Official propaganda from the Islamic State (IS) dwindled during 2020 after disruption from Western coalition forces, but informal supporter networks continue to spread its message far and wide, Europol has warned.
The law enforcement agency’s latest Online Jihadist Propaganda report analyzed the key trends of last year, highlighting the persistence of terrorist content across multiple online channels.
“Jihadist terrorist groups dedicate significant efforts to set up effective online communication campaigns. The production and dissemination of propaganda content is integral to these efforts,” explained Europol executive director, Catherine De Bolle.
“Driven by digital innovation, these groups do not refrain from exploiting the latest technologies to broadcast their message to intended audiences.”
IS’s official propaganda capabilities remained muted in 2020 after significant losses of infrastructure and personnel, with video releases becoming increasingly rare, the report claimed.
However, “committed IS supporters and their networks” are stepping in to spread the group’s messages and advance operational activity both online and off, it added.
IS-supporting media outlets have expanded their digital output and offered assistance to these supporters on how to use private online channels to stay hidden.
“IS-aligned media outlets that specialize in cybersecurity, privacy, and encrypted communications remained committed to their mission of providing online security awareness to IS supporters,” Europol explained.
“The Electronic Horizons Foundations even established a virtual ‘weekly meeting’ with its technical support administrators to provide answers on technical and security-related questions. The virtual ‘meeting’ took place on the Element application.”
Campaigns from media outlets have also helped to inspire Supporter-Generated Content (SGC) productions across encrypted platforms like Telegram. These, in turn, help to direct and inspire lone actor attacks in the EU and elsewhere, the report noted.
Efforts are being focused on staging an IS revival in Iraq and Syria, publicizing its military gains in Africa and spreading the message that freeing IS prisoners around the world is a priority.