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ISIS Uses Trending Twitter Hashtags To Send Threats

ISIS is using trending hashtags to disseminate its propaganda and expand its social media presence.
Posted at 4:03 PM, Aug 26, 2014

ISIS' use of social media has been widely covered, and now the militant group has found a new way to use it to get people's attention: hashtag hijacking. 

ISIS supporters are using trending hashtags to post images — generally threatening ones — which then show up when users click on the trending hashtag. 

It was the militants' hijacking of the Napa quake hashtag that seemed to get outlets' attention. A writer for San Jose Mercury News decried the hijackings, writing, "Their speech threatens to erode what makes social media our new town center, particularly during an ongoing event like Sunday's quake."

Most of those tweets focused on the fate of Steven Sotloff, a kidnapped American journalist seen in the same video that purportedly shows James Foley's execution. 

Those images were accompanied by ISIS' own hashtag which said Sotloff's life is in the hands of President Obama — echoing demands made after Foley's death that the U.S. stop airstrikes in Iraq. 

U.S. officials have shown no intention of stopping, with airstrikes recently helping Iraqi fighters retake the Mosul Dam from ISIS fighters. 

PRESIDENT OBAMA: "This is going to take time. There will be many challenges ahead. Meanwhile, there should be no doubt that the United States military will continue to carry out the limited missions that I've authorized."

As CBS points out, the group's use of hijacking was noticed a couple of months ago during the World Cup, when ISIS tweeted gruesome photos using hashtags about the games. 

But the war of the hashtags hasn't been entirely one-sided. ISIS' opponents have also used Twitter to speak out against the group. 

The Washington Post reported on the trending hashtags "No2ISIS" and "PrayForIraq" back in June, when users posted images on Instagram as well as Twitter in defiance of the group. 

And earlier this month, Americans and other opponents of ISIS did some hijacking of their own, taking ISIS' hashtag "AmessagefromISIStoUS" and sending their own messages back at the group.

According to officials from the Department of Defense, President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over ISIS targets in Syria.

This video contains an image from Getty Images.