The distribution platforms of ISIS propaganda – UGC, websites, file hosting

The skill that ISIS has acquired over the years in exploiting the web for propaganda is well known and extensively analyzed from various point of views. However, the majority of researches have been focused on the instant communication’s platforms (Tweeter, Facebook, etc.) because of their power to spread quickly and “stick” strongly. Social Networks are usually, and rightly, identified as the main medium through which ISIS’ propaganda is disseminated, but they are not always appropriate for the purpose, mainly if the message to be conveyed is complex and articulated. One of tools used by the “stickiness engineering”1 is telling a story and this requires different mediums such as Youtube (footage, the s.c. “documentaries on life in the Islamic State”, etc.), Instagram (exploiting the storytelling power of images), post on forums or blogs (using words to produce the message). All of these mediums are generally indicated as UGC (User Generated Contents), defined as “any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcasts, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites”2. Contents distributed through UGC are designed to be instantly available, without any intermediary steps, and if removed by the service provider, they can be easily and quickly uploaded again by other users. Sometimes, instead, the nature of the content, such as magazines or news about the self-appointed Caliphate, requires time to be read or watched and websites and file hosting3 best meet this purpose. Websites, registered with fake data and using free resources made available by web hosting services or microblogging platforms, best suit the need to spread news on battles and damage inflicted to the enemy, since they allow to group the data and amplify the impact of achievements. Magazines, fighters’ or leaders’ biographies are rather mostly distributed through links on file hosting because they offer at least 2 GB of free storage and contents are not indexed.

This subject will be further developed on a forthcoming publication.

1 Heath, C., & Heath, D.,  Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die, Random House, 2007.


3 A file hosting service, cloud storage service, online file storage provider, or cyberlocker is an Internet hosting service specifically designed to host user files. It allows users to upload files that could then be accessed over the internet from a different computer or other networked device (