A new report into how Islamic State (ISIS) is using Twitter to further its campaign and recruitment has shown that between September and December last year, its supporters used 46,000 Twitter accounts.
Published by The Brookings Project on US Relations with the Islamic World, the report's authors say this figure is in fact a conservative estimate, with their maximum estimate reaching as high as 70,000, which they say is less likely.
At an average of 1,000 followers each, the typical ISIS supporter account is thereby able to reach more people than the average Twitter user and also more productive with higher rates of activity compared with non-ISIS followers.
However, charting the organisation’s influence over its ardent followers is largely down to a small number of Twitter profiles – between 500 and 2,000 – who are considered ‘hyperactive’ because of a deluge of tweets being sent in a short period of time.
Unsurprisingly, during the four-month Twitter analysis, Twitter had begun to actively delete accounts that supported ISIS and their activities with a minimum of 1,000 recorded to have been deleted, particularly the most vocal and consistent posters.
Map of the location of ISIS accounts, predominantly in Syria and Iraq. Screenshot via The Brookings Project on US Relations with the Islamic World
Proliferation of Twitter bots
Speaking of the effect that banning has on ISIS’ objectives and its appearance online, the report says the obvious benefits of potentially hindering new recruits also has an unfortunate side effect.
“While suspensions appear to have created obstacles to supporters joining ISIS’ social network, they also isolate ISIS supporters online,” the report says. “This could increase the speed and intensity of radicalisation for those who do manage to enter the network, and hinder organic social pressures that could lead to de-radicalisation.”
In order to get as much proliferation on Twitter, a number of accounts were using Twitter bots to spam tweets to their followers, most notably through the knzmuslim bot, which in one day managed to send 1m tweets alone, or 1,000 tweets per minute.
Map of Middle East image via Shutterstock