In that seemingly endless array of US government programs intended to counter ISIS’ online recruitment, the Pentagon invested substantial money in a program called WebOps, meant to employee top language specialists to scour social media and talk potential recruits out of joining ISIS.
Those familiar with the program call it an absolute disaster, quickly becoming a laughingstock in social media circles for its incompetence, and having no measurable impact beyond costing money, and leading to investigations of impropriety.
Counter-propaganda efforts failing is nothing new, but the ways in which WebOps has failed are definitely unique, centering in no small part on their “Arabic specialists,” meant to talk ISIS recruits out of joining, having no experience in counter-propaganda, little to no understanding of Islam, and not even being able to speak Arabic very well.
This has been the source of a lot of mocking from would be targets, who get approached and quickly discover the specialists are unintelligible, using incorrect words all over the place. Workers said that one translator had mixed up the word authority with the word for salad, and made numerous social media posts about the Palestinian Authority which referred to it as Palestinian Salad.
While Centcom is downplaying the problems and refusing to discuss the matter too directly, reports are that whistleblowers have been pushing investigations into the program, even as the Pentagon has begun taking bids on another $500 million scheme that aims to do what WebOps was supposed to be doing, but isn’t.