An Alarming Number Of Twitter Accounts Are Being Associated With ISIS

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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A report out this week examining the social media presence of ISIS counted at least 46,000 Twitter accounts associated with the terrorist group in the latter months of 2014.

The Brookings Institution published the report spotted by The Hill Thursday, which breaks down the demographics of Twitter users associated with ISIS — 20 percent of whom are native English speakers.

According to the report, 75 percent listed Arabic as their primary language and each account has an average following of about 1,000 Twitter users. A small group of between 500 and 2,000 supporter accounts are largely behind ISIS’s growth on social media.

“By virtue of its larger number of supporters and highly organized tactics,” the authors wrote, “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.”

Twitter deleted at least 1,000 ISIS-supporting accounts between September and December of last year, though the study authors said that number could be several times higher.

Though deleting the accounts seemingly helps slow the spread of the groups influence online in the macro sense, deletion could also have the isolating effect of increasing the intensity and radicalization of those ISIS is able to reach, according to the report.

“Social media companies and the U.S government must work together to devise appropriate responses to extremism on social media,” the report authors wrote. “Approaches to the the problem of extremist use of social media are most likely to succeed when they are mainstreamed into wider dialogues among the wide range of community, private and public stakeholders.”

The report follows a request by the Obama administration last month that major Silicon Valley companies help combat the spread of Islamic extremist propaganda online by engaging outside of the government’s efforts.

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Giuseppe Macri