The Islamic State (Isis) is promoting the hashtag #alfurqan, named after its media arm, hoping to create hype about a yet to be released announcement. The hashtag actually ended up going viral on Twitter, but the reason for that was not due to interest in the matter, but due to Twitter users trolling the extremist group.
According to a report by Voactiv, shortly after introducing the hashtag, Isis spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani released an audio statement in which he made threats to the US and Europe. The message was then broadcast by Isis supporters using the #alfurqan hashtag and as it gained more momentum in ranking, supporters began posting celebratory messages on one of Isis' main forums. Eventually, supporters proclaimed the hashtag to be the top-trending hashtag in Arabic language on the social networking platform, but the claim is yet to be verified.
Ironically, however, the reason behind the hashtag's rapid rise in rankings was due to Twitter trolls. Although the hashtag was used around 17,000 times in tweets between 21 May early morning to 22 May afternoon (Raqqa time), it was discovered that of all those who used the hashtag, five Twitter users used it most, not in support but in opposition of Isis. All five users were found to have posted hundreds of tweets using the hashtag, while referring to the extremist group as "Daesh" – an alternative Arabic translation of the terror groups' title, which it allegedly detests.
The five users also took to tweeting an endless list of the terror groups' failures, including posting videos of alleged air strikes that show Isis members being taken down, tweets about Isis losing the war in Iraq and other emerging reports about the numbers and strength of Isis being cut down. One user made use of the hashtag to tweet: "The lions of the anti-terrorism force are able to eliminate Daesh in every place and every time."
However, although the hashtag was hijacked by trolls, the unfortunate flipside was that its rise in use and ranking appeared to have provided supporters with enough cause for celebration, mistaken though it may be. "Just like bullets have an impact on the enemies, your tweets have an impact on them," wrote one Isis supporter. "The war is not only in the field but also in the media," he added.