Wednesday, January 24, 2018

As ISIS Lost Territory, It Started to Disappear from Cyberspace, Too

Press Release -

Islamic State Propaganda Now Focused on Perpetual War, Not State-Building Aspirations, IHS Markit Says
Group’s official propaganda output declined in line with territorial loses in 2017.

LONDON (24 January 2018) – The quantity of propaganda materials released by the Islamic State’s official social media channels decreased by 62 percent across 2017, according to a report released today from Conflict Monitor by business information provider IHS Markit (Nasdaq: INFO).

The reduction in official Islamic State propaganda output coincides with the collapse of the group’s so-called ‘Caliphate’, which shrunk by 89 percent from 60,400 km2 in January 2017 to 6,500 km2 in January 2018.

According to data analyzed by Conflict Monitor*:

Propaganda material disseminated by the Islamic State declined by 62 percent from 1,316 original pieces of propaganda released in January to just 495 in December 2017.
The propaganda category that showed the greatest decline was pictures, with 922 pictures released in January, compared to 249 in December; an overall reduction of 73 percent.
The number of video releases fell by 62 percent in the same period, from 26 in January 2017 to only 10 in December 2017.

“The number of statements released by the Islamic State’s official Amaq News Agency claiming attacks dropped by 31 percent from 300 in January to 208 in December 2017,” said Ludovico Carlino, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit. “This reflects a reduction in the actual number of attacks carried out by the Islamic State during that time period as the group suffered major territorial losses.”

“The reduction in the Islamic State’s propaganda output, however, mainly affected other forms of propaganda, in particular pictures (down 74 percent in the same time period), which are probably considered to be of lesser strategic value than attack claims,” Carlino said.

Despite the collapse of the Caliphate, Islamic State media operations are still mainly coordinated out of Syria and Iraq

Most of the propaganda material released by the Islamic State in 2017 originated from the group’s core territories in Iraq and Syria. This was still the case in December, despite the Caliphate being reduced to a small number of villages in the Euphrates River Valley. In December 2017, out of 249 pictures released via official Islamic State channels, 216 (87 percent) were taken in Syria and Iraq, and 33 (13 percent) in other countries.

Each piece of propaganda is disseminated centrally by the Amaq News Agency and Nashir channels via media hubs in Iraq and Syria, with inputs from other countries being communicated to them through regional media centers.

“The Islamic State is probably finding it increasingly difficult to communicate with its other wilayat across the region, while they in turn are likely to have been forced to reduce their media interactions in order to preserve their operational security,” Carlino said.

Pictures promoting the virtues of life in the Caliphate have disappeared; 99 percent of imagery now focuses on military operations

The Islamic State’s narrative no longer features state building and now focuses almost exclusively on the concept of perpetual war against its enemies.

Propaganda imagery featuring daily life in the Caliphate, and the Islamic State’s efforts to distribute food and rebuild roads and buildings damaged in US-led coalition airstrikes, dropped from 93 pictures out of 922 (10 percent) in January 2017 to three pictures out of 249 (less than 1 percent) in December.

“The vast majority of the Islamic State’s official propaganda now shows the group in action, receiving training or planning operations, as well as punishing those it accuses of cooperating with its enemies,” Carlino said.

The message accompanying these images is the religious obligation to continue the fight against the Syrian and Iraqi governments, and their US, Russian and Iranian ‘sponsors’ as part of a never-ending effort to defend Islam and the Muslim community from ‘Crusader-Rafidhi’ (Western - Shia) aggression against the ‘true Islamic State’.

*Methodology behind the report

IHS Markit compiled a comprehensive list of propaganda material disseminated by two Islamic State official Telegram channels between October and December 2017. These two Telegram channels remained in continuous operation between 1 October and 31 December, and the data collated below only includes official material collected from these two sources during that time period. The channels monitored were the Amaq News Agency, which publishes claims of responsibility for attacks carried out by the Islamic State in all countries where it is active, and Nashir, which functions as a centralized aggregator for propaganda material produced by the Islamic State’s regional propaganda outlets.

The collection plan only included original and unique pieces of propaganda released by Islamic State official media agencies. Non-official material produced and disseminated by Islamic State supporters was not included. Other propaganda material that was re-posted by the two channels was also excluded. The data collected between October and December was compared with data collected in January 2017 from earlier iterations of the same sources on Telegram – the Amaq News Agency and the Nashir centralized propaganda aggregator feed – using the same methodology. We did not collect a comparable dataset of propaganda outputs between February and September 2017, due to the Telegram source channels being intermittently shut down during that period.

The individual propaganda outputs collected in January and between October and December were coded into the following categories:

Written pamphlets (including fatwas, or religious edicts, booklets and the al-Naba weekly newsletter)
Attack claims (official statements claiming responsibility for attacks worldwide)
Videos (including short video clips from the battlefield, as well as longer propaganda films)
Pictures (usually showing military activity or life under Islamic State rule)
Audio (including jihadi Nasheed songs and audio clips from the al-Bayan audio newsletter)
Infographics (often used to quantify casualties inflicted on the Islamic State’s enemies)

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