We Might Be Winning the War Against ISIS, At Least on Social Media

ISIS remains a terror in the Middle East, but there is one place its influence seems to have diminished: the wilds of the internet. Twitter traffic to pro-ISIS accounts has fallen 45 percent in the past two years, according to the Obama administration, which of course is also taking most of the credit.

Two years ago, the administration put together an international coalition to fight ISIS, with one of the goals being to discourage the burgeoning popularity of the group online.

The coalition was unsuccessful early on, making several blunders that seem rather amateur in retrospect. A lot of the content was written solely in English, and back then social media networks were struggling with the problem of disabling and recruiting prospective members much more than now.

Now, the coalition uses memes—like a teddy bear that says ISIS “slaughters childhood”—written instead in Arabic, and spreads information through Muslim governments and organizations instead of directly trying to blast it out in the echo chamber of the interwebz.

The changes (and the two years the coalition has had to work on things) seem to be working. According to data obtained by the Associated Press, there is now a 6-1 ratio of anti-to-pro ISIS content online, better than last year. Nowadays, most pro-ISIS Twitter accounts have about 300 followers, down from an average of about 1,500 followers back in 2014.

The Obama administration is far from the only group that is trying to fight ISIS. Social-media networks are doing their part too, and back in February, Twitter claimed that it shut down 125,000 pro-ISIS accounts since May of 2015. Anonymous declared war on ISIS last year with, most recently, a member trying to shame ISIS by hacking their accounts and posting sexy photos of women. Researchers are using math to both study how people get sucked into pro-ISIS groups and predict terrorist attacks. Good job, everyone. Looks like we might be getting somewhere.