Trying To Attract Young Women And New Recruits, ISIS Posted Propaganda Videos To TikTok


Islamic State militants may have been weakened. But their effort in recruiting new members continues.

And here, they started using TikTok, the social media popular for youngsters, by posting short propaganda videos.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the organization is attempting to use the platform's format to make themselves more 'appealing'.

Initially, it was the social media intelligence agency Storyful that identified at least two dozen accounts spreading the propaganda videos via TikTok.

"The rhyme, beat, evocative lyrics and punchy delivery are especially appealing to youth," said Elisabeth Kendall, an Oxford University expert on extremism, told the Wall Street Journal. "This catchy sing-along method for propagating ISIS ideology means it spreads quickly and sticks in the collective memory. It tends to be far more effective than sermons or theological debate and treatises."

A screenshot of one of the Islamic extremist's videos on TikTok
A screenshot of one of the Islamic extremist's videos on TikTok. (Credit: The Wall Street Journal)

At first, the accounts posted videos showing people killed, people singing to the ISIS songs, and women affirming a “jihadist” stance.

The Wall Street Journal reported that some of those accounts target particularly young women. Besides extremist and propaganda footage, the accounts also posted videos of attractive men riding horses.

While none of the accounts appear to have been particularly popular, some did have more than 1,000 followers. And according to the Wall Street Journal, one of their videos have at least 68 likes.

What makes it concerning is that, TikTok only removed those videos after the Wall Street Journal flagged and reported them.

The app has since removed more accounts distributing the propaganda, as promoting terrorist organizations is against the company’s rules:

"Terrorist organizations and any other criminal organizations are strictly prohibited from using TikTok. DO NOT use TikTok to promote and support these organizations or individuals," explained TikTok.

According to a spokeswoman for TikTok.

"This is an industry-wide challenge complicated by bad actors who actively seek to circumvent protective measures, but we have a team dedicated to aggressively protecting against malicious behavior on TikTok."

"We permanently ban any such accounts and associated devices as soon as identified, and we continuously develop ever-stronger controls to proactively detect suspicious activity."

TikTok users are mostly young and fragile, lighthearted, and attracted to jokes and fun contents even if they are political. Their effort seems to be "part of a new show of strength — and possible enlistment tool — as U.S. troops withdraw from Syria," the Wall Street Journal reported.

Terrorist organization in using this fact is indeed worrying.

While it wasn't clear how big ISIS has its presence on TikTok, the social media sphere in general have been plagued with their contents for many years.

To counter this issue, online companies like Facebook and Google have shared a database of known terrorist imagery that can be automatically removed when it’s detected online. Since then, they have gotten better.

Retaliating, back in 2016, ISIS has even threatened both Twitter and Facebook when it released a video featuring the faces of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg being riddled with mock bullet holes.

As for the young TikTok, the platform is popular but isn't yet matured. The videos which were removed, represent a challenge for app’s Beijing owner, ByteDance, which has hired thousands of moderators to curate its contents.