Countering Daesh’s communications
Daesh has demonstrated a particular proficiency in the use of social media, often tied to sensational acts of terror. The Coalition has superior resources, means, and technology, advantages which are becoming increasingly apparent as Coalition member nations work individually and collectively to oppose Daesh’s ideology and vision and to present a positive, alternative future for the region. The United States (the Near East Bureau and Embassy Kuwait) set up the inaugural conference hosted by Kuwait on 27 October 2014 led by General Allen, Under Secretary Stengel and 14 Coalition partner governments to initiate discussions and activities on counter-Daesh messaging. The Counter Terrorism office organised a workshop at Hedayah in Abu Dhabi on 6 December 2014 to share best practices in online anti-Daesh engagement with partner governments, including consultations with Facebook about extremists’ use of social media.
The United Arab Emirates and the United States launched the Sawab Center, a UAE-based joint operations centre for online engagement in July 2015. The Center’s goal is to quickly and effectively counter Daesh communications and recruitment and to increase the volume and intensity of online debate representing moderate, tolerant, and constructive approaches in the region. The Center coordinates with the Coalition to launch outreach campaigns that undermine Daesh’s claim to legitimate leadership and strategic successes and highlight its governance failures and battlefield defeats. In addition, the Center is also engaging and expanding the network of independent influencers and voices in the region able to compete effectively with Daesh’s online supporters.
The US facilitates professional visits and exchanges by Coalition member government officials and civil society groups to the United States and Europe corresponding to the lines of effort to combat Daesh and confront violent extremists. These exchanges provide participants with first-hand experience in their various disciplines through interaction with their US government counterparts, state and local authorities, as well as private media and corporations. In fact, the private sector has also joined with the Coalition in efforts to defeat Daesh. Social media companies have come up with productive and effective measures to decrease objectionable content and accounts online while preserving free expression and exchanges of ideas.
In partnership with its embassies, the Coalition and private sector organisations, the US conducts media training programs in the Near East region. It convenes and mobilises government officials, academics, youth, religious leaders, former extremists and the private sector to actively and vigorously contest Daesh’s online activities. Social media experts and practitioners provide training in effective online communications and outreach skills.
The US has also held a series of workshops for Coalition spokespersons to address the public affairs challenges posed by Daesh to regional governments and societies, to more accurately convey essential information to the media and to develop a network of influencers.