The Twitter account “State of Islam” using the handle @Dawla_accountt tweeted to its 1,226 followers Monday night: “
#IslamicState is the SOLE SAVIOUR of millions of Sunni muslims against Iraqi-Syria Army butchers,” with an attachment to three propaganda photos claiming to show brutality against Sunnis.
About 16 hours later, a team at the State Department responded directly to the tweet.
The U.S. government employees behind the “Think Again Turn Away” Twitter account spend their day communicating directly with Islamist militants, pushing back against their campaigns to recruit fighters by spreading graphic images of brutalities they pin on the West.
Our colleague Anne Gearan described in September these new strategies by the State Department to “counter online militant propaganda with a U.S. messaging campaign.” “The countermessage is simple: These guys are lying to you, and if you go to Syria to fight Western oppression you’ll just end up killing innocent Muslims,” Gearan wrote.
By mid-morning Tuesday, the Think Again Turn Away account had posted a dozen or so tweets disputing various claims by Islamic State defenders.
Critics of the State’s Department’s Twitter account say that engaging with Islamist militants legitimizes them and helps distribute their message.
Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, defended it in a September news briefing: “The goal, obviously, of this is to … point out the fallacies of what they’re talking about, point out the inconsistencies, point out how this is contrary to Islam and really make very clear what this group is so people don’t join it.”
Think it will work?