The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ferguson protests used as fuel for Islamic State propaganda

A beauty supply store is set ablaze Monday in Ferguson, Mo.  (Michael B. Thomas/AFP)

Islamic State activists on Twitter are using the Ferguson protests to encourage its supporters to carry out attacks in the United States.

A Washington-based nonprofit group that monitors the social media activity of pro-Islamic State accounts said Tuesday that a “prominent group” is telling followers to use Ferguson-related hashtags to spread ISIS propaganda and incite more violence.

Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translated one tweet from Al-Nusra Al-Maqdisiyya (@bakoon7) as saying,”O lone mujahid, you must use the breakdown of security in #Ferguson to increase the burning in America. They are squabbling over worldly [matters], so you send them to hell! #ISIS.”

Another was translated to say, “O supporters of the Islamic State in America, what is happening in #Ferguson is a valuable opportunity that will not return. Rise up and engage them with themselves, away from the mujahideen. Spill their blood in the roads and in the neighborhoods.”

Steven Stalinsky, MEMRI’s executive director, tells the Loop it’s not unusual for the Islamic State, or other militant groups, to use current events to instigate their followers. (To note, MEMRI has been criticized for being a pro-Israel group.) Stalinsky said it’s near impossible to connect whether the social media efforts directly result in more violence, but said lone wolf actors are almost always active on Twitter or watching YouTube videos.

A recurring theme in many of the tweets we found is Islamic State claiming that it cares about the African-American community more than the U.S. government, an effort to inflame and exploit an already sensitive situation.