A new study has shown that US supporters of organisation Islamic State prefer Twitter to other social media platforms when it comes to spreading propaganda.
The report, published by George Washington University, demonstrated the influence of the micro-blogging website. In an analysis of the social media activity of 400 US-based followers of IS, it found that the average age is around 26, more than 50% have attempted to travel abroad and 40% are Muslim converts.
Analysts pointed out a thriving Twitter scene, and monitored nearly 300 accounts over a period of six months. One example the University cited was that of 22-year-old Mohammad Oda Dakhlalla and his wife Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 19. Mr. Dakhlalla is the son of an imam, while Mrs. Young, the daughter of a police officer, was a chemistry student. The couple planned to move to Syria to join IS, but Dakhlalla’s Twitter posts soon caught the attention of the FBI, who arrested the pair at an airport.
Lorenzo Vidino, a co-author of the report, said:
“It is an internet community with different roles and personalities, just like you have a community of Justin Bieber fans.
“They’re getting better and better at it and there’s much more co-ordination than we thought. They get trolled so they have a list where the handles of trolls are shared.”
The report noted that thousands of Americans consume IS propaganda across a range of social media platforms, but Twitter was by far the platform of choice. Suspended accounts are touted as a badge of honour, and their owners often create new accounts and set to work in rebuilding their following.
A significant proportion of those studied used Twitter avatars consisting of lions, green birds and black flags. Vidino added:
“They are kids of their generation playing with avatars. Some change pictures on almost a daily basis. These are very suburban, normal American culture kind of kids with an Isis sympathy. It’s a hybrid identity.”