Social Media

Pro-ISIS Group Berates Supporters For Leaving ‘Twitter Battlefield’

"Why have you migrated from the battlefield of Twitter and Facebook and entrenched on Telegram?"

Social Media
(Illustration: Diana Quach/Vocativ)
Jul 27, 2016 at 11:19 AM ET

A pro-ISIS group is scolding fellow Islamic State supporters for moving from Twitter and Facebook to the encrypted messaging app Telegram. In an article titled “Oh supporters, get back to the battlefield” that circulated on social media this week, the prominent pro-ISIS media wing al-Battar rebukes the group’s supporters who left the popular social media platform and “entrenched on Telegram.”

“Why have you migrated from the battlefield of Twitter and Facebook and entrenched on Telegram?” al-Battar asks in its article, published late on Tuesday and discovered by Vocativ. “Maybe you don’t know or didn’t notice the difference between Telegram, Twitter, and Facebook, which is a big and significant difference.”

More ISIS Supporters Warn Of Honey Traps On Telegram

The article seeks to make its point by listing what it says are the number of users on each platform: 1.4 billion on Facebook, more than 300 million on Twitter, and more than one billion on YouTube. (Recent reports actually put some of those figures higher, at 1.65 billion Facebook users, 310 million monthly Twitter users, and one billion YouTube users as of 2013.) “These numbers show how important these sites are for marketing, advertising, and promotion,” al-Battar says.

The group notes that while “no one denies the importance of Telegram,” the platform isn’t the “battlefield” where ISIS supporters should be. “Beware of relying on Telegram and leaving Twitter and Facebook etc. to the enemies of the Islamic State who do whatever they want without anyone to deter or shut them up,” the pro-ISIS group says in its article.

Al-Battar even highlights the challenges ISIS has suffered by pointing to research published by the Program on Extremism at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security. It appears to be referring to a February report, which said the suspension of ISIS-related accounts devastated the terror group’s reach and limited the availability of pro-ISIS content on Twitter.

A screenshot from the article titled “Oh supporters, get back to the battlefield”—a reference to Facebook and Twitter.

Al-Battar’s reproach follows several recent reports that ISIS Twitter traffic has dropped significantly. The Obama administration said early this month that it fell by nearly half over the last two years, the Associated Press reported.

Not only has the U.S. government worked to counter pro-ISIS material with anti-ISIS content, according to the AP, but tech companies themselves have also worked to remove terror-related content. In February, Twitter announced it had suspended 125,000 accounts primarily related to ISIS since mid-2015, while Google and Facebook have also taken steps to combat extremist content.

In November, Vocativ reported that the terror group’s adherents had converged on Telegram as an alternative platform for disseminating online ISIS propaganda. Today, it’s the primary platform for ISIS propaganda. One clear indicator of that is ISIS’ claims of responsibility for attacks in Europe in recent weeks; They were first posted on Telegram.

It’s unclear how many supporters ISIS reaches on the platform. At least some pro-ISIS groups have around 600 members each, while other channels that potentially have even more users, or else, keep the number of members secret.