Author Biography

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D., is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). She has interviewed over 700 terrorists, their family members and supporters throughout the world. Over the past five years she has made interviews (n=239) with ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners, studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS, and developing the materials from these interviews. She also trains key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally. Her publications are found here: https://georgetown.academia.edu/AnneSpeckhard and on the ICSVE website http://www.icsve.org Follow @AnneSpeckhard

Molly Ellenberg is a Research Fellow at ICSVE, working on coding data from qualitative interviews, developing trainings for use with the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project videos, and assisting with the creation and analysis of the Facebook campaigns.



Subject Area Keywords

Counterterrorism, Europe and EU, Radicalization, Social media, Strategic communications, Terrorism / counterterrorism, Violent extremism


Despite the territorial demise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS], the group’s cyberoperations, which once drew an unprecedented 45,000 foreign terrorist fighters [FTFs] to their so-called Caliphate, continue to entice supporters online. ISIS’s slick, high-quality content encourages supporters to hope for the return of the Caliphate and to seek revenge upon those who destroyed it by executing attacks at home. The European Union [EU] was one of the highest contributors of FTFs to ISIS and continues to be a hotspot for ISIS directed and inspired attacks. The International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism [ICSVE] has produced over 180 counter narrative video clips featuring ISIS defectors, returnees, and imprisoned cadres denouncing the group, published in over 100 Facebook campaigns. This article details the results of 20 one-minute long counter narrative Facebook campaigns in eight EU countries. The results support marketing best practices of using shorter videos to increase viewer retention and suggest that EU viewers are more engaged with counter narratives in which the speaker is relatable and representative of the audience toward which the video is targeted.


The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


ICSVE wants to give special thanks to the European Commission’s Civil Society Empowerment Programme, the Embassy of Qatar in the United States, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and Facebook for supporting this project in part and for the Syrian Democratic Forces, Iraqi Falcons, Iraqi Counter Terrorism Services, Kenyan National Centre for Counter Terrorism, Albanian and Kosovar Justice Ministries and other American and European authorities and private citizens who helped the researcher gain access to ISIS prisoners and returnees. ICSVE also thanks our video editors as well as Haider Shaghati and Gabriel Sjöblom-Fodor for their translation work.