The Obama administration has a plan to fight back against ISIS propaganda, and it involves what the New York Times calls a "tiny State Department agency." The Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, created in 2011, has always been tasked with coordinating "countermessaging" against extremists, but now it will be expanded, thanks to ISIS. "We're getting beaten on volume," a department official says. But "these guys aren't BuzzFeed; they're not invincible in social media." ISIS and its supporters are responsible for up to 90,000 social media messages per day, and the group has been successful in attracting people to its cause and raising money. Administration officials will outline the counterattack plan during three days of meetings starting today.
In addition to expanding the CSCC, the administration wants to coordinate all US countermessaging attempts—larger departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security, and intelligence agencies, also have their own efforts underway—as well as countermessaging from a variety of sources, including foreign allies, nongovernment agencies, and top Muslim academics, community leaders, and religious scholars. Currently, CSCC employs specialists fluent in Arabic and other languages to craft narratives that oppose messages and misinformation from extremists (so far mainly al-Qaeda) and post those messages on the Internet, including on websites used to recruit jihadists. For example, one post showed a picture of three American men who traveled to Somalia to become Islamist militants only to be killed, along with the message: "They came for jihad but were murdered by al-Shabab." (Read more State Department stories.)