Digital World War: Islamists, Extremists, and the Fight for Cyber Supremacy

I attended a talk by Dr. Haroon Ullah author of the book “Digital World War: Islamists, Extremists, and the Fight for Cyber Supremacy”. At this talk, Dr. Haroon discussed what he wrote in his book which as the title suggests is about ISIS and their presence in the digital world. His focus was on how ISIS uses the digital world to spread their message and what methods we can use to fight back the ideas they are spreading. Before discussing these ideas he gave a little insight on the relationship between ISIS and the digital world.  An idea he presented was about how the propaganda ISIS makes creates feelings of  identity, belonging, and trust especially amongst the youth who are vulnerable and at risk. This was very interesting to hear because I never thought to interpret the propaganda this way. Dr. Haroon explains that in the native tongue this propaganda is made with many positive messages like governance and uprooting corruption which is lost when it is translated to other languages like English. 

For the second half of his talk Dr. Haroon discussed the methods he thinks we should use to combat ISIS’ presence in the digital world. Before he did so, he mentioned that if we are working towards a solution to this problem we must recognize there is a collective action problem. He emphasized that there is a tragedy of the commons when it comes to combating ISIS and that because of this getting to a solution has become harder. This was another interesting point to me because of how we have discussed this term in class and how it was easy to see the connection he was making.

Once we realize this, he stated we must use the voices of certain people who will get the intended message across. The counter narratives of victims, mothers, and defectors are of high value according to him. Next, “social media incubators”  which are groups who combat ISIS through well produced videos are of value as well. Lastly, he believed we should consider tackling a specific city or regions, then thinking of interventions and campaign to be more productive. Overall, he insisted on the urgency of this problem and keeping up with the methods ISIS does to spread their propaganda. He also insisted that by taking this type of content down we are not done but there is much more to do. They are continuously evolving therefore we cannot fall behind. His talk was very informative and I enjoyed learning more about this issue.

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