Iraq crisis exclusive: Isis jihadists using World Cup and Premier League hashtags to promote extremist propaganda on Twitter

 

Islamists leading the jihadist advance in Iraq are using the World Cup and leading British football clubs to seek recruits and spread their propaganda via social media, The Independent can reveal.

Tweets sent from the accounts used by the propaganda operation of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and its supporters are being labelled with hashtags such as #Brazil2014, #ENG, #France and #WC2014 to try to hijack the World Cup tournament to spread their message.

The tactic, which allows Isis to access millions of World Cup Twitter searches in the hope that some will click on links to its propaganda material, was being deployed this weekend to disseminate a video showing British and Australian jihadists trying to persuade other western Muslims to join their ranks.

The use of hashtag links also extends to English Premier League clubs. In recent weeks, Isis accounts have used #MUFC, #WHUFC, #LFC and #THFC, among others, on tweets promoting vile “public relations” material showing atrocities and beheadings committed by the extremist group’s fighters in Syria and Iraq.

The use of Twitter hashtags is just one part of an increasingly sophisticated social media campaign by ISIS as it seeks to capitalise on its dramatic territorial gains in recent days and establish a puritanical Islamic state or “caliphate” across a swathe of Sunni-majority Iraq.

The militants have developed an Arab-language Twitter app which updates users on the latest ISIS developments but also requires signatories to surrender a large amount of personal data and gives the terror group the power to send tweets from that individual’s account.

 

Charles Lister, a terrorism expert at the Brookings Doha Centre, said the ISIS had developed an “all-encompassing”  media strategy which was allowing it to outperform longer-established extremist groups in its search for recruits and publicity.

He said: “The slick nature of ISIS media releases has undoubtedly allowed it to become somewhat the ‘celebrity’ actor within the international  jihadist community. On social media, not a day goes by without a foreign supporter - from London, to Mogadishu, to Manila - expressing their support and allegiance to ISIS’s cause.”

Read more:
Iran turns on US and warns Obama to stay out of Iraq
More power for security services to counter jihadist threat
As the Sunni terror spreads, its fighters look for wives
Who are Isis? The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant

Twitter and other social media providers have shut down a number of ISIS-affiliated accounts in recent days under rules which ban the use of threatening language and racial or religious hatred. But new accounts quickly take their place.

 

One account, @Alnhim, this weekend tweeted a link to the recruitment video entitled “There Is No Life Without Jihad”, featuring three Britons including Cardiff medical student Nasser Muthana, with seven World Cup-related hashtags.

With disenfranchised or disillusioned young Muslim men a priority for ISIS and similar groups when it comes to recruiting in the west, the harnessing of football-related tweets to its messaging strategy would seem to be a deliberate attempt to reach its target audience via their likely interests.

A screengrab of the Twitter account @Alnhim which is using hash tags associated with the World Cup to seek recruits and spread their propaganda via social media A screengrab of the Twitter account @Alnhim which is using hash tags associated with the World Cup to seek recruits and spread their propaganda via social media But ISIS propagandists, who last weekend announced an attempt to gain one billion supporters for an Islamic state on social media, are also determined to simply reach as wide an audience as possible.

An analysis of social media tactics being used by the group by The Atlantic magazine last week found it was using an Arabic language twitter account - @ActiveHashtags - which advertises the most popular hashtags to get its own material on the feed. When this happens, ISIS receives on average 72 retweets for every tweet it sends.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border