Supporters of the terrorist group, Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, popularly known as ISIS, used at least 46,000 Twitter accounts from September through November last year, although not all the accounts were active at the same time. This, according to a new Brookings Institution study.
Government officials have been saying that the Islamic State has been one of the most adept terrorist groups in using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to spread propaganda and recruit and radicalize individuals.
According to Fierce Home Land Security, the Washington D.C.-based think tank said it collected “extremely robust data” on about 50,000 accounts with at least 30,000 of them “accurately described” as belonging to Islamic State supporters and controlled by a human user. The think tank also collected partial data on another 1.9 million accounts and estimated that an additional 16,000 supporters are in that set.
However, the researchers added that at the time they began their data collection efforts last September, Twitter began “aggressively” suspending large numbers of Islamic State-supporting accounts “for tweeting graphic images and videos of the beheadings of Western hostages.”
As a result, many of the supporter accounts – “perhaps most” – were created in response to either replace suspended ones or as backup accounts in case primary ones were taken down again, the study said. And while such suspensions limit the reach and scope of the terrorist group’s activities on social media, they don’t eliminate them, it added.
Additionally, about 73 percent of the Twitter supporters selected Arabic to fill out their Twitter profile information (which doesn’t necessarily correspond to the language used in tweets), while about 18 percent used English as their primary language. Six percent selected French, the study found. Each user, on average, had more than 2,200 tweets over the lifetime of the account and the average number of followers were about 1,000, which is much higher than an ordinary Twitter users, the study found.