Worrying figures published in France yesterday illustrate the full online extent of French-language Jihadist networks. With over 2,600 websites backing ISIS and a daily tally of around 40,000 French tweets in support, the campaign to enlist French recruits to the cause is real and effective.
The Local reports that the reaction of the French government to the growing online threat is seen as being slow compared to that of the US and the UK.
Figures recently published by the French Interior Ministry revealed that nearly 1,700 French nationals have been involved with fighting in Syria and Iraq of which 45 are teenage girls said to have gone to wage jihad in the Middle East.
In response to these numbers and growing concern over the online ISIS propaganda machine, France’s Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, said his government would hire hackers and online “community managers” to identify and more closely monitor the jihadists in order to pre-empt attempts to convert French youths.
Valls said these efforts “to cross swords more effectively with jihadist recruiters” are intended to prevent the colonisation of the internet by Islamists.
The website and tweet statistics were obtained by Le Monde from sources in the French Ministry of Defence. The Local reports that the sheer volume of tweets is not the only concern. Importantly the tweets from IS-linked sources are not broadcast to silent indifference, the accounts in question boast over 2.8 million Francophone followers.
The Interior Ministry said French authorities blocked 36 websites in recent months, each of which is accused of provoking terrorist acts or condoning terrorism publicly. Some allege that “France is really just censoring websites with messages it doesn’t like.”
The increased efforts to identify and monitor online IS reruiters are the latest steps taken to dissuade French nationals from heading to the Middle East as part of a wider €425 million counter-terrorism campaign. Earlier this year the French government released a shock video warning those tempted to wage jihad that “in reality, you’ll find hell on earth and you’ll die alone, far from home.”