Researchers are studying issues such as what type of information and propaganda from terror organisations go viral on the social media, how that information spreads and what kind of people/ groups participate in its spread.
The study in this regard is being undertaken by researchers at Arizona State University in order to “develop better tools to detect extremist networks promoting violence and block their online content”, nationaldefensemagazine.org reported. “Terror groups like ISIS target those who feel alienated and marginalized within the society they live in. They rarely are able to recruit entire groups, especially in Western countries,” study leader Hasan Davulcu was quoted as saying.
Research shows that alienated individuals are more likely to fall prey to images than traditional forms of propaganda. The study will focus primarily on information cascades, “wherein large numbers of individuals participate to spread information and opinions across the globe, often times producing significant changes in attitudes and behaviors”, Davulcu said. “Understanding how these cascades happen is important to understanding the methods used by terror organisations for recruiting individuals through social media,” Davulcu added.
Co-researcher Paulo Shakarian was reported as saying that when looking at tweets that reached 50 recipients, less that two percent of those tweets end up going on to reach another 500 recipients. “The community structure matters in terms of the proliferation of information on social media. If a tweet can reach 50 individuals with diverse backgrounds, then it is more likely to spread,” he added. “We’re trying to understand the relationship between the online and the offline world,” he said. “The researchers have algorithms to track political online discourse in Malaysia, Indonesia and Britain, and are working on one for Libya,” Davulcu said.