A study has found that hundreds tweet more than 150 messages per day. One in five ISIS supporters write in the English language.
“The Islamic State, known as ISIS or ISIL, has exploited social media, most notoriously Twitter, to send its propaganda and messaging out to the world and to draw in people vulnerable to radicalisation,” say J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan, authors of a study which analyses the accounts from which Islamic terrorists spread their messages.
“By virtue of its large number of supporters and highly organised tactics, ISIS has been able to exert an outsized impact on how the world perceives it, by disseminating images of graphic violence (including the beheading of Western journalists and aid workers and more recently, the immolation of a Jordanian air force pilot), while using social media to attract new recruits and inspire lone actor attacks”.
In the study, the authors mapped the locations, preferred languages, and the number and type of followers of these accounts.
Some of the key findings:
- From September through December 2014, the authors estimate that at least 46,000 Twitter accounts were used by ISIS supporters, although not all of them were active at the same time.
- Typical ISIS supporters were located within the organisation’s territories in Syria and Iraq, as well as in regions contested by ISIS. Hundreds of ISIS-supporting accounts sent tweets with location metadata embedded.
- Almost one in five ISIS supporters selected English as their primary language when using Twitter. Three quarters selected Arabic.
- ISIS-supporting accounts had an average of about 1,000 followers each, considerably higher than an ordinary Twitter user. ISIS-supporting accounts were also considerably more active than non-supporting users.
- Much of ISIS’s social media success can be attributed to a relatively small group of hyperactive users, numbering between 500 and 2,000 accounts, which tweet in concentrated bursts of high volume.
TWITTER SUSPENDS SOME ACCOUNTS
Twitter closes down accounts which support ISIS. “A minimum of 1,000 ISIS-supporting accounts were suspended by Twitter between September and December 2014. Accounts that tweeted most often and had the most followers were most likely to be suspended,” explained the authors. Nevertheless, the rate of new accounts which support Islamic terrorism is higher.
You can download the PDF of the full study on Brookings’ website.