How Twitter users are ridiculing ISIS with cartoon memes

Meet ISIS-chan. The cartoon character designed to dilute ISIS' online power.

Individuals are using manga to drown out ISIS propaganda. The birth of ISIS-chan (Japanese: ISISちゃん, Aishisu Chan) took place in January to damage ISIS’ image SEO.

ISIS-chan’s popularity increased after hacktivist group Anonymous targeted and exposed sympathetic ISIS Twitter accounts.

The use of ISIS-chan comes with its own set of rules: do not insult Islam, avoid Islamic iconography and avoid naming Allah or the Prophet Muhammad. Alongside a strict no-gore, no-porn policy.

At the turn of 2015, an alleged ISIS account attempted to spread propaganda on unrelated Japanese hashtags. Examples included ‘Daikan’ (a term to describe the coldest day of the year) and ‘Zuwaigani‘ (queen crab). A hashtag dedicated to Hitoshi Saito, the two-time judo Olympic gold medalist, who died on January 20, after a battle with cancer, became a target.

The propaganda depicted the impeding peril of hostages Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa. Some created the hashtag #ISISクソコラグランプリ (ISIS kusokora guranpuri or ISIS crappy collage grand prix) to invert fear and ridicule the terror group.

ISIS had threatened to murder both men unless Japan paid a $200m ransom – the same amount President Shinzo Abe donated to countries fighting the group.

Yukawa’s murder preceded Goto‘s; both died at the hands of Muhammad Emwazi (Jihadi John). Goto’s murder became Japan’s ‘own 9/11‘.

A minority shattered the collective national grief as six Japanese mosques and a Muslim organisation received threatening emails and phonecalls a month later. Messages included “Get out of Japan right now if you don’t want to be killed” and “Religion of murderers”. But as news of abusive messages towards a mosque in Nagoya spread – individuals responded with a bouquet of flowers that bloomed into messages of support and tolerance.

These hashtags prove that flooding online channels with counter-speech can work with images, not just words.