Effects of Armed Non-State Actors' Social Media Exploitation on the Contemporary Operating Environment; The Case of ISIS

Saturday, 21 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Pierre JOLICOEUR, Royal Military College of Canada, Canada
Anthony SEABOYER, Center for Security, Armed Forces and Society, Canada
This paper analyses the exploitation of social media (SM) by the armed non-state actor “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) and the resulting effects on the contemporary operating environment. First, this paper describes the different methods of ISIS SM exploitation. In a second step, motivations for the very broad use are presented before finally the effects of ISIS SM exploitation are described. The paper concludes with recommendations on how to respond to this form of SM exploitation within the framework of democratic societies.

ISIS has used SM to significantly inflate its presence and command attention on the world stage, far exceeding its actual relevance and capabilities. Through this presence and the messages conveyed by manipulating international mass media, ISIS has succeeded in having significant effects though SM in the offline domain, for example in combat situations where intimidated opponents have given up without a fight. In this paper, we argue that ISIS creates international media attention through an activity and then proceeds to fill the subsequent information vacuum through information it spreads primarily through SM. It is therefore obvious that government institutions must prevent ISIS from being the sole information source to fill the news vacuum. Instead an open, timely, effective and trustworthy presence needs to be established on all relevant SM platforms that places ISIS and its actions into perspective. This alternative presence must effectively reach target audiences anywhere in the world – online and offline.