The Islamic State group attempts to survive in the information age
Leaked documents showing the Islamic State group’s (aka ISIL) plan for building a nation were recently published in The Guardian. Examples of the brutal enforcement of its own interpretation of Sharia law are all too familiar— burning a downed Jordanian pilot alive in a steel cage, systematic rape, and beheadings and mass murder of religious minorities—but these documents reveal another side of the Islamic State group. As The Guardian’s Shiv Malik tells it, the released documents present “a picture of a group that, although sworn to a founding principle of brutal violence, is equally set on more mundane matters such as health, education, commerce, communications and jobs. In short, it is building a state.” The Challenges of Building a Legitimate State In order to build and maintain a state, it is necessary to wrestle with data—i.e., generate, record, manage, access, and share information about infrastructure, economy and trade, military actions, internal policing, diplomacy, and social welfare, among other aspects of statehood. Decisions must be made about who gets access to what information, and how those controls will be designed, built, and enforced. States run on information, and if the Islamic State group intends to become one itself, then it too will have to get its philosophy on information straightened out. But there are barriers to its ability to do so that will prove insurmountable.