Twitter has been trying to keep a lid on the propaganda being spread by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, but so far, its efforts have been largely unsuccessful. A new study indicates that at least 46,000 accounts on Twitter’s platform are in some way linked to ISIS.
That’s in spite of the fact that Twitter recently suspended as many as 2,000 accounts linked to the terrorist group.
Study reveals how much ISIS uses Twitter
The study was conducted by the Bookings Institution and Google Ideas. Rick Gladstone and Vindu Goel of The New York Times report that the study’s lead author said ISIS “is much more successful than other groups” in using the latest technology, i.e., Twitter, to its advantage.
Each time Twitter clamps down on a set of ISIS-linked accounts, even more pop up. According to the study, there is a group of ISIS sympathizers that tweet often and know how to use Twitter to maximize the reach of their message.
Twitter management threatened
Militants have been using Twitter to spread propaganda and publicize their executions of prisoners. But the more Twitter has attempted to tamp down on ISIS accounts, the more death threats against the platform’s management and workers have popped up.
J.M. Berger, the lead author of the study, reportedly said that the threats ISIS has made against Twitter workers and management highlight how reliant the terrorist group is on social media.
How the Twitter study was conducted
The researchers who conducted the study examined a number of accounts between September and December. They used criteria like how many times the accounts tweet, how many followers they have and the hashtags they use, among other things. The timing of the messages, the language and the type of device used to post those messages were also taken into consideration.
They then refined and filtered the data they collected, considering deceptive practices like the use of bots. The researchers said they discovered between 46,000 and 70,000 Twitter accounts that appear to have ties to ISIS, but they think the actual number is toward the low end of that range.
How successful is ISIS at using Twitter?
The accounts in question have an average of a thousand followers apiece, which is quite a bit higher than standard Twitter users, according to the researchers. They also said many of the followers are also account holders, which, creates a sort of echo. Berger thinks this will increase after Twitter’s suspension of thousands of ISIS-linked accounts.
Berger and others have been critical of the micro-blogging platform, but he admits that cracking down on so many accounts is easier said than done.