Senators Suggest Trolling Terrorists With Memes, Presidential Campaign Staffers

How to counter ISIS recruiters? Look no further than a U.S. political campaign.

— -- For U.S. political campaign workers, the stretch of time between Election Days is more than likely filled with strategy sessions, fundraisers and at least some periods of relaxation.

“Maybe that would be a good little piece of legislation we could propose is a rapid response communications team, and we can pull them from campaigns,” Johnson said in a committee hearing. “Trust me, we’ve got those capable individuals within our knowledge base.”

“The videos that they’re doing are incredibly slick, fancy and attractive,” Booker said, comparing it to the State Department’s own “Think Again, Turn Away” Twitter account. “If you know anything about social media, then one of the things you should look at is the engagement of people on our social media feeds, and it’s laughable.”

Booker referenced his own media strategy in his previous political campaigns as a potential model.

“There are easy tactics, I know them, from politics of how to get more voice and virality to messaging that we’re not using as a government to get messages out there,” Booker said. “I know something about memes. Look at their fancy memes compared to what we’re not doing.”

The hearing, titled “Jihad 2.0: Social Media in the Next Evolution of Terrorist Recruitment,” is part of an ongoing attempt by Congress to identify ways to stymie efforts by terrorists overseas to lure foreign fighters, or incite jihadists to commit attacks inside the homeland.

Johnson noted Sunday’s attack in Garland, Texas, and the two attackers’ reported activity on social media, including ISIS’ claim of responsibility, as evidence that social media counter messaging by the United States is failing.

Bergen said the only profile that tied the 62 American militants together is they are active in online jihadist communities, and it’s a trend that is becoming even more extensive among “lone wolf” attackers such as the two killed in Sunday’s Texas shooting.

“Luckily, Sunday’s attack didn’t mature,” Bergen said. “But it is a harbinger of what we will see in the future.”

“ISIS appears to be first jihadist group to crack lone wolf formula,” Berger said. “The problem with lone wolves is it’s too easy to stay at home.”

Mubin Shaikh, a former jihadi turned undercover counterterrorism operative, noted he has spent the past few years on Twitter watching the evolution of the foreign fighter phenomenon, and said he has directly intervened in several active recruitment situations.

“My approach is to show how wrong they are and to criticize and delegitimize them from the very Islamic sources that they misquote and mutilate,” Shaikh said. “I submit to you it is not as hard as some may suggest. We already have talent that just need the direction and guidance in order to get it going.”

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