The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) Virtual Caliphate shows no signs of diminishment. With the group’s loss of territory and with social media platforms increasingly policed, Telegram, a messaging application, remains ISIS’s key platform for disseminating propaganda and recruiting new members. Telegram’s security features, cross-platform construction, and secret chat option offer a secure environment for interaction between ISIS and its supporters. On Telegram, ISIS manipulates an environment rich with addictive properties, creating online spaces that encourage group identity, shared opinions, and dominant ideologies, while exploiting an individual’s need to be a part of the group. This research investigates how Telegram is used by ISIS and its supporters and assesses what kind of threat the use of Telegram poses for the future.
The research is supported in part by the Office of Naval Research “Documenting the Virtual Caliphate” #N00014-16-1-3174. All opinions are exclusively those of the authors and do not represent the Department of Defense or the Navy. This article is part of a special project conducted by the Foreign Policy Research Institute, titled: “After the Caliphate: Reassessing the Jihadi Threat and Stabilizing the Fertile Crescent,” which includes a book, a thematic issue of Orbis: FPRI’s Journal of World Affairs (Summer 2018), and a series of podcasts. Each element of the project can be found here:https://www.fpri.org/research/after-the-caliphate-project/.