The State Department has a verified account dedicated to needling jihadists or, in its words, speaking "truths about terrorism."
@ThinkAgain_DOS spends each day finding out Islamic extremist tweets and counting them in English.
"How many daughters will not be able to play with their fathers because of extremists using this flag?" responded the account to a man who made clay al Qaeda flags with his daughter.
"You can best show your sincerity by not murdering women and children with suicide bombers," was another tweet in response to a jihadist who said wearing masks protects his sincerity.
"Given the audience, and the sensitivity of the subject matter, [the State Department has] to be very careful when you put any kind of message out into the world," said Will McCants, a former State Department senior counterterrorism adviser who helped set up [The Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications'] digital outreach, to Mother Jones. Mr. McCants is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
How much bang for the buck the State Department is getting is hard to quantify, but Mr. McCants says it's worth it.
"If you're talking about would-be extremists reading a tweet and turning away from violence as a result, it's hard to tell how much that is happening," McCants told Mother Jones. "So if you measure success that way, it's hard to know. But you can demonstrate that this kind of effort has gotten into the heads of senior leadership. With al-Shabaab, for instance, leaders issued a directive saying not to interact with the State Department accounts because they spread lies about the mujahideen. Things used to be the other way, with [US officials] talking about how jihadis were so good at messaging against the US. It's nice that we're starting to have this turnaround."
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