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How the Islamic State’s media arms project strength online

A masked Islamic State militant holding a knife speaks next to man purported to be U.S. journalist James Foley at an unknown location in this still file image from an undated video posted on a social media website.

REUTERS TV/Reuters

The platforms

As part of an effort to recruit fighters both locally and in Western countries, IS has established several media arms, including Al Hayat Media Center and Al-Furqaan Media Productions, posting articles, translated jihadi materials and professionally-produced videos. Members of the group are social media savvy, using Twitter, Facebook, Friendica, Diaspora, YouTube and even an Arabic-language app to expand their global outreach. The terrorist group also publishes leaflets and magazines in Arabic and English, including an English-language weekly titled, "The Islamic State Report."

The message

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In addition to graphic content including executions and beheadings of Shi'ite Muslims, Syrian soldiers and American journalist James Foley, IS militants have posted softer propaganda, such as recruitment videos – a series called "Mujatweets," for example – that appear to show foreign nationals who have left their home countries talking about their new lives as IS fighters. The terrorist group's widespread media campaigns include battlefield updates, rules for punishing women, and glorified acts of violence.

The workarounds

Though social media sites have removed IS tweets, offensive content and graphic videos, IS supporters respond quickly by opening and redirecting to new accounts. One of the group's tactics on Twitter is using popular hashtags, such as #CNN, #USA and #WorldCup to reach users who don't seek out IS propaganda. When riots broke out in Ferguson this month, IS supporters used the #Ferguson hashtag, encouraging a jihadist uprising in the St. Louis suburb to "defend the oppressed," as one user tweeted.

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