On November 20th of this month the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), in yet another example of extremists’ preference towards social media, started up its official Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Islamicstateofirakandsham (below). The page which featured daily posts by the group was torn down by Facebook on November 28th.
The site which quickly gained 400 followers in less than a week, featured martyrdom videos, extremist preachings, and ISIS success stories in fighting against the Assad Regime in Syria. In content featuring a quote by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, he confirms Tarkhan Batirashvili (Abu Omar Al-Shishani) as the commander of ISIS northern forces and praises his fighting abilities. Shishani (red beard below) has received particular attention in recent reports for the speed with which he gained power and control over different rebel factions.
Shishani featured on ISIS Facebook article confirming his position in the organization.
Of interest to intelligence agencies were the numerous links to individuals from western countries on this page. As the fighting continues and more foreign fighters flood into Syria, countries have been struggling with the question of assessing returning citizens who may have fought alongside extremist linked groups like ISIS.
While analysis on the content of this Facebook page will continue, the evidence for utilizing terrorist social media pages for intelligence gathering has numerous applications. As I have said before, to “like”, “friend”, or “join” an extremist group on social media is a strong public statement open to the world. Perhaps it’s time we start listening.
Author: Jeff R. Weyers