Sotloff’s parents decide to keep his Jewish roots and Israeli citizenship a secret from the media and the world at large, after his disappearance in Syria in August 2013. They fear that if his true identity is discovered, he would be at a greater risk of being tortured and killed, and orchestrate a yearlong campaign to delete all references connecting him to Judaism and Israel from the internet. A total of 150 individuals speaking 20 different languages work to remove every article, page, post, and tweet that could potentially endanger Sotloff. (His Jewishness and Israeli citizenship are only made public are his murder.) A friend tells interviewers:
We had information ISIS was not aware of Steven’s Jewish background, and certainly unaware of his Israeli citizenship – this is what we were told by other journalists who were with him and were released. He was killed because of his connections to the West and his American citizenship, not because of his ties to Israel.