This paper focuses on the attempts by Daesh to use Twitter to disseminate its online magazine, 'Rumiyah'. It examines a dataset of 11,520 tweets mentioning 'Rumiyah' that contained an outlink, to evaluate the success of Daesh’s attempts to use Twitter as a gateway to issues of its magazine.
- The primary tactic that Daesh employed was to post outlinks to a large number of different file-sharing sites. Most of these sites were smaller platforms, such as justpaste.it. There was no evidence of Daesh seeking to signpost Twitter users to copies of Rumiyah available from repositories maintained by researchers or NGOs.
- Twitter was effective in its response to Daesh’s attempts to use its platform as a gateway to Rumiyah. The majority of outlinks to a PDF of the magazine either no longer work or meet with a requirement for a subscription and/or password. Moreover, a high proportion of the user accounts that posted outlinks to PDFs of Rumiyah were suspended and the tweets that these accounts posted received relatively few retweets.
- Botnets were responsible for a significant number of the tweets. Almost one-third of the tweets were the product of the ‘Reffy Botnet’ (ref.gl). This is a URL shortener that is commonly used in networks of ill-intent. Accounts that use it are now suspended by Twitter.
- Roughly one-third of the tweets outlinked to news reports and coverage of Rumiyah. Some of this news coverage had the effect of amplifying the message contained in the magazine. This raises questions about the role of traditional news media in the dissemination of terrorist propaganda.
Summary of Recommendations
- Where possible, Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) members should develop shared automated systems that use behavioural cues to block terrorist content.
- There is a pressing need to expand membership of the GIFCT.
- Dialogue is needed between the GIFCT and the news media regarding the use of social media to share news coverage that has the effect of amplifying the terrorist message.
Stuart Macdonald is Professor of Law in the School of Law at Swansea University
Daniel Grinnell is Research Associate in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University
Anina Kinzel is a Doctoral Candidate in Applied Linguistics at Swansea University
Nuria Lorenzo-Dus is Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Applied Linguistics at Swansea University
The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors, and do not reflect the views of RUSI or any other institution.