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Virtual Caliphate & IS’s Evolving Online Strategy

ISIL terrorism and their online presence ISIL terrorism online presence ( Photo Credit: via blog.godreports.com)

ISIL terrorism and their online presence ISIL terrorism online presence ( Photo Credit: via blog.godreports.com)

The territorial Islamic State has collapsed, its  in rural parts of Iraq and Syria. The organization will undoubtedly live on but, in order to do so, it will have to metamorphose into something else, swapping its  for , whenever and wherever the conditions allow.

Reflecting this change in tactical emphasis, its media priorities have been changing, too, as indicated by the  of its official propaganda activities over the last two years. , the majority of its provincial media offices lie dormant, their overall productivity dropping by about  compared with the summer of 2015, when it was at its height. This is not just a media decline—it is a full-fledged collapse, driven by both external factors like  and , and internal decision-making on the part of the organisation itself.

In the absence of the torrent of propaganda that once characterized it, the —the operations of which comprise much more than media production and dissemination—has also been evolving. As its offline manifestation has buckled and distorted, its online presence has come to look much more like that of a “” terrorist group—a shift that, while it certainly validates the progress made against the organization in Iraq and Syria in recent years, raises a far subtler, more insidious range of issues that will likely prove to be more difficult for policymakers to meaningfully address.

This is because, in contrast to bygone years, which saw the brunt of the Islamic State’s online activities being borne on the , the lion’s share of this new effort appears to have been left to the organization’s increasingly important legion of online supporters-cum-volunteer media operatives, which it  to as the munasirun. While many of them have been around for years, they have come into their own as orators of the caliphate brand in recent months.

As a result, the distinction between official and unofficial material and operations has begun to blur, a development that means we need to revisit previous attempts to map the caliphate’s online ecosystem. It is helpful to consider these diffuse efforts as four overlapping subsystems: official media amplification, unofficial media production, ideological incubation, and logistics and facilitation. While aspects of these categories may appear to be new, each of these spheres of activity is the product of gradual evolution, not revolutionary innovation.  Read article here