Miron Lacomy, an expert on terrorist online propaganda answers in 5 questions the most interesting topics on the future of ISIS in the cyberspace.
1. What is ISIS’s online strategy post-Caliphate?
The Islamic State is increasingly dependent on unofficial cells, which distribute its jihadi propaganda in the Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 environments. They also release their own productions. Official cells of Daesh, such as al-Hayat Media Centre, are predominantly active in the encrypted communication channels.
As for the messages included in its online propaganda, they have remained generally unchanged, including the “camp of iman” vs. “camp of kufr” narration, the “winner’s message,” criticism of the kuffar and murtaddin, legitimization of violence, recruitment calls, etc. Relative innovations include posters with threats (in English) towards Western societies (concerning, for instance, the recent case of “food terrorism” in Australia), new magazines, and remakes of older videos. Propaganda cells are also much more concentrated on purely visual propaganda.
It is impossible to completely remove the Islamist terrorist propaganda from the Internet, but it can be pushed underground, and its scope can be limited.
2. What are ISIS's online capabilities at this moment?
ISIS online propaganda lacked logistics and professionalism from the period of 2014-2016. Thus, the general quality of their releases is usually much lower than before. The aforementioned tendency of remaking older productions of Daesh (or even of al-Qaeda, from the ibn Ladin’s era), and concentration on visual propaganda (abundance of photo reportages, posters, infographics, etc.) suggest that the “Caliphate’s” capabilities in producing advanced audiovisuals have been impaired.
ISIS can do much less than before, but it still poses a threat.
3. Preventing online radicalization in the West: What are Governments and the EU missing to prevent it?
While the Web 2.0 environment (social media) has been more or less secured in the recent years (there are, obviously, some exceptions), there is a visible problem with monitoring traditional, standalone websites. There are numerous official and unofficial cells associated with various Islamic terrorist or extremist groups, which operate freely in the Web 1.0. Their websites are rarely deleted, and if they are, they reappear almost instantly.
4. And what are the measures that should continue to counter ISIS presence online?
It is impossible to completely remove the Islamist terrorist propaganda from the Internet, but it can be pushed underground, and its scope can be limited. The only way to do so is to constantly monitor the Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 environments by using key words associated with the jihadi ideology. Their producers should be tracked and brought to justice by law enforcement agencies. Unfortunately, at this point nothing much can be done with the encrypted communication channels and the darknet.
"I would expect that online streaming of terrorist attacks will become more popular, similar to the recent case of New Zealand"
5. What is, according to your experience, the future of jihad online, what can we expect in the next three years?
Jihadi propagandists will try to use all new emerging ICT technologies and popular social media to promote their agenda. I would expect that online streaming of terrorist attacks will become more popular (similar to the recent case of New Zealand), in order to attract attention of Internet users and those using electronic media.
Exempt of these tendencies, I guess that terrorists will be increasingly interested in the exploitation of darknet.
*About the author: Miron Lakomy is an assistant professor at the Department of International Relations, Institute of Political Science and Journalism, University of Silesia, Poland. Holds Ph.D. and habilitation degrees in political science. Former visiting fellow at the Jesus College, University of Oxford (2018).
He lectured in Italy (Universita degli Studi di Napoli 2011) and France (Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis 2013) under Erasmus LLP program. He was also awarded Corbridge Trust scholarship at the University of Cambridge in 2011 and 2018.Currently his research interests focus mostly on digital jihad, cyber security issues (cyber warfare, cyber terrorism), and military conflicts.
Among others, he successfully completed research grant concerning Canadian cyber security policy, funded by the International Council for Canadian Studies. So far he has published 3 monographs and more than 40 scientific articles.