In response to the beheading of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, Agence France-Presse (AFP) released a statement saying that it would "no longer accept work from freelance journalists who travel to places where we ourselves would not venture" including Syria. The Boston-based GlobalPost, for whom Foley had been a contributor, released a statement saying "While we continue to send staff correspondents to Syria, we no longer accept freelance work from that war zone."
On 12 August 2014, ISIL started a campaign of beheading Western and Japanese civilian hostages (announced 12 August, James Foley 19 August, Steven Sotloff 2 September, David Haines 13 September, Hervé Gourdel 24 September, Alan Henning 3 October, Peter Kassig 16 November, Haruna Yukawa sometime January 2015, Kenji Goto 30 January 2015) marketed via the internet.
Jihadi John beheaded or participated in the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as British humanitarian aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, American aid worker Peter Kassig, Japanese private military contractor Haruna Yukawa, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, and 22 members of the Syrian armed forces in a period from August 2014 to January 2015.
On 4 September 2014, the BBC announced that a beheading scene from the episode's climatic battle had been edited out due to the recent murders of James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In the original scene, Robin would have decapitated the Sheriff, revealing that the Sheriff was a robot. Lines spoken by the Sheriff alluding to his unique nature remain in the edited episode; after replacing his severed head on his robot body, he goads Robin as he pursues him that someone who is "half man, half engine" is too much for him to fight.
During 2013 and part of 2014, an ISIL unit nicknamed the Beatles acquired and held 12 Western journalists hostage, along with aid workers and other foreign hostages, totalling 23 or 24 known hostages. A Polish journalist Marcin Suder was captured in July 2013 but escaped four months later. The unit executed American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and released beheading videos. Eight of the other journalists were released for ransom: Danish journalist Daniel Rye Ottosen, French journalists Didier François, Edouard Elias, Nicolas Hénin, and Pierre Torres, and Spanish journalists Marc Marginedas, Javier Espinosa, and Ricardo García Vilanova. The unit continues to hold hostage British journalist John Cantlie and a female aid worker.
On 4 July 2014, the U.S. bombed the "Osama bin Laden" ISIL military base in the village of Uqayrishah, Syria. Two dozen American Delta Force commandos then touched down in an effort to rescue hostages, including James Foley. The effort failed, with the hostages having been moved to another location days prior. In a series of videos, Foley, Steven Joel Sotloff, and several more hostages were murdered.