A year ago, the department launched the “Think Again Turn Away” campaign, which aims to combat leading Islamic extremists on Twitter. Unfortunately, the campaign’s efforts, which consist of tweeting comebacks at well-known jihadists, putting out memes and videos, and retweeting links to images of the groups’ brutality, are having the opposite effect and actually “providing jihadists legitimacy and a stage on which to project their messages,” according to one expert.
Over at Time, Rita Katz, the director of SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the online behavior of jihadist groups, says that this approach of effectively engaging in Twitter spats with jihadist accounts is backfiring. On multiple occasions, she writes, whenever Think Again Turn Away tries to counter a prominent jihadist, not only does it legitimate the individual’s stature, but it is met with a firestorm of even more rebuttals from supporters of the terrorist groups. As a result, the U.S. government looks steam-rolled with disapproval and raises the standing of the Islamic State, the al-Nusra Front, or other terrorist groups.
Katz also notes how a recent video by Think Again Turn Away intended to scare off potential Western recruits ended up highlighting the elements of the Islamic State that appeals to susceptible youths, such as killing non-Muslims and destroying and taking over towns in the region.
Other missteps include tweeting out pictures of the brutality, which have been met with wide applause by the organizations’ supporters. For example, upon sharing a picture of children in the region standing before a crucified man, Think Again Turn Away was met with approving tweets such as, “i rather my children see this so they know whats their fate when they aganst shariah of ALLAH, than democazy.”
While the State Department’s efforts have good intentions, their shortcomings in understanding the problem at hand have made Think Again Turn Away not only “a waste of taxpayer money, but ultimately . . . counterproductive,” Katz concludes.