Video fights ISIS recruiting efforts by highlighting the group's barbaric nature
"Welcome to the 'Islamic State' land" video is posted on a dedicated YouTube channel
U.S. has been "messaging" in social media in Arabic, Urdu and Somali for three years
The brutal mock ISIS recruitment video starts with a simple phrase: Run. Do not walk to ISIS land.
Then a body is thrown off a cliff.
Later a mosque is blown up, followed by a photo of a body with a severed head.
Complete with crucifixions, Muslims being whipped, shot in the head at point-blank range and thrown into ditches, the grisly video is the latest State Department effort to push back against ISIS recruiting efforts by highlighting the group’s barbaric nature.
The video, which uses the group’s own propaganda footage posted online, illustrates ISIS actions by advertising so-called “useful skills” ISIS sympathizers can learn if they join the group: blowing up mosques with Muslims inside, crucifying and executing Muslims and plundering public resources.
Entitled “Welcome to the ‘Islamic State’ land,” the video was posted on a dedicated YouTube channel. It was produced by the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, which seeks to combat ISIS extremist narrative on social media.
The campaign is directed at Muslims in the United States believed to be vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups, amid revelations that more than 100 U.S. citizens have traveled overseas to join the jihadist group.
The State Department regards social media as a powerful recruitment tool for terrorist groups and in recent years has launched social media efforts to engage jihadists and their sympathizers online, contesting their claims with the intention of dissuading potential converts to Islamic extremism.
Alberto Fernandez, coordinator of the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, which runs the program, has called it “participating in the marketplace of ideas.”
In response to this threat, the U.S. government has been “messaging” in social media in Arabic, Urdu and Somali for three years, attempting to penetrate the virtual echo chambers of jihadist thought with contrary points of view.
Groups like ISIS are posting gruesome video of decapitated heads as trophies of battlefield victories, or images of victims from their own side, captioned with vows to avenge them. Links to grainy phone-camera footage abound, documenting everything from group executions to a video appeal summoning Muslim women to come to Syria to find a husband among the Islamist rebels. The content is disseminated swiftly around the world on the Internet through a diverse network of jihadists and their supporters, journalists, analysts and onlookers.
While al Qaeda and its affiliates and sympathizers were once the focus of the U.S. campaigns to counter violent extremism, ISIS has increasingly become a target of U.S. efforts.
In addition to YouTube, the center now runs a series of anti-ISIS accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr as part of a larger social media campaign to counter violent extremism launched late last year called “Think Again, Turn Away.”
“Our mission is to expose the facts about terrorists and their propaganda. Don’t be misled by those who break up families and destroy their true heritage,” the State Department said on the campaign’s Facebook page.
The latest anti-ISIS video ends with a sarcastic enticement to would-be jihadists.
“Travel is inexpensive, because you won’t need a return ticket!” Then a body is thrown off a cliff.
CNN’s Tim Hume contributed to this report.