the extreme. It is in many ways driven by the same factors that created the hippies, the

  • by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @08:01AM (#51806623)
    The premise seems to be that the US government controls the Internet
  • by The Raven ( 30575 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @10:10AM (#51807501) Homepage

    To be perfectly frank, I don't want anyone to succeed at quelling speech online, or offline, anywhere. I am proud of the fact that dissenting opinions and views, like those of frankly reprehensible groups like NAMBLA and the KKK, are not silenced in my country.

    For the same reason that rehabilitation rather than punishment should be the primary goal of prisons, our primary foreign policy should be aimed at trade and improving the economic viability and stability of the rest of the world for one simple reason: well fed, happy, comfortable people don't become suicide bombers. They don't take up guns and murder people. They don't rebel against the system.

    If we took half the military budget and spent it on trade instead the US could single-handedly eliminate half of the poverty in the world. And I don't mean 'spend it on handouts'. I mean trade, where we receive goods for money. But use the taxes for trade incentives rather that disincentives like tariffs.

    When entire populations of people are angry enough at my country to take up arms, then I consider that a failing of my country. We did something to deserve that anger. In the case of the middle east, we have spent decades meddling in their politics or actively waging war... no fucking shit they're angry. But silencing them doesn't remove the anger or repair the harm done. Instead, it just opens up the idea that controlling speech is effective. And that's antithetical to the entire foundation of our nation and the Internet.

  • by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @10:11AM (#51807511)

    Western civilization has the greatest propagandists the world has ever seen. Armed with modern psychology and decades of experience, they do an excellent job of making us buy stuff and vote for people. How the hell are we losing this war? Are we failing to understand what's attractive about ISIS? Are we getting third-rate propagandists working against ISIS? We need to figure out what's going on and sell these people on something other than suicidal violence.

    • by aralin ( 107264 )

      It is pretty simple really, we have propaganda aimed at our own citizens primarily and at the citizens of allied countries in second guard. Those are the people that we need to control because they can affect change and we need their tacit approval. We don't care what the people, who cannot affect anything, think. Terrorists kill so few people that their negative impact is negligible, but their positive impact on propaganda aimed at our own population is huge. If we actually wanted to sell the terrorists th

  • Let them spew their shit. Nobody but their "supporters" give a rat's ass about it anyway.

    Who gives a damn about what Daesh says?

  • ISIS BAD USA GOOD
    ISIS BAD USA GOOD
    ISIS BAD USA GOOD

    There I just saved you the trouble of thinking about this or reading any of the posts here

  • The only difference between a Christian gunman and a Muslim terrorist is RACISM
    http://qz.com/649933/the-only-difference-between-a-christian-gunman-and-a-muslim-terrorist-is-racism/
  • Since 1971, OPEC is bullied to sell Crude Oil exclusively in US dollars resulting in friction between Islam and the West;
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrocurrency

    Petrocurrency is a global Pyramid scheme;
    http://www.zerohedge.com/print/502779

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