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: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

Escape from Everest base camp

Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

Gossip girl comes of age

Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

Goat cuisine

It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
14 best coat hooks

Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?