Social media has been a blessing and a curse, particularly in politics and current affairs. The ease with which flat out lies, doctored photos and horrifying videos can go viral is like an incurable airborne disease.

Social media has simply made the world very, very small. Most dangerously, it is used as a recruitment tool by extremists, whatever their respective cause may be. Today the Wall Street Journal reported that “Islamic State militants have been posting short propaganda videos to TikTok, the social network known for lighthearted content popular with teenagers.”

Jihadists uploaded incredibly disturbing videos, which have since been removed, but can’t be unseen. Videos “featured corpses paraded through streets, Islamic State fighters with guns, and women who call themselves ‘jihadist and proud.”

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Some speculate that the youth friendly “filters, or images, of stars and hearts that stream across the screen in an apparent attempt to resonate with young people” is an effective tactic to appeal to a younger population. According to the Wall Street Journal, this is adding to an already aggressive online presence:

The posts from approximately two dozen accounts, identified by social-media intelligence company Storyful, appeared to target TikTok’s users as part of a new show of strength—and possible enlistment tool—as U.S. troops withdraw from Syria. Islamic State has focused on online propaganda since its inception, including using social media to spread its message, setting it apart from other jihadist groups.

The social media app TikTok is owned by Beijing-base Bytedance Ltd, which became very popular in the United States in 2018 and “was the third-most installed app world-wide in the first quarter, behind Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp and Messenger.” The Wall Street Journal reviewed internal TikTok documents and found that about 30% of users are under the age of 18.

Oxford University expert on extremism, Elisabeth Kendall, says posted videos “aren’t always about direct calls to recruitment,” but also “are intended to rouse enthusiasm and support for Islamic State, particularly ones featuring Islamic State anthems.”

Kendall added, “The rhyme, beat, evocative lyrics and punchy delivery are especially appealing to youth…this catchy sing-along method for propagating ISIS ideology means it spreads quickly and sticks in the collective memory.” The result is “far more effective than sermons or theological debate and treatises.”

Continue Reading: Wall Street Journal