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09.58 15 Aug 2017


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Efforts by social media site Twitter to combat its use by ISIS extremists are proving effective according to new Irish research.

The study from VOX-Pol researchers at Dublin City University found that accounts connected to the terrorist group face “substantial and aggressive disruption” from the site’s administrators.

They found that in one 24-hour period, 65% of accounts tweeting links to ISIS propaganda were suspended within 17 hours.

However the study also warned that other violent jihadi groups have been able to maintain a strong social media presence while the focus of the Twitter action is directed against ISIS.

Disrupting Daesh

The study entitled Disrupting Daesh, Measuring the Takedown of Online Terrorist Material and Its Impacts was co-authored by DCU Professor Maura Conway alongside researchers and colleagues from the University of Sussex.

“Our study seeks to measure the impact of social media disruption of terrorism content and how effective the monitoring and removal of such content has been,” said Professor Conway.

“Our findings show that Twitter is strongly focused on disrupting Islamic State, which means that the platform is now a much less conducive environment for the group than it once was.

“However, this has enabled other violent jihadi groups to maintain their presence and to continue to spread their message with much less hindrance than that faced by IS.”

ISIS focus

The research found that jihadi accounts not linked to ISIS were not experiencing the same level of take-down by Twitter.

As a result, these accounts were able to send six times as many tweets, follow or “friend” four times as many accounts and gain 13 times as many followers as the accounts targeted by Twitter.

The researchers warned that Twitter is just one part of a wider jihadi social media network – with pro-ISIS accounts linked to 39 other sites.

The study highlighted the importance of focusing on the entire jihadist social media environment and of taking other groups into account besides IS in order to combat the spread of extremism online.


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