The quantity of propaganda materials released by the Islamic State’s official social media channels decreased by 62%across 2017, according to a report from Conflict Monitor by business information provider IHS Markit.
The reduction in official Islamic State propaganda output coincides with the collapse of the group’s so-called Caliphate, which shrunk by 89% from 60 400km in January 2017 to 6 500km in January 2018.
According to data analyzed by Conflict Monitor:
* Propaganda material disseminated by the Islamic State declined by 62% from 1 316 original pieces of propaganda released in January to just 495 in December 2017.
* The propaganda category that showed the greatest decline was pictures, with 922 pictures released in January, compared to 249 in December; an overall reduction of 73%.
* The number of video releases fell by 62% in the same period, from 26 in January 2017 to only 10 in December 2017.
“The number of statements released by the Islamic State’s official Amaq News Agency claiming attacks dropped by 31 percent from 300 in January to 208 in December 2017,” says Ludovico Carlino, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit. “This reflects a reduction in the actual number of attacks carried out by the Islamic State during that time period as the group suffered major territorial losses.
“The reduction in the Islamic State’s propaganda output, however, mainly affected other forms of propaganda, in particular pictures (down 74% in the same time period), which are probably considered to be of lesser strategic value than attack claims,” Carlino adds.
Most of the propaganda material released by the Islamic State in 2017 originated from the group’s core territories in Iraq and Syria. This was still the case in December, despite the Caliphate being reduced to a small number of villages in the Euphrates River Valley. In December 2017, out of 249 pictures released via official Islamic State channels, 216 (87%) were taken in Syria and Iraq, and 33 (13%) in other countries.
Each piece of propaganda is disseminated centrally by the Amaq News Agency and Nashir channels via media hubs in Iraq and Syria, with inputs from other countries being communicated to them through regional media centres.
“The Islamic State is probably finding it increasingly difficult to communicate with its other wilayat across the region, while they in turn are likely to have been forced to reduce their media interactions in order to preserve their operational security,” Carlino says.
The Islamic State’s narrative no longer features state building and now focuses almost exclusively on the concept of perpetual war against its enemies.
Propaganda imagery featuring daily life in the Caliphate, and the Islamic State’s efforts to distribute food and rebuild roads and buildings damaged in US-led coalition airstrikes, dropped from 93 pictures out of 922 (10%) in January 2017 to three pictures out of 249 (less than 1%) in December.
“The vast majority of the Islamic State’s official propaganda now shows the group in action, receiving training or planning operations, as well as punishing those it accuses of cooperating with its enemies,” Carlino says.
The message accompanying these images is the religious obligation to continue the fight against the Syrian and Iraqi governments, and their US, Russian and Iranian ‘sponsors’ as part of a never-ending effort to defend Islam and the Muslim community from “Crusader-Rafidhi” (Western – Shia) aggression against the “true Islamic State”.