Report: ISIS-Related Mobilization, Support in U.S. “Unprecedented”
A new report released by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism labels ISIS-related mobilization in the United States as “unprecedented.”
The report, “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa,” provides an in-depth study of the group’s appeal in America, and how social media has made it easier to share information and connect extremists around the globe.
“Social media plays a crucial role in the radicalization, and, at times, mobilization of U.S.-based ISIS sympathizers,” the report states.
Researchers identified approximately 300 American or U.S.-based ISIS sympathizers who are active on social media and use it to spread propaganda and interacting with like-minded individuals.
Twitter, in particular, is often used, and on the social media platform American ISIS sympathizers “spasmodically create accounts that often get suspended in a never-ending cat-and-mouse game.” Some accounts (“nodes”) are used to generate content, while others (“amplifiers”) retweet material, and others (the “shout-outs”) promote newly created accounts of suspended users.
“Some members of this online echo chamber eventually make it the leap from keyboard warriors to actual militancy,” notes the report.
According to the report, U.S. authorities have cited over 250 Americans who have travelled or attempted to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, and that 900 active investigations against ISIS sympathizers are ongoing in all 50 states.
Since March 2014, 71 individuals have been charged with ISIS-related activities – a record number of terrorism-related arrests for any year since 9/11. Of those charged, the average age is 26, 86% are male, the activities were located in 21 states, 51% traveled or attempted to travel abroad, 27% were involved in plots to carry out attacks on U.S. soil, and 55% were arrested in an operation involving an informant and/or an undercover agent.
Indicating the broad appeal of ISIS-driven extremist ideology, the report found that the profiles of individuals involved in ISIS-related activities in the U.S. varied widely in race, age, social class, education, and family background.
“Their motivations are equally diverse and defy easy analysis,” noted the report.
That fact makes the job of law enforcement and homeland security officials all the more difficult.
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