Twitter is actively used by ISIS activists as we all know, but a new report from the Program on Extremism at George Washington University claims there are at least 300 American sympathizers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on Twitter. Such sympathizers actively help and support the terrorist group in spreading its propaganda and actively recruiting individuals on the micro-blogging site.
What was common in such Twitter accounts?
Extensive interviews were done and court records and media reports were studied to create this report, which concluded that supporters of ISIS in America “spasmodically” create accounts that get suspended on being suspected of carrying out some illegal activities, but the game is a never-ending one.
It takes just a few hours to activate a new account with a slight variation in the username of a previously suspended account. The researchers also claimed that American ISIS supporters tend to be male, but of all the social media accounts examined, nearly a third appeared to be operated by women.
The report also stated that avatars of black flags, lions and green birds were the most common images used by the majority of American ISIS supporters on Twitter. All of them are symbols used to celebrate the virtues of martyrdom. Most of them make use of the English language in their posts.
How the accounts were identified
Identifying the accounts was not an easy task for the researchers, who used several clues to track them. Twitter’s geo-locating tools helped in the identification of some accounts, while some of them made use of the Arabic “al-Amriki,” or “the American,” in their Twitter handles, which helped in tracking. The use of language, spelling and cultural references of those users were also analyzed.
The researchers broke down the Twitter accounts into three categories of users: nodes, amplifiers and shout-outs. Those who primarily create content for the network were identified as the top voices in the ISIS Twitterspace and were classified under nodes. Those who retweet and favorite content from popular users were categorized as amplifiers.
The accounts that introduce new accounts to the community or promote the new accounts of the previously suspended users were categorized as shout-outs. For future recruits, American supporters at times act as “spotters.” Researchers also said that ISIS-related radicalization is not limited to social media by any means.