France Launches Online Offensive to Prevent Jihadist Recruitment

1-29-15 Stop Djihadisme screenshot
A screengrab from a "Stop Jihadism" video published by the French government on January 28, 2015. France is a top Western source country for jihadi volunteers and more than 100 have returned home after fighting in Syria and Iraq. "Stop Djihadisme"/YouTube

France is going on the offensive with an initiative to persuade potentially susceptible residents not to join terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State.

The French government published a video Wednesday titled “Stop-Djihadisme: Ils te disent…” or “Stop Jihadism: They tell you…,” which aims to debunk recruiters’ claims with grim realities.

The video and a related website were launched Wednesday in response to terrorist attacks earlier this month at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and at a kosher supermarket. Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack on the magazine, while the gunman in the supermarket attack reportedly claimed an affiliation with the Islamic State. France is also concerned about the increasing number of its residents traveling to Iraq and Syria to serve as fighters alongside the militant group. 

The two-minute video begins with screenshots from Facebook pages on which pro-jihad or pro-Islamic State images and messages have been posted. Then a succession of statements appear on the screen followed by counter-statements, all while images depicting violence and suffering run in the background.

“Join us and come aid the children of Syria,” is followed by:  “You will be complicit in the massacre of civilians.”

 “Sacrifice yourself by our side for a just cause,” is countered with:  “In reality, you'll find hell on earth and you'll die alone, far from home.”

The end of the video directs viewers to the “Stop Jihadism” website with the tagline “Act against the terrorist threat” in the top left corner.

The website contains sections about understanding the terrorist threat, learning about the state’s actions against it, decoding jihadist propaganda and mobilizing together.

The site includes other visuals easily shareable on social media, such as an infographic about the first signs that could alert friends and family that someone is undergoing a radicalization process. It claims warning signs include people no longer listening to music or participating in sports, rejecting members of their families and changing their eating habits. The more of these behaviors an individual displays, the infographic explains, the more crucial it is to alert someone to the signs.

1-29-15 Stop Djihadisme infographic This infographic published on France's "Stop Jihadism" website outlines warning signs of radicalization. www.stop-djihadisme.gouv.fr

Following the Paris attacks, the French government announced a €425 million plan to fight terrorism. “Terrorism has struck our soil in an unprecedented way… and the threat of terrorism remains high, French citizens deserve to know the truth,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said at a press conference announcing the plan. “We must act and act quickly, it is everyone’s responsibility, but foremost the government’s responsibility.”

The investment includes creating jobs to fight terrorism, the monitoring of people involved in “terrorist networks,” the placement of Muslim chaplains in prison facilities, the implementation of a “Passenger Name Record” system to store information on airline passengers, and cyberpatrolling, such as the creation of the “Stop Jihadism” website, to combat radicalization.

The campaign has drawn mixed reactions on social media, from the supportive to the mocking.