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
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £32,000+

£18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Web Developer - Magento

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Greater London - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Ric...

SThree: IT Recruitment Consultant

£22500 - £30000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking for experie...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat