In 2015, Dr. Speckhard started the Breaking the ISIS Brand–the ISIS Defectors Counter-Narratives Project with support from the U.S. State Department. Since then, with additional support from the Embassy of Qatar in the US, Dr. Speckhard, along with ICSVE staff, have interviewed 275 ISIS defectors, returnees and captured ISIS cadres from Syria, Iraq, Western Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and the Balkans alongside 25 family members of those who went to ISIS, and two terrorist leader/ideologues, most captured on video. She has also, with ICSVE staff, interviewed 16 al Shabaab affiliates.
The ICSVE team, believing that real stories have the most impact for prevention and intervention, edited these in-depth video interviews of defectors denouncing the group into short video clips to upload on the Internet to fight ISIS’s online recruiting. The 250 video clips made thus far are in many cases subtitled in the 21 languages ISIS recruits in and have been focus-tested with success in Central and Southeast Asia, the Balkans, Western Europe, Jordan, Iraq and the United States and can be viewed on ICSVE’s YouTube channel. ICSVE research fellows have also focus-tested them for prevention and intervention purposes globally, specifically with ISIS endorsers on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and in Telegram chatrooms.
ICSVE is dedicated to breaking the ISIS brand and flooding the Internet with counter-narratives to fight what ISIS is saying about the ISIS “Caliphate” and introducing alternatives to the narratives employed by the terrorist group to attract recruits. Facebook partnered with ICSVE to reach millions of viewers in multiple countries in many different languages and the EU Commission also sponsored using them in the EU. The Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project has been lauded by the White House, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. State Department and many foreign governments as well as been covered in the Washington Post, in Time magazine, on NPR and in many other news networks and print outlets.
The Breaking the ISIS Brand counter-narrative project videos are being used for prevention in multiple countries to fight extremist recruitment in youth and adults and in targeted interventions with foreign fighter returnees and to monitor drivers of radicalization. Our hope is to offer powerful tools to delegitimize terrorist groups and their ideologies and diminish social support for them globally.