ISIS’s Delegated Committee, a central body overseeing ISIS’s institutions, recently issued a decree forbidding its jihadi fighters from using social media on the grounds they are being used by Western intelligence services to spy on ISIS fighters and to target them.
The memo, a copy of which was circulated on pro-ISIS Telegram channels, stated, “To all Islamic State soldiers … The enemies of the religion are using a variety of tactics to infiltrate the ranks of the monotheists and learn their secrets. Among those tactics [are] social media websites. The increasing use of these websites by Islamic State soldiers is very harmful to the collective, especially given that they were created by the enemies of Allah and His Messenger, who monitor them day and night. Many jihad fighters have been killed because of them and many bases have been destroyed. Therefore, as of the date of this memo, it is completely prohibited to use social media websites. Any transgressor will be held accountable and dealt with.”
While there’s been much debate about whether the US government in particular should put more pressure on social media sites to remove jihadi social media messaging, US counterterrorism officials have been ambivalent about whether this should be done given the data mining of jihadi social media some of these officials have told Homeland Security Today on background haveproven useful in connecting the dots between known and suspected jihadists and direct ties by some of them to ISIS leaders, recruiters and attack facilitators.
They also said jihadists’ social media sites have proved valuable for data mining purposes to key in on specific individuals they believe have become radicalized and could become lone wolves, or who may be involved in developing jihadi ideological-motivated terrorist cells plotting attack on their own, or with the direct help of ISIS opertives.
Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) Executive Director Steve Stalinsky told Homeland Security Today, “I don’t think it will be strictly followed. It also refers to ‘fighters,’ not official material from the ISIS media division. There has been the debate now for 10 years about removing content or leaving [it] up [for intelligence purposes]."
Stalinsky said, "MEMRI has always been for removing the content," saying, "It’s not that common for anyone to post ahead of times plans for attacks and things like that. At the same time, an entire generation has been radicalized because [of jihadi] social media. ISIS would not be ISIS today had Twitter taken actions years before it finally made a decision to pro-actively remove jihadi content. Now – Telegram is following suit and not removing content, so jihadis are thriving there. It will really take some type of industry standard against terrorist content on social media for real impact to be felt.”
Former 20-plus year counterterrorism Special Forces veteran and Homeland Security Today Senior Contributing Editor Godfrey Garner, said “on its face, it’s a smart move on the part of ISIS. What strikes me is the extent they are going to model American military policy here — sort of learning from the US. We have similar restrictions for similar reasons and, at times, and in certain areas, strengthen those restrictions. For instance, in theater, when a firefight occurs, especially if there are friendly casualties, all social media is cut off for a period of time so any information that goes out can be controlled. It’s just common sense. Looks here like ISIS’s leadership is getting smarter. I’d like to know more about this ‘delegated committee.’”