Following a recent nudge by the United States Department of Defense (DoD), the Pentagon has received official approval to begin an online propaganda campaign against ISIS.

Last week, Congress approved the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 which includes an entire section on “Information operations and engagement technology demonstrations.”

The relevant section states that the Secretary of Defense “should develop creative and agile concepts, technologies, and strategies across all available media to most effectively reach target audiences, and to counter and degrade the ability of adversaries and potential adversaries to persuade, inspire, and recruit inside areas of hostilities or in other areas in direct support of the objectives of commanders.”

This essentially means that the Pentagon needs to counter the unexpectedly sophisticated and effective propaganda that is pumped out by ISIS in countries such as Syria and Iraq.

The Act authorizes the Pentagon to conduct these operations for at least seven years – until October 2022 – and it expects funding requests during that period. “The Secretary of Defense should request additional funds in future budgets to carry out military information support operations to support the broader efforts of the Government to counter violent extremism.”

The DoD has wanted this type of program for a long time. In late fall, senior military and security officials testified to Congress about the urgent need to combat and counter propaganda. To ensure it got its point across, the DoD then released a statement to the public that, “the United States is facing an unprecedented challenge in countering the propaganda of adversaries who recruit and easily spread misinformation through the Internet.”

It is clear that such tactics are warranted and justified. The professional videos put out by ISIS have been enormously successful, with some of these videos being viewed millions of times.

ISIS has also been very successful in taking advantage of the open platform of social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, to spread its message to the masses. And, despite serious efforts to close down user accounts that link to photos and videos that glorify violence, it has thus far proved ineffective.
In light of the recent attacks in Paris, the call to push back and counter ISIS’ seductive message to potential recruits has gotten louder.

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