Social media

Jihadists in Iraq hijack World Cup hashtags

Warwick Ashford

The militant Islamic group ISIS, which is battling for control of several major cities in Iraq, is hijacking Twitter hashtags for the 2014 World Cup to spread its message.

The group is using hashtags such as #ENG and #Brazil2014 to seek recruits and spread propaganda through social media, according to The Independent.

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The group is also targeting English Premier League clubs by hijacking hashtags such as #MUFC, #WHUFC, #LFC and #THFC.

Many of the messages using the hijacked hashtags link to a video featuring a 20-year-old medical student from Cardiff who travelled to Syria to fight for ISIS.

The hijacking of Twitter hashtags is just one element of an increasingly sophisticated social media campaign by ISIS.

The group has also developed an Arab-language Twitter app that updates users on the latest ISIS developments.

The app is also being used to gather personal data on users and enables ISIS to send tweets from users’ Twitter accounts.

Twitter has shut down a number of ISIS-affiliated accounts under rules that ban the use of threatening language and racial or religious hatred, but they are quickly being replaced by new accounts.

In an attempt to halt the use of social media for propaganda purposes, the Iraqi government is blocking access to all the major networking sites.

But civil liberties groups have criticised the block, arguing that just as in Turkey, government blocks harm those using social media for legitimate purposes.

“They are cutting off a lifeline for activists and others to the outside world,” said Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

A Facebook spokesperson said: "Limiting access to internet services, which are essential for communication and commerce for millions of people, is a matter of concern for the global community."


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