It doesn't take much to catch the eye of ISIS recruiters, who aggressively monitor social media.
"The moment you indicate any sort of interest in ISIS or ask any questions about it on a social platform, you get 500 new followers on Twitter, you get 500 friends on Facebook, you start getting emails and messages constantly—it's a kind of love bombing," explains Mia Bloom, Georgia State University professor and author of Bombshell: Women and Terrorism, of the remarkably systematic way the process works. "All of a sudden, you feel really popular, important, and significant because of this flood of attention. And it all wraps up in the same ideology they message over and over: ISIS can give you something emotionally and psychologically that you will not have unless you come to the Islamic State."
On Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr, users indicate their allegiance by using the moniker "IS," "Islamic State," or "Dawlah" (the group's preferred names) in their private profiles. Some feature the ISIS flag in their banner or profile picture, while others post photos dotted with the symbol. Many boast in their bios about how many times their accounts had been shut down and direct followers to alternative accounts.
"THE MOMENT YOU INDICATE ANY SORT OF INTEREST IN ISIS, YOU GET 500 NEW FOLLOWERS ON TWITTER—IT'S A KIND OF LOVE BOMBING."
After a recruiter makes initial contact, they will take the conversation to more private online platforms like Kik, WhatsApp, or, the new favorite, Telegram, an encrypted messaging app which gives senders the option to have a message self-destruct after it's read. (Recruiting efforts used to be more public but, in February, Twitter announced that it had suspended 125,000 ISIS-related accounts. A few discreet public accounts located by MarieClaire.com feature links leading to the website justpaste.it, where ISIS members can post propaganda that goes undetected by search engines. Users can only access the pages with an exact link.)
ISIS sympathizers posting propaganda could be anywhere in the world: Syria, Iraq, or sitting in a coffee shop in the Midwest. But for those who travel to ISIS-controlled territory, recruiting takes on an official capacity. Many of the Western women who join the Islamic State are sent to a room and given the full-time job of recruiting women just like them, explains Anne Speckhard, author of the study Brides of ISIS: The Internet Seduction of Western Females into ISIS.
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