The growing use of social media among Indonesian supporters of the Islamic State (IS) helped the group reach a wider audience, the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) has claimed.
Sidney Jones, the director of the Jakarta-based IPAC, said in a statement that the report titled 'Online Activism and Social Media Usage Among Indonesian Extremists' that was released on Saturday found that social media usage among Indonesian IS supporters did not change the group's recruitment patterns, but helped it spread its message more widely.
"[Social media usage] is ensuring that IS propaganda is reaching new audiences," she said in the report's press release.
The report looks at how Indonesian extremists use Facebook, Twitter and various mobile phone applications like WhatsApp and Telegram. The report divides Indonesian extremism from 2002 to the present into four periods and examines how each period has been characterized by new communications technology.
One thing that has remained consistent until today, Jones said, is the face-to-face contact for radicalization and recruitment.
She said that ISIS propaganda, which was disseminated via social media, could interest individuals in the idea of an Islamic caliphate. The report found that involvement in radical religious discussion groups seem to precede the actual decision to leave.
"The propaganda seems to be having an impact, particularly the depictions of daily life in the Islamic State and the camaraderie of Indonesian fighters, smiling broadly with their new weapons or enjoying a dip in a hotel swimming pool after battle," Jones said.
Government reports have said that more than 500 Indonesians were believed to have joined IS since the conflict began and about half had gone on to fight in Syria or Iraq.
She called for the government to have more skilled personnel to to analyse the content of extremist communications.
"[Otherwise] the government will not be able to develop effective counter-measures," she said.
IPAC cited government's statistics that women and children may constitute more than 40 per cent of the Indonesian foreign fighters with IS.

The report said that the increasing IS propaganda being spread through individual Twitter accounts had also raised concerns about the possibility of “lone wolf” attacks. However, the report pointed out that such attacks were extremely rare in Indonesia.
“Extremist violence in Indonesia until now has been a social activity. Belonging to a group is part of the appeal," Jones said.
Leopard Wisnu Kemala, a suspect in a series of bomb in Alam Sutera Mall in Tangerang, was declared a lone wolf terrorist by the Jakarta Police. Even though the police said Leopard had no ties to any local terrorism network, he said to police that he was inspired by videos and news of IS attacks.
Moreover, an interesting finding of the report is that Indonesian extremists use smart phones for marriage-by-video which unites Indonesian women in the country or overseas with Indonesian extremists in prison, in Syria or in radical groups.
"These marriages are used for a variety of purposes: to cement alliances, reinforce social hierarchies, satisfy the “biological needs” of prisoners, or bring women out to the Middle East for unmarried fighters," the report said.


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