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Social Media Crackdown In Response To IS Video

Barbaric Nature of Beheading Video Calls For Strict Online Monitoring

The stomach-turning video released by IS, showing a member of the extremist group beheading American journalist James Foley, has triggered abhorrence and upset throughout communities the world over. As ever, social media networks offer a thorough portfolio of responses to the disturbing video, with Twitter users calling for an #ISISmediaBlackout.
The murderer, clad head to toe in black and brandishing a large sabre, sends a chilling and direct message to President Obama about the illegitimacy of Western troops in the region. The video and screenshots spread quickly across the internet, but governments and online networks are working to delete and censor public access to the video, warning that those caught searching for or sharing the images could be prosecuted under terrorism laws. Twitter users backed the moves, for example:

@LibyaLiberty stated the need for ‘an #ISISmediaBlackout. Amputate their reach. Pour water on their flame’ (9.58pm - 19 Aug 14).

@BeharGodani urged people to ‘respect the victims of their atrocities. Don’t give ISIS the satisfaction of clicking on their propaganda #ISISmediaBlackout’ (11.07pm - 19 Aug 14).

As the blackout hash tag trended worldwide, Twitter worked on suspending multiple accounts affiliated with IS members. Urged by Western governments, the micro-blogging site is cracking down on terrorist propaganda such as the Foley video, which is in clear violation of the site’s rules against posting threatening or violent content.

In the UK, Scotland Yard has warned social media users against viewing, sharing or trying to download the beheading clip, stating that this could constitute a terrorist offence in itself. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under terrorism legislation”.

The Drum have pointed out that in reality this would prove a hugely time consuming task, and the police force did later admit that they lacked the resources to track everyone viewing the clip; however, they are focusing their efforts on those who share the material and praise it online. YouTube is working in conjunction with Twitter and legislative forces in deleting the footage and closing accounts known to belong to extremists.

Sending out threatening and intimidating videos to the rest of the world is no new tactic for extremist and militant groups; the particularly barbaric nature and wide-ranging reach of videos fuelled by the viral nature of social media, however, is. With Syria and Iraq being the most dangerous nations for working journalists, as Foley tragically discovered, reporting from the area is becoming scarcer and in turn allows IS to further distort and represent their actions on the ground.

Groups such as IS, relatively new and disjointed, would never have received the international levels of exposure as they have prior to a world powered by social media. Their threat is exacerbated by a seemingly omnipotent presence, which, although undoubtedly cause for concern in light of recent happenings, is still far beyond the reality of their operations and capabilities. The group is keen to monopolise on the rapid word of mouth natureof social media in order to spread their message and barabaric propagandaquickly, instilling fear on the ground and also in the West.

The group is notorious for their use of social media in helping to recruit members from the UK – around 500 disaffected British youths have joined the cause in Syria so far – and communicate with Western media outlets. The fact that Foley’s beheader speaks with an unmistakable ‘Londonstani’ accent is testament to the way in which the group is using online networks to reach otherwise too-far-distanced individuals.

The US and UK’s attempts to lock down social media is aimed at depriving the IS of their much needed and sensationalised online presence. Assistant editor at The Guardian,Michael White, wrote on Tuesday of the internet-specific and pop-culture-influencednature of Western jihadist recruits nowadays. For a demographic for which things trend temporarily then fade into obsolescence and phases come and go as quickly as new profile pictures, the threat of IS may be sensationalised and short-lived.

Katie Rowley 

Recent graduate and now interning as content editor, when she's not writing articles Katie can quite likely be found festival-ing, holiday-ing or reading a book (dedicated English student that she is). Follow her @KatieAtSMF.

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Social Media Crackdown In Response To IS Video Reviewed by Anonymous on Thursday, August 21, 2014 Rating: 5
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