How ISIS is Recruiting Using Social Media, and How the US Should Fight Back

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, otherwise known as ISIS, is a terror group that has mastered the art of recruiting on social media. To recruit vulnerable Muslim youths, ISIS maintains a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, and Google Plus (Bremmer, 2015). It is estimated that ISIS controls up to 90,000 Twitter accounts, and their social media presence has recruited over 25,000 foreigners to fight with them, 4,500 of which are from Europe and North America (Talbot, 2015). Most of ISIS’s social media accounts have less than 5,000 followers, but that is because Twitter is constantly trying to find these accounts and deactivate them. When these accounts are taken down, however, ISIS replaces them quickly (Bremmer, 2015).

ISIS’s social media techniques include promoting an ideology that supports mass killings, torture, rape, enslavement, and destructions. ISIS is the first jihadist movement to gain so much wealth and territory that they are able to function like states and run public relations campaigns. Their target audience is the young Muslim world. “The Muslim world— especially the young Muslim world—has been psychologically primed for a long time to the idea of reestablishing the caliphate. It’s this idea that Muslims are living under humiliation, and the only time we were not is when there was a caliph. It really is an idea of reclaiming lost glory” (Talbot, 2015). The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims have a median age of 23, which is why ISIS is being so successful in recruiting (Talbot, 2015). They are specifically targeting a young, vulnerable crowd. ISIS is so successful recruiting from Western countries because they anonymously produce very manipulative content in multiple languages, and they make use of peer-to-peer recruitment and radicalization (Johnson, 2015). This content directly addresses national and local grievances felt by the Muslim community, making their evil deeds seem justified (Talbot, 2015).

There are flaws in ISIS’s social media strategy, however. Every time somebody posts on social media on behalf of ISIS, they are increasing attention rates and the possibility of being discovered by the government. “This social media backlash was most recently evidenced last week after a single selfie posted by a member of ISIS helped the United States Air Force identify and destruct a ISIS headquarters building in Syria within 24 hours” (Johnson, 2015).

What is the best way to stop ISIS from recruiting then, or at least reduce their influence on social media? Currently, the US is using a technological strategy to slow the recruitment efforts. This includes trying to find the social media accounts, deleting them, blocking the videos and other content that ISIS posts online, and sharing the finding with the FBI. This strategy is not working, because more accounts just keep being created (Talbot, 2015). One challenge that the US government faces when trying to counter ISIS on social media is that the US hasn’t yet “figured out how to amplify the credible voices that are out there, particularly in Muslim communities” (CBA News, 2015).

What is missing is one-on-one contact online with the people who are at risk of being radicalized by ISIS and other extremist groups. “Most of the government response isn’t interactive. It’s a one-way broadcast, not a dialogue” (Talbot, 2015). One Muslim-centric app used for dialogue with Muslim youth is called “QuickFiqh.” It allows youths to ask 60-second questions about Islamic law, and then get answers from mainstream Islamic scholars, which can then be posted on social media. One frustration of those who are attempting to target at-risk youth using a peer-to-peer strategy is that they cannot know whether the people they talk to online are the once most at risk or if they are already too far gone (Talbot, 2015).

Rashad Hussain, a former White House advisor, thinks an effective strategy to counter ISIS would be to amplify the negative facts and stories gathered from former radicals that can “expose the reality of what terrorists are doing, including the damage they are inflicting on the Muslim communities they claim to defend” (CBS News, 2015). For example, the US State Department recently uploaded a video to YouTube that had a former ISIS recruit talking about how he was disillusioned by what he saw–he revealed that he watched a commander give a knife to his young son, and then forced him to behead a prisoner with it (CBS News, 2015).

To fight ISIS’s currently successful recruiting techniques on social media, the US needs to focus on increasing their credibility, peer-to-peer strategies, and revealing more about the disillusionment of becoming radicalized.

Bremmer, I. (5 Nov 2015). These 4 States–and One Terror Group–Rule Social Media. Time. Retrieved from

CBS News. (23 June 2015). Why it’s so difficult to counter ISIS on social media. Retrieved from

Johnson, N. (8 June 2015). How ISIS is Waging a “War of Ideas” Through Social Media. The Daily Signal. Retrieved from

Talbot, D. (30 Sep 2015). Fighting ISIS Online. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved from

Social Media Tactics Backfiring in the 2016 Presidential Race

Already, this presidential race has proven to be dominated by which candidate can utilize social media the best. Because of all of the press coverings of candidate Donald Trump, many young voters, particularly millennials, have been paying close attention to this presidential race. This is great for voter turnout, and I expect it to be the highest ever. However, candidates are forced to reach out to this younger generation of voters through social media to seem relatable and to humanize themselves. Currently 16% of registered voters follow candidates on social media, which is up 10% from 2010. Hilary Clinton has been one of the most active candidates on social media, reaching more than four million Twitter followers, getting more than one million Facebook Likes, and creating accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Spotify (Brousell, 2015).


As beneficial as social media can be to a candidate’s platform, a mishap can be fatal to their hope for being elected president. Bill Jasso, a PR professor at Syracuse University, says that “the problem with immediacy is that it offers you an opportunity but also a big danger. When there is that break in continuity or consistency, it can be fatally damaging to a candidate” (Brousell, 2015).

Many candidates have experienced mistakes in their social media strategies this year already, such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He attempted a to launch his candidacy with a Twitter campaign using #TellingItLikeItIs. This quickly became a tool for people against Christie to reveal scandals about his administration (Flynn, 2015).

Donald Trump has experienced far more social media mishaps than any other candidate thus far, with numerous offensive tweets. In July, Donald Trump tweeted a picture of an American Flag with his picture and some others on it, with the hashtag #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. On the bottom line of the flag, there was a picture of Nazi soldiers! This tweet quickly got deleted, and Trump blamed the mistake on an intern (Donovan, 2015). He also tweeted something on 9/11/2015 which was very offensive to many American citizens, and he quickly deleted that as well.


Another social media strategy that backfired against Trump was his #AskTrump campaign. The goal of this was to encourage voters to ask him questions about his campaign so that he could then answer on a live feed. As the rest of the world could have expected, users asked him about his highly publicized negative moments, such as his rude comments about Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell, his calls for Obama to release his birth certificate, and controversial aspects of his personal life. During the live feed, he avoided all of these questions.(Marcin, 2015).

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 6.37.06 PM

Jason DeMers, a contributor on, wrote an article recently called 5 Fatal Mistakes That Will Kill Your Social Media Marketing Campaign. Although this article is directed towards businesses pursuing social media advertising, I think it can apply for political candidates as well. Fatal mistake #1, according to DeMers, is posting offensive material. This mistake is made very often by candidates! Mistake #2 is misinterpreting a trend. Candidates need to make sure that they are aware of all current trends so they avoid misinterpreting something or accidentally offending groups of people. Mistake #3 is paying for shortcuts, i.e. followers. Candidates do not just need high follower counts, they need for their followers to interact positively with them. Fatal mistake #4 is ignoring feedback, and #5 is going silent. These days, candidates should be posting multiple times a day on various platforms to keep their supporters (and their opponents) engaged (DeMers 2015).


Brousell, L. (27 Aug 2015). Why social media could swing the 2016 presidential election. CIO. Retrieved from

DeMers, J. (8 Oct 2015). 5 Fatal Mistakes That Will Kill Your Social Media Marketing Campaign. Forbes. Retrieved from

Donovan, L. (15 Jul 2015). Donald Trump’s Social Media Intern Makes Huge Mistake, Shows Why Hiring a Social Media Professional is Crucial. Business 2 Community. Retrieved from

Flynn, K. (1 Jul 2015). Christie, Jindal Twitter Hashtag Fails Show Presidential Campaigns Still Struggle with Social Like It’s 2008. International Business Times. Retrieved from

Marcin, T. (21 Sept 2015). #AskTrump Hashtag Backfires: Donald Trump Twitter Headquarters Visit Prompts Social Media Backlash. International Business Times. Retrieved from

Homework Assignment Week 7: Peer Production and Open Sourcing

The first article by Michael Zhang and Feng Zhu looked at the causal relationship between group size and incentives to contribute to public goods, namely digital goods. They did a study based on Chinese Wikipedia and how the blocking efforts from mainland China affected the number of contributions to the site. Chinese Wikipedia’s community is composed of Chinese speakers around the world, with the majority of the community from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. In October 2005, when mainland China blocked Chinese Wikipedia from its citizens for about a year, non-blocked contributors of Chinese Wikipedia decreased their contributions by 42.8% on average. Thus, the authors concluded that there is a positive relationship between group size and contribution levels. In contrast to the free-rider hypothesis, contributors to public goods such as Wikipedia oftentimes receive private benefits because of social effects (Zhang & Zhu, 2011).

The second article by J. Hyatt examines MySQL’s open-source innovation lead by CEO Marten Mickos. MySQL uses open source innovation by sharing its source code for free. This gives programmers around the world access to debug or add features to MySQL. Their community of 12 million programmers receives very little reward for their contributions. According to Mickos, the four main reasons for programmers to contribute to MySQL’s software are to get a better functioning product, to build a reputation, to prove something to themselves, and to get personal satisfaction (Hyatt, 2008).

The third article by Eric von Hippel and Georg von Krogh is about how open source software development is a combination of two prevalent models of innovation, which are the private investment model and the collective action model. The private investment model presumes that innovation is supported by private investment, and from that will come private rewards. The collective action model deals with public goods which anybody can gain benefit from. Von Hippel and von Krogh see open sourcing as a private-collective model because new knowledge is created privately and then offered freely to everyone (von Hippel & von Krogh, 2003).

All three of these articles support the idea of peer production and open sourcing, so I wanted to take a look at an article that was against open sourcing. I found an article called “7 Reasons Not to Use Open Source Software.” Some reasons are as follows:

  • The user interfaces of open source systems are more difficult for unskilled users to work with.
  • Services like Microsoft Office
  • Proprietary software offers better support to users with limited knowledge, such as 24/7 support lines.
  • Warranties and liability protections (Rubens, 2014).

Lastly, I looked at Linux and WordPress for case examples of open-source software. Linux is the most well-known and popular open source operating system. Its code is free and available for anyone to view and edit, and the user interface is much more customizable than closed operating systems (, n.d.). WordPress is an open source software blogging website that allows users to use, modify, build upon, and redistribute their contributions. The developer community consists of thousands of people who report bugs and make other contributions (Blakhi, 2015).

Blakhi, S. (16 May 2015). Why is WordPress Free? What are the Costs? What is the Catch? Retrieved from wordpress-free-what-are-the-costs-what-is-the-catch/


Blakhi, S. (16 May 2015). Why is WordPress Free? What are the Costs? What is the Catch? Retrieved from wordpress-free-what-are-the-costs-what-is-the-catch/

Hyatt, J. 2008. The oh-so-practical magic of open-source innovation. MIT Sloan Management Review. 50(1) 15-19.

Rubens, P. (11 Feb 2014). 7 Reasons Not to Use Open Source Software. Retrieved from software.html

von Hippel, E., and von Krogh, G. 2003. Open source software and the “private-collective” innovation model: Issues for organization science. Organization Science. 14(2) 209-223.

What is Linux? (n.d.). Retreived from

Zhang, M. and Zhu, F. 2011. Group size and incentives to contribute: A natural experiment at Chinese Wikipedia. American Economic Review. 101(4) 1601-1615.

You might actually WANT to open this email from LinkedIn!

Anybody who has a LinkedIn profile knows how often the site send emails. There are emails send for connection requests, emails sent when your connections have updates, emails for when your profile is being viewed, emails for when your connections accept your requests, and so many more. If you’re like me, you simply brush aside all of these emails because you can view all of that activity online the next time you actually sign into LinkedIn.

This past Friday afternoon, I received a new type of email that was sent out to all LinkedIn users–an email informing its users of a class-action suit. The email’s subject line was “LEGAL NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF CLASS ACTION” from a contact called “Legal Notice” ( In short, LinkedIn is dealing with improper use of one of their mechanisms to grow their user base, which is the “Add Connections” feature. The company is agreeing to pay out $13 million in compensation to users who felt that they had been wronged by this service. If enough users file for claims, LinkedIn will add another $750,000 to the fund (Murphy 2015).

The reasoning behind this class-action suit deals with a case called Perkins v. LinkedIn Corp. LinkedIn is being challenged based on its use of “Add Connections,” which is a LinkedIn service that connects current users’ email addresses to the site, and repeatedly asks the users if they would like to add those contacts to LinkedIn. If the users comply, an email will be sent to their contacts with a personalized invitation to join LinkedIn. What the LinkedIn users were unaware of, however, were how many emails LinkedIn was actually sending to their contacts. LinkedIn sends out three different emails to each contact–one initial email, and then two more “reminders” if the contact does not make a LinkedIn profile. “The lawsuit alleges that users did not consent to LinkedIn sending those additional emails, nor give LinkedIn permission to use their names and images in them” (Kastrenakes 2015). Any users who used the Add Connections feature between September 2011 and October 2014 are eligible to earn money by submitting a claim By December 2015 (Murphy 2015).

LinkedIn is dealing with this case very defensively. They released a statement to Business Insider on October 3rd, denying fault for the emails. They said:

LinkedIn recently settled a lawsuit concerning its Add Connections product. In the lawsuit, a number of false accusations were made against LinkedIn. Based on its review of LinkedIn’s product, the court agreed that these allegations were false and found that LinkedIn’s members gave permission to share their email contacts with LinkedIn and to send invitations to connect on LinkedIn. Because the court also suggested that we could be more clear about the fact that we send reminder emails about pending invitations from LinkedIn members, we have made changes to our product and privacy policy. Ultimately, we decided to resolve this case so that we can put our focus where it matters most: finding additional ways to improve our members’ experiences on LinkedIn. In doing so, we will continue to be guided by our core value — putting our members first (Kastrenakes 2015).

Is LinkedIn dealing with their allegations the right way? Some say no, because they feel that LinkedIn is trying too hard to draw users’ attention away from the case. For one, LinkedIn sent the email late on a Friday afternoon, which is the time of week when the emails are checked least frequently. This also draws media attention away from the matter, because readership on press outlets is lowest on Saturdays. Second, the subject line of the email looks like spam, because it is in all capital letters and the return contact is unknown by users. This would lead people to delete the email immediately, because they do not want to accidentally open a spam email. Third, LinkedIn did not provide any information about this case on their website or the users’ news feeds. Fourth, LinkedIn seems to be making it quite difficult for users to submit a claim. Not only are the directions in the email a bit misleading, but the prominent way to receive the money is by electronic bank transfer, and people may be hesitant to give LinkedIn their bank information (Goldman 2015).

This is not the first time that LinkedIn has denied wrongdoing for legal cases. In June 2012, 6.5 million American users’ passwords were stolen from LinkedIn and posted to a website hosted in Russia. Users argued that LinkedIn had not been properly protecting their legal information, which is what led to the suit being filed. “On the website, LinkedIn denied that it had done anything wrong and said the cash settlement was the best way to resolve the legal claims and would ‘avoid the distraction and expense of ongoing litigation'” (BBC 2015).

What do you think about how LinkedIn is handling Perkins v. LinkedIn Corp., and how do you think it will affect their site membership?

BBC. (24 Feb 2015). LinkedIn settles password hack legal claim. Retrieved from

Goldman, E. (3 Oct 2015). The Perkins v. LinkedIn Class Action Settlement Notification Was Badly Bungled. Forbes. Retrieved from

Kastrenakes, J. (2 Oct 2015). LinkedIn agrees to settle unwanted email lawsuit. The Verge. Retrieved from

Murphy, M. (4 Oct 2015). You might want to reply to that LinkedIn email you got Friday. Quartz. Retrieved from

A screenshot of the email that LinkedIn sent out to all of its users on Friday evening

A screenshot of the email that LinkedIn sent out to all of its users on Friday evening.