“We’re stepping up our efforts to discredit ISIL’s propaganda, especially online,” President Barack Obama told delegates at the Leaders’ Summit on Countering Violent Extremism last month. The social media counter-offensive comes amidU.N. reports of a 70 percent increase in what it terms “foreign terrorist fighters”–citizens of U.N. member states who have left to join Islamic State and other militant groups.
Islamic State has embraced social media as a way to attract supporters around the world, in a move governments and companies have struggled to respond to. The idea of counter narratives and of removing content and closing down social media accounts believed to be linked to Islamic State has become a major international agenda item. But the focus on the group’s use of social networking has opened the door to a range of politicized efforts that appear less likely to diminish Islamic State’s reach than to enable countries to use countering violent extremism measures for their own domestic agenda.