Online Jihad: ISIS’s Foreign Recruitment Strategies—Who, What, and How?

Reviewed by Kelly Butler

Christina Martin Ristori explains how ISIS uses the Internet to recruit international jihads in “Online Jihad: ISIS’s Foreign Recruitment Strategies—Who, What, and How?” According to Ristori, ISIS uses the Internet to spread propaganda that presents ISIS as a tight-knit and righteous Muslim community. Ristori argues that this presentation of ISIS as a close community with a higher moral cause is especially appealing to lonely Westerners who feel their lives lack greater significance. Further convincing Westerners to become jihads, ISIS’s propaganda characterizes Western society as the source of individuals’ loneliness and lack of purpose.

Ristori suggests that ISIS’s online recruitment methods are especially effective because they use the Internet on two levels: general outreach and personal engagement. As examples of how ISIS uses general online propaganda to present itself as a tight-knit savior of morality, Ristori cites Dabiq—ISIS’s official online periodical—and Al-Hayat Media Center—ISIS’ official media department. Although an essential part of online recruitment, Ristori argues that general propaganda is far less important that personal outreach. Ristori defines personal outreach as current jihadists individually contacting potential recruits through various social media platforms. By explaining the nuances of how ISIS uses general propaganda and personalized outreach, Ristori ultimately shows that ISIS is more successful than other extremist groups at international recruitment because it takes advantage of the Internet’s networking capabilities.

See the full paper here!

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