Twitter suspensions helping in curbing ISIS’ reach: report

Washington :The reach of ISIS on Twitter has dwindled due to suspensions by the microblogging site that have resulted in drastic reduction of followers for recruitment purposes or disseminating information, according to a new report.

The report titled ‘The Islamic State’s Diminishing Returns on Twitter’ by the Programme on Extremism at the George Washington University’s Centre for Cyber and Homeland Security examined English-speaking ISIS supporters’ accounts for a 30-day period in August and September 2015 with additional samples measured at various times from June to October.

It found that Twitter’s consistent suspensions of ISIS-affiliated accounts reduced the number of repeat offenders, and accounts that returned did not regain the high number of followers they had originally.

The researchers – J M Berger, fellow at the Programme on Extremism, and Heather Perez, a law enforcement analyst – found that individuals who repeatedly created accounts after being suspended suffered massive reductions in follower counts.

Additionally, suspensions diminished overall activity from these accounts and the broader network, they found.

“Suspensions have a measurable effect in suppressing the activity of ISIS networks on Twitter,” said Berger, co-author of the study.

“Occasional large-scale suspensions, such as we saw after the Paris attacks, have dramatically reduced the size of ISIS’ presence on social media, and a lower level of routine suspensions hold the network flat in between these events,” he said.

Berger and Perez also found that ISIS supporters are exploring other social media platforms to communicate with one another, but the supporters continue to emphasise the need to maintain a presence on Twitter since they are less effective recruiting on smaller or more restrictive platforms.

ISIS supporters have also implemented other measures to combat suspensions, but many of these are rapidly rendered obsolete as companies take increasingly aggressive action, the report said.

The Programme on Extremism at the University provides analysis on issues related to violent and non-violent extremism, according to information available on the varsity’s website.