Since its emergence in 2014, ISIS sought to use social media for its own nefarious gains. Promoting brutal acts and showing what life was like under the so-called caliphate, the group attempted to lure Muslims from all over the world to Iraq and Syria via its online channels.
At the group’s high point it exploited social media at will, as more than 20,000 people from different corners of the world travelled to join the so-called Islamic State. The group initially used avenues such as Facebook and Twitter, with Telegram a more recent addition, to convey their messages and disseminate their propaganda.
But more than two years later, the scene has changed dramatically for ISIS. Not only has the group lost almost all of the land it once controlled, which spanned from the Turkish border with Syria and across to Iraq, but its online presence has also completely diminished.
Since mid-2015, Twitter has engaged in what it calls ‘countering violent extremism policies’, reducing the number of ISIS supporters online and shutting down more than 125,000 accounts.
Furthermore, as a result of territorial decline and a targeting of media officials, including figures such as Abu Muhammed al-Furqan, the group’s online publications have been steadily decreasing in number. In February 2017, the group produced just under 600 propaganda publications in comparison to September 2017 when they only produced 300. At a high point in August 2015, this was almost 900, highlighting a steady decline of ISIS propaganda online.
But the narrative tone within these three phases (August 15, February 17 and September 17) has also shifted. Formerly, scenes of utopia were prominent among ISIS publications. In February and September this year, the narrative has shifted to looking almost entirely at issues pertaining to war and conflict as the group faced multiple attacks on its territory in Iraq and Syria.
And for the first time, ISIS’ magazine “Rumiyah” or “Rome” in English was published late, further highlighting the difficulties for the group in disseminating their propaganda online.