The Twitter account @ShamiWitness rose to prominence in November 2011 during the Syrian Civil War with his insider knowledge of the war and events in Syria. He changed his tone in 2014 to support the Islamic State. His propaganda tweets brought in followers from across the world, which made him one of the more popular Islamic State tweeters.
— Think AgainTurn Away (@ThinkAgain_DOS) December 11, 2014
The man was not in Syria. Britain’s Channel 4 revealed his name is Medhi, an executive with an Indian conglomerate from Bangalore, India. Despite the support, he never left India to fight with the Islamic State because his family relies on his job.
“If I had a chance to leave everything and join them, I might have,” he said. “My family needs me here.”
Medhi encouraged and praised the jihadist group, especially the members from Britain.
“May allah guide, protect, strengthen and expand the Islamic State… Islamic State brought peace, autonomy, zero corruption, low crime-rate,” he wrote on Twitter in November.
He retweeted Peter Kassig’s death at least five times. He cheered on every time the Islamic State beheaded a prisoner, killed Kurdish fighters, or raped women hostages. His Facebook page, which was also deleted, showed a different side behind the jihadist supporter. In fact, Channel 4 said his page condemned rape and posted pictures of food.
British blogger Eliot Higgins said Shami Witness shows why it is dangerous to use social media to find information on Syria and Iraq.
“Shami Witness was an example of a certain kind of person on social media, someone who repeats what they see from other sources as his own comments on the situation at hand, often information shared by pro-IS accounts in Arabic, which gives a false sense of his knowledge about the situation,” he said. “These kinds of individuals are harder to identify for the casual user on social media, so they tend to gain followers which lends them more credibility. He demonstrates that judging the credibility of a source isn’t always straight forward, and why with social media it’s important to use multiple sources before relying too much on one claim being credible or not.”