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Alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant's (Isis) battlefield successes in northern
Iraq, the group has deployed a sophisticated social media strategy that is redefining its
Since the offensive began on 9 June, a string of Twitter accounts claiming to represent Isis
in Iraq and Syria have been active in providing live updates on the group's operations and
images illustrating their advances.
Although the accounts have not been officially endorsed by Isis, they have been widely
promoted as official regional Isis accounts by the group's many online supporters.
Isis has launched a social media campaign and is posting (mainly on Twitter) photos and
statements to highlight its military strength and territorial advances in Iraq.
On 15 June, it posted images of what appears to be dozens of captured Iraqi security
personnel along with threats and messages to surrounding towns warning residents of the
group's approach. The photos included the apparent capture, transport, and ultimate killing
of the soldiers.
The material went viral on the internet and was widely shared by Isis supporters.
According to a web-based data mining software, a large number of pro-Isis tweets originated
in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf countries.
In its Twitter feed, Isis gives extensive details of its operations, including the number of
bombings, suicide missions and assassinations it has carried out, and of checkpoints and
towns it controls.
The top Twitter hashtags used by the group include: "#Baghdad_is_liberated" and "#Iraq_is_
Screenshot from an Isis video posted on YouTube on 17 June, calling for support for the group
In addition to the hashtags, the group produces professional promotional videos and urges
support for its "one billion campaign", which calls on Muslims to post messages, photos and
videos on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube in support of Isis.
One video, posted on 17 June, shows an Isis member speaking in French and asking
Muslims to support Isis's cause online. Many videos are also posted with English subtitles or
Isis is launching a global online campaign on 20 June to support the group's operations in
Iraq and Syria. The group is initiating a Twitter hashtag in Arabic which translates to
#theFridayofsupportingISIS, asking supporters around the world to wave the Isis flag in
public, film themselves and upload the clips on social media platforms.
In April 2014, the group developed a free internet application called The Dawn of Glad
Tidings, which automatically posts tweets - approved by Isis media managers - to the
accounts of the application's subscribed users.
The posts include hashtags, links, images, videos and other content. Almost 40,000 tweets
were posted in a single day during the recent clashes in Iraq.
One post which went viral was of an image of an armed jihadist gazing at the Isis flag flying
over Mosul with the inscription in Arabic: "We are coming, Baghdad."
The application is promoted by some of the organisation's leading figures.
Isis is following a well-planned strategy and the group is selective with what is posted.
This cartoon was posted on the @ISIS_Media_Hub Twitter account
It chooses photos that have the potential of having a strong impact, presumably to create
fear among its enemies and win the admiration of other radical groups.
Unlike other jihadist groups, such as the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria the Nusra Front, Isis
gives little consideration to the way it is perceived by the general public.
It rarely posts photos about its charity work or the services it provides in the towns it controls.
The Nusra Front, on the other hand, regularly posts statements and videos, showing the
group's social services, including the distribution of food to the poor and traffic management.
The Nusra Front's approach has helped the group gain support at the grassroots level in
In an attempt to limit the impact of Isis's social media campaign, the Iraqi government has
blocked Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
Users in the country attempting to visit these sites are greeted by a message saying that the
Ministry of Communications has barred access.
Isis supporters strongly protested against the closure of social media platforms, blaming
Twitter's administrators for the unprecedented attack on the group's presence on the micro-
This is not the first time that Twitter has taken such a step. In February 2014, Twitter
suspended the account of an Isis member who tweeted images of an amputation.
However, blocking Isis's access to social media sites may not have a significant impact on
the group's publicity activities.
This is because it attracts followers from across the Arab and Muslim worlds, so
countermeasures taken in Iraq may not have only a limited effect.
It is important to highlight that the group's online presence does not necessarily equate to its
The fact that Isis is using internet and social media applications to promote its message may
indicate that it does not have strong organic support.
Regardless of this, the way Isis is running its social media campaign could be a sign of a
shift in approach from being an insular group to actively reaching out to the world.
BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the
world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on
Twitter and Facebook.