The United States government is willing to try some weird stuff to combat ISIS’s online influence—and that includes operating an insult-slinging account on a social network for insecure teens fishing for compliments.
A panel of branding experts just conducted a review that doubted the State Department’s online anti-ISIS campaign tactics. A US official told the Washington Post that the panel “had serious questions about whether the U.S. government should be involved in overt messaging at all.” If the State Department’s Ask.fm account counts for anything, the panel is obviously correct.
In 2013, the State Department started an English-language anti-ISIS social media campaign and made it unnecessarily complicated right off the bat by giving it an awkward mouthful of a name: “Think Again Turn Away.”
To fight ISIS’s fancy memes, Think Again Turn Away opened accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and even Ask.fm, the question-and-answer site briefly popular with emotional teens a few years ago. Think Again Turn Away’s accounts are, to put it lightly, trash fires in a medical waste dump on Planet You’re Bad At Your Job, and Ask.fm is one of the worst.
Think Again Turn Away is prolific on Twitter, but the last Ask.fm question came in 11 months ago. As the Q&A site faded in its general popularity, it looks like interest in conversing with a mouthy government anti-propaganda account did, too. That’s probably a good thing, because the State Department’s interactions on Ask.fm were, uh, not productive.
Here are some high (low?) lights:
“You can’t put a price on destroying terrorism...but here’s our estimate.”
That’s not a real flavor, but it’s a better response than the one below, where the State Department encourages people to yell at ISIS online.
But the most bizarre answers were responses to trolling pro-ISIS questions. Instead of ignoring them, the State Department got real surly, real quick:
While it’s—I don’t know, not necessarily amusing, but at least sort of humanizing to see State Department employees lashing out so passionately against perceived enemies, it’s an unambiguously stupid campaign.
Scrolling through the questions and answers is an exercise in rapidly losing confidence in the governments’ ability to wage a propaganda war. The premise that you can combat terrorism by giving pissy responses to anonymous questions is bizarre. Actual ISIS members have tweeted at Think Again Turn Away, so it’s not that they won’t make contact. Tossing insults and shitty memes at them is more likely to fuel their anger than make them have an epiphany about the Islamic State’s morality.
Screenshots via Ask.fm