Deborah Cornwall reported this story on Thursday, September 25, 2014

CHRIS UHLMANN: Cyber experts have warned Islamic State has such a sophisticated social media machine there will also have to be a virtual war on terror.

Cyber security analyst Tobias Feakin says powerful terrorist messages are proving so effective in radicalising disaffected Muslims, it poses an unprecedented challenge to governments.

The only effective response is an equally compelling campaign from the West but that will only work if the community and not governments take the lead.

Deborah Cornwall has this report.

CHILDEN (chanting): Allahu Akbar…

DEBORAH CORNWALL: A video of children singing the praises of Allah is just one of hundreds of so-called mujatweets filtered through the Twittersphere every week.

In another there’s vision of Islamic State soldiers handing out candy to Syrian orphans.

VOICE FROM VIDEO (translated): As you can see there are children, orphans, families. We’re here to help them.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: These heavily produced messages from the frontline show the human faces behind the global fight to annihilate the infidel – messages delivered with such extraordinary sophistication, cyber experts say the Islamic State media machine has left the West scrambling to respond.

Tobias Feakin, director of international cyber policy at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

TOBIAS FEAKIN: How do you adapt quickly and effectively to new methods of communication which propagate propaganda messages from terrorist groupings? That is very difficult for governments to grapple with.

It’s going to be impossible to completely close it down and that’s where thinking about, you know, what are the kinds of levers that a government has to be able to counter narratives online and counter messages, that’s really where governments have to work very hard.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups are past masters at using media. Bin Laden’s video-taped messages were broadcast across the world to chilling effect and by the mid-2000’s Al Qaeda had extended its reach to the English speaking world on blogs, YouTube and Facebook.

But Tobias Feakin says the Islamic State media machine now has such unprecedented reach, it’s a central challenge to the war on terrorism.

TOBIAS FEAKIN: So really what we’ve reached now is that a younger set of members of IS who’ve grown up with technology who are incredibly tech savvy. And, you know, they use the whole range of different applications, be it Sound Cloud to release audio reports of what’s going on on the front lines, they use Just Paste to publish summaries of battles and pictures of battles. And they also have a very sophisticated media outlet, Al Hayat, which produces propaganda videos which seem to resonate quite strongly with a certain audience.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: He says the only prospect of an effective fight-back on social media for the West is for Governments to reach out to the whole community.

TOBIAS FEAKIN: To be frank, governments aren’t going to be the best source for a compelling online counter-narrative because as soon as you have a government tag, it becomes inherently unfashionable. But they can facilitate other influential voices and making them more media and tech savvy so that they can actually begin to respond to this new social media phenomenon that we’re experiencing right now.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: One of those fresh new voices is Abudullah-X, a self-styled warrior poet who produces an online animated series pitched directly at disaffected Western-born Muslim youth.