In 2015, when the Islamic State (ISIL) was at the peak of its propaganda activities, it had dozens of official outlets churning out hundreds of unique media products each week, framing its caliphate proto-state as a utopian alternative to the global status quo—a blissful place of stability, piety, and sunsets. However, as the years progressed and the coalition and its partners continued to advance in Syria and Iraq, its strategic communication operations altered course, becoming both less varied and less plentiful.
One of the first signs of their changing fortunes came in mid-2016, when the caliphate’s audio-visual capabilities temporarily dropped off a cliff online, its propaganda dissemination network on the Telegram app failing almost simultaneously. In the aftermath of this collapse, the group recovered, continuing to make propaganda (and lots of it) and adopting more resilient distribution tactics. Still, a new and less productive norm had emerged.