Social Networks

Twitter terrorism

Abstract summary

Experts suggest Twitter is not a typical social network, with its topological characteristics making it more akin to a broadcast medium – comprising of a unique playing field of mass media, evangelists, and grassroots contributors (Cha, Benevenuto, Haddadi, & Gummadi, 2012). Dissecting Twitter’s affordances of anonymity, identity, and spreadability through differential association theory, statistics, and academic reports on digital community and identity, we explore how the terrorist organisation ISIL have been able to adopt and adapt to virtual networks such as Twitter to expand and employ their strategies. We argue that Twitter has provided extremist groups the opportunity to grow exponentially whilst also allowing for them to influence their media portrayal and narrative for their own strategic benefit.

Twitter: A platform for community development

The development of Web 2.0 and its participatory nature has seen a great shift in the way media is developed and consumed, with social networking platforms such as Twitter now moving to the forefront of this communicative evolution. However, experts suggest Twitter is not a typical social network, with its topological characteristics – only 22% follows are reciprocal (Jackson, 2010) and 10% of public users make 90% of the platform’s Tweets (Solis, 2009) – making it more akin to a broadcast medium comprising a unique playing field of mass media, evangelists, and grassroots contributors (Cha, Benevenuto, Haddadi, & Gummadi, 2012). This broadcast-like nature of Twitter has resulted in it becoming a social network where engaging in news and current affairs has become one of its key uses (Rosenstiel, Sonderman, Loker, Kjarval, 2015), with studies showing that 71% of Americans on Twitter use it for news-related content (Cooper, 2019). This trust in Twitter as a contemporary news platform alongside its plethora of affordances, including anonymity, spreadability, and versatility allows for a unique communication network. However, Twitter’s functions can allow for extremist groups and terrorist organisations such as ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) to strengthen and grow their communities, using the social network’s identity and community-building features to recruit members whilst also adopting its broadcast-like nature to spread its propaganda.

Anonymity and identity as strategy

Social media platforms like Twitter have been a relatively safe and secure place for people to explore and develop their identity as well as find a community in which they can belong. A key reason for contemporary audiences’ utilisation of such networks for identity formation is due the anonymity they provide, with research showing that this affordance plays a decisive role in the fact that “the willingness to disclose information is significantly higher in the context of computer-mediated communications than in face-to-face settings” (Misoch, 2015, p. 535). In the context of Twitter specifically, it is suggested that its absence of a real-name policy has made the platform a popular social network for users to share and access information without being identifiable (Peddinti, Ross, & Capos, 2017, p. 84), a claim that is supported through studies that have found that at least one-quarter of the Twitter population chooses to keep some level of anonymity, with sensitive Twitter communities (marijuana, Islamophobia, gay/lesbian) having the largest percentage of anonymous accounts (Peddinti, Ross, & Capos, 2017, p. 85). However, whilst Twitter’s communicative anonymity can prove cathartic for its users, allowing them to feel more comfortable in disclosing ideas, emotions, and thoughts that they would not necessarily discuss in the ‘real’ world, it is this aspect of the platform that also provides communities the opportunity to negatively utilise and manipulate the network for their own benefit.

With Twitter’s functions allowing for its users to ultimately be whoever they wish to be, the platform becomes an opportunity for identity construction and development. Through anonymity, no one has to know the real identity of a user, allowing them to hide their unwanted, stressful features (e.g. low self-esteem, anxiety, physical appearance, social standing) and shape themselves into an identity of which that they believe others will accept and approve (Dogan & Colak, 2016, p. 180). This online identity is greatly influenced by those whom the individual interacts with in their online community, a phenomenon that can be related to the theory of differential association – explained as a situation in which individuals with a whom a person associates, and who supply definitions both favourable and unfavourable to deviant behaviour (Freiburger & Crane, 2008, p. 312) – this theory can help in dissecting ISIL’s success through mediums like that of Twitter. Although differential association has existed pre-Internet, theorists have suggested the Internet has proved significantly more effective in building such influential relationships, especially when taking into consideration the lack of prior attachment to ‘real’ world groups alongside consistent feelings of isolation a lot of Web-reliant users have (Freiburger & Crance, 2008, p. 313). This reality allows for organisations like ISIL to easily use Twitter to grow its audience of sympathisers, coaxing impressionable and lonely users with propaganda, tempting them with an opportunity of purpose and meaning, as well as a community. This propaganda is often strategically adapted to suit specific demographics, including videos featuring British fighters glamourizing and encouraging young men to join their fight (made for a Western-specific audience) (Awan, 2017, p. 138), and Tweets “urging all young Muslims to migrate to [ISIL]-controlled territory” (Ozeren, Hekim, Elmas, & Canbegi, 2018, p. 118), where they can truly live under Islam law, as well suggesting it is their religious duty to protect their faith (made for a universal Muslim audience) (Ozeren, Hekim, Elmas, & Canbegi, 2018, p. 118); as previously mentioned, although each example is constructed for varying demographics, each makes a promise of purpose and community to the susceptible virtual audience.

Individual users are not the only adoptees of Twitter who are able to employ its anonymity and identity features to influence perceptions of themselves. ISIL itself has been able to manipulate its depiction on social media to assist in the organisation’s narrative and media portrayal, political scholar Jytte Klausen explaining, “Twitter was being used by Isis members to create an illusion that the group was more powerful than it actually was” (2015, as cited in Awan, 2017). This idea is further reiterated through American jihadist Omar Hammami’s declaration: “The war of narratives has become even more important than the war of navies, napalms, and knives” (Cottee, 2015, as cited in Al-Rawi & Groshek, 2018, p. 3). With one of the key purposes of ISIL’s Twitter strategy to gain sympathisers that in turn will strengthen the group’s power, the jihadist group uses social media to twist previous perceptions of them constructed through mainstream media – the jihadists favouring a ‘them vs. us’ narrative, with ISIL placed as the hero. To do this, ISIL uses its Al Hayat Media Centre to produce and manage a major portion of its terrorist propaganda consisting of media pieces “depicting ISIL as fighters with a ‘moral conscious’, showing them helping civilians, … visiting injured comrades in hospital, and offering children sweets” (Awan, 2017, p. 139), with these images and videos often accompanied by motivational and powerful written copy which aims to appeal to Twitter’s youth audience (Awan, 2017). As originally mentioned in the introduction, Twitter ultimately acts a media network comprising of contributors of varying backgrounds, skills, and knowledge, however, as suggested by computer science researcher Judith Donath, the ambiguity of identity in the virtual world is disembodied and ambiguous, these limited identity cues then often result in people accepting at face value a writer’s claims of credibility (1996). This understanding has allowed for groups such as ISIL to navigate Twitter in a way that allows for their propaganda to infiltrate spaces shared with legitimate information and media sources, in turn deceiving members of Twitter’s virtual community whilst gaining a myriad of global supporters.

Jihad 3.0

The already mentioned functions and affordances of a platform such as Twitter as both a social and broadcasting network, has provided terrorist groups with an opportunity to utilise the Web to have direct influence on the contemporary media, in turn influencing their portrayal within mainstream media. This Web-based strategy was first adopted by, and continues to be used jihadist groups to strength media and political momentum. ‘Islamic’ terrorism or also known as ‘Jihadist’ terrorism, is categorised by experts as ‘new’ terrorism and is “marked by different motives, actors, sponsors, and greater lethality” (Keene, 2011, p. 360). For groups such as ISIL and its predecessor Al-Qaeda, these new motives and actors see a greater reliance on the adoption of contemporary communicative technology for their message to directly access a global reach. Founded in 1988 by Osama Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda was a pioneer in the utilisation of the Internet’s offerings to achieve greater power and success, in particular, taking greater control of the terrorist group’s narrative portrayal in both local and international media. Documents have been uncovered from Bin Laden reaffirming Web media’s prominence in Al-Qaeda’s tactics, stating “media occupies the greater portion of the battle today… It is obvious that the media war in this century is one of the strongest methods; in fact, its ratio may reach 90 percent of the total preparation for the battles” (as cited in Al-Rawi & Groshek, 2018, p. 3). This reality of ‘new’ terrorism has led to scholars arguing that there is an interdependent relationship between terrorism and media, as these groups “thrive on the oxygen of publicity” (Wilkinson, 1997, as cited in Al-Rawi & Groshek, 2018, p. 2), a relationship that has seen terrorist groups flourish with the development of social media platforms in the Web 2.0 era. As explained by political scholar Jytte Klausen (2014), “social media has changed the dynamic fundamentally… [eliminating] terrorists’ dependency on mainstream media, reversing the relationship by making mainstream media dependent on the jihadist-run social media” (p. 4).

Formed in 1999, ISIL was originally an allegiant of Al-Qaeda and began to find independent prominence in 2011 during growing instability in Iraq and Syria. Although the group is infamous for the instigation of several major international terrorist attacks within the last decade, specialists claim the “most confounding aspect of ISIS is the organisation’s unprecedented ability to capitalise on social media to further its efforts” (Brooking & Singer, 2016, as cited in Lieber & Reiley, 2016, p. 48). Being dubbed by experts as Jihad 3.0 (Al-Rawi & Groshek, 2018, p .2), the jihadist organisation’s complex media campaigns that incorporate the use of professional graphics, high-tech videography, and skilled branding, employs a variety of Twitter’s affordances, including its functions of anonymity and spreadability, to regain control of the terrorist organisation’s narrative, spread its propaganda, and grows its community of sympathisers.

Crowdsourced propaganda

ISIL, unlike Al-Qaeda, understands the importance of creating a strategy and campaign that focuses on the global masses rather than a select few elite figures and communities. One of the key online written works that helped in establishing the ideological foundations of ISIL placed a great emphasis on this new approach, expressing a need for a media division “whose purpose is to communicate what we want to say to the masses and focus their attention on it, even if this requires exposing the group to danger that is comparable to the danger of a military operation”. On Web 2.0 media platforms, especially Twitter, the power is generally with the people, thus meaning the “role of media politics is to gain [people’s] sympathy, or at the very lease neutralise them” (Naji, 2004, as cited in Al-Rawi & Groshek, 2018, p. 3). However, ISIL’s Twitter strategy does not stop at just recruiting sympathisers for support, the group also takes advantage of the platform’s participatory nature to establish a complex network of both active and passive jihadist propagandists to further spread the ISIL message, a strategy that has ultimately resulted in the group’s biggest success.

As ISIL’s social media tactics became more apparent to Western democracy, security restrictions and privacy implications lessened the group’s direct stronghold over their Twitter community, however the platform’s networking affordances has allowed for the jihadist group to easily outsource their media operations to their willing followers. Klausen explains that Twitter’s lateral social environment is the perfect environment for such outsourcing tactics, the decentralised functioning allowing for ease of participation and sharing ideas; this low-cost means of dissemination through cross-posting and retweeting is also more resistant to policing than previous strategies (2014, p. 3). If willing, ISIL’s followers are provided the opportunity to partake in a “social media literary crash course” (Al-Rawi & Groshek, 2018, p. 4), training the users in whom to follow and block on Twitter, how and what to retweet, and how to employ the use of the Dark Web and VPNs for added privacy. Adding to the previously mentioned incentive of ‘belonging’, ISIL also assures some users ‘divine’ rewards for their endeavours, as well as entrusting select users with exclusive information and media to distribute to the online community (Koerner, 2016). As explained by author Brendan I. Koerner, some supporters within ISIL’s Twitter community have been able reach positions of significant authoritative and influential power, using their social networks to generate excitement in virtual spaces and consequently allowing the Islamic State to maintain a degree of influence over its crowdsourced partners (2016).

When summarised by researchers, ISIL’s Twitter strategy is ultimately focused on “spamming and disseminating news on its military achievements, uttering threats against its enemies as well as attacking Shiites” (Al-Rawi & Groshek, 2018, p. 9), all of which is seemingly outsourced to their digital recruits to perform – yet this tactic has seen significant success for the jihads. Experts explain that in Web 2.0, “reporting is no longer restricted in the domain of the official media… [therefore, amateur media] is then able to easily convince and mislead audiences as to the reality of the situation” (Keene, 2011, p. 362). This reality combined with statistics conveying that Internet users rely on such factors as professionalism of design and usability to judge a source’s reliability rather than the author’s identity and credentials (Warnick, 2004, p. 262), has resulted in a digital environment where well-designed terrorist propaganda prevails over traditional fact media. Evidence of this reality is made apparent when viewing key mainstream depiction of ISIL, media broadcasters mostly utilising fear-mongering media (execution videos, hostage interviews, Islamic State flag) that was originally released by the jihadists’ virtual network with this specific intent of potential virality and media attention.


Social networks support the free development and interaction of new and emerging communities, no matter the community’s intention, whether good or bad. The integration of jihadist propaganda and influence across a public and familiar Web platform such as Twitter makes apparent the possible dangers of interacting and consuming within a Web network community that relies heavily on participatory culture. Through exploring ISIL’s adoption and utilisation of Twitter’s affordances of identity and community establishment, global communication, and media broadcast influence to expand their community and power, this considerably negative aspect of the connective nature of social networks is uncovered. The succeeding impact that ISIL’s Web actions then have over mainstream broadcast media also conveys the implications of Twitter users’ utilisation of the social platform, in which anyone with an account can contribute and publish, as a reliable source of news and social commentary.


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Ozeren, S., Hekim, H., Elmas, M. S., & Canbegi, H. I. (2018). An analysis of ISIS propaganda and recruitment activities targeting the Turkish-speaking population. International Annals of Criminology, 56(1), 105-121.

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24 replies on “Twitter terrorism”

Hi Lachlan
I found your paper very enlightening to say the least, I particular liked the way you introduced us to Twitter that it seems such a positive and well intentioned collaborative platform.
I liked you description of Identity Construction before you then take us down a dark path where terrorism meets Twitter and especially with the activities you highlighted with ISIL which make Twitter part of their arsenal of weapons, a sad parody and massive challenge for Twitters currency and social standing.
I definitely picked up a lot from your paper that I was not aware of on some the ways Twitter has been used, a well researched piece.


Hi Gerard,

Thanks for your reply!
I’m glad you were interested in my exploration of identity-building before dissecting ISIL’s use of the platform. Social media platforms like Twitter are often celebrated for these functions and rightly so, but the Web is almost a free-for-all thus meaning anyone can do as these please with these functions, as shown by my paper!
Your comment on the impact this would have on Twitter’s currency and social standing makes me wonder if this situation has had any overall impact on the platform, negative or positive? As I know they have since implemented a lot of safety systems in order to combat terrorist use.

Hi Lachlan,

You’ve written a thoroughly researched and very well articulated paper – congratulations!

I learned a lot more detail around ISIL’s activities and methods on Twitter and their actions certainly affirm that there is a scary and dark side to social media – not surprising in that there is a scary and dark side to human beings all over.

The affordances of Twitter to construct identity and use it to advantage to manipulate others are really well demonstrated. The actions of terrorist leaders are not unlike the actions of sex predators who construct identity to lure vulnerable young victims and the outcomes are just as horrible, though it is interesting to note the affordances of different types of social network sites – Facebook would be a more likely vehicle for sex predators, whereas Twitter is more appealing for terrorist groups because as you demonstrate it is paraded as “akin to a broadcast medium” and some posts seeking to gain sympathy can be passed off as news stories.

Your paper also got me thinking about where on earth social media would take us in the event of a World War. I wonder if it would all be just too overwhelming and Governments would introduce new governance to either shut it down or localize it – it’s hard to imagine what could be the possibilities. Perhaps all nations would adopt China-like policy around social media in such events? Certainly the current pandemic situation (that is very much a global event) has demonstrated the power of social networks to influence and inform during something that effects citizens everywhere and is no longer just a problem ‘over there’.

I don’t’ use Twitter personally, so I found your paper very informative and a fascinating read.

Top job!


Hi Leanne,

I haven’t used much of Twitter either! However, after my research uncovered that it is primarily a social platform that acts as a broadcast medium I’ve realised each time I’ve attempted to use it I was hoping to find something similar to Facebook. Perhaps next time I sign up I will last a bit longer knowing how it properly functions!
I loved your reflection on the outcome of social media during a world war. I did some further digging on free speech and censorship across social media and came across this:
If all social platforms are private companies and can choose to censorship what they please, does that mean they can take a side during a major war? This could potentially lead to a biased, propaganda-like scenario.

Hey Lachlan!
Good to see your article – I’ve been wanting to read it since I saw your comments popping up.
I like that your abstract was succinct and laid out what you were arguing clearly.
Twitter is definitely a great example of many, many worlds colliding from its differing use from each user. I remember once tweeting about watching Gossip Girl when I was younger, and having a troll reply to me with a significant spoiler. You really get all kinds of uses out of it.
A lot of my friends, especially LGBTQIA+, use private accounts as a mental health outlet to express their feelings while also being hidden. I enjoyed reading about your research on this too.
It reminded me of Mythic Quest: Ravens Banquet, where they have a certain unsavoury group also use the game to connect and form a community. Have you seen Mythic Quest? Great show, but also a good commentary on how games and digital life connect.
I liked how you talked about how they educate their followers about social media. It’s important to raise awareness that they are intelligent and do have unique tactics helped by the Internet. While I was reading I was like – shut down Twitter in that part of the world! And then you answered my thoughts telling me that they outsource.
I’m sure you had a lot of research, and I really like how you have managed to condense everything into well written paragraphs that all support your argument.
Great work!

Hi Anne-Marie,
How horrible about the Gossip Girl spoiler! Although it is slightly humorous it is annoying someone would waste their time ruining a TV show for a complete stranger.
Regarding your commentary on people such as the LGBTQIA+ community using the platform as an emotional outlet, this is very true! Through my research it appears that a lot of users can adopt Twitter for cathartic purposes, especially given its anonymity.
Yes, totally agree! ISIL whilst obviously terrible are very clever in their digital tactics, such a wasted talent. It is obvious they have managed to recruit a range of strategically chosen people for their team.

Yes it is indeed – maybe a past partner had loved Gossip Girl, and now he’s out for revenge by spoiling it for everyone else. And the interesting thing is that how would you report him? Twitter would most likely not view it as harassment, as the series ended three years after this happened.
I really liked how your paper outlined that Twitter has become something no one could have envisioned – the users have so many different and unique intentions when using the site.
Do you think that people underestimate how good ISIL are at social media? Or if it’s a kind of Voldemort/He Who Must Not Be Named situation where people don’t like to speak about terrorism?

Hi Anne-Marie,
Your comment about Twitter not viewing TV spoilers as harassment has actually made me think. While it is definitely not as dangerous as terrorism, it is a good example of why monitoring and censoring a global cyber community like Twitter is so difficult, everyone’s perspective of what constitutes as hate speech, violence, and abuse is so varied!
I definitely don’t think people underestimate ISIL’s talent when it comes to social media, I agree with your thought that perhaps is more taboo than anything to acknowledge their skill. I imagine if an organisation was to look to ISIL for online marketing strategies that would be very wary to not make this public!

Hi Lachlan,

Made me laugh to read your reply to Leanne in that you hadn’t used Twitter much either because your paper certainly didn’t give that impression. It was well written, engaging and showed a high degree of knowledge on the affordances of Twitter and its darker side.

I think you were spot on when you said “coaxing impressionable and lonely users with propaganda, tempting them with an opportunity of purpose and meaning, as well as a community”. A sad situation really that they would join such an awful community just to feel a sense of belonging.

I also thought that they “…strategically adapted to suit specific demographics…” and then continued on with two examples was a great inclusion as it demonstrated just how they manipulate their message to connect with particular audiences.

Great paper highlighting how a platform like Twitter can be used in ways that I’m sure the founders never envisaged. I know they are trying to clamp down on adverse use of their platform but I’m not sure with you saying about the “outsourcing” how they could ever manage to achieve that.

Hi Lee,

Hahah, I have found in such units writing about social network sites that I am not overly familiar about makes it a lot easier to separate my experience and understanding from the research and statistics. However, perhaps I’m now too educated on the workings of Twitter too!

I am glad that my research has also been eye-opening for you regarding ISIL’s multi-layer and very smart marketing and recruitment strategies. I am now left wondering, would we be able to find any evidence of Western defence forces following suit with such strategies? If the Web is home to large populations of young, impressionable people could our own country employ campaigns to interact and encourage them to assist their own country’s plight? Or would that still be unethical?

Hi Lachlan,
I did a bit of thinking on your question regarding whether our own defence forces could use SM for recruiting and I think, why not? They advertise on the TV at various times but they could be so much more effective on SM as that’s where a lot of the young people are giving their attention.

In many ways it could give them a platform which could show the other side to the Forces – not just in protecting the country, fighting or peace-keeping overseas etc but also how they step-in where emergencies occur, such as the recent bushfires, floods etc. After all it is that pulling together and the “front-liners” that have brought the feeling of goodwill towards everyone that might appeal to teens that would like to do a job where they feel they are helping others.

Just a thought prompted by your question. Can’t see how that could be classed as unethical.

Hi again Lee,

Your response has made me seek out what Twitter presence our defence force has, and I’ve found them!
Your prediction appears to be correct, a lot of the posts seem to focus more on the more personal and social side of the industry, with mother’s day posts and focusing on nursing during COVID-19.
I guess my thought on unethical practice would come down to whether they would actively seek out an audience on Twitter to directly recruit like ISIL have been known to do. Can you imagine the army sending you a direct message coercing you to join their plight?!

Hi Lachlan,

Thanks for such an interesting read. Your paper paints a picture of a very sophisticated organisation that knows how to get the best out of Twitter. The idea of a ‘media war’, or a ‘war of narratives’, is so pertinent to the Web 2.0 era. It is a concept that applies to many different issues and is seen across many of the different social networking sites. It seems that ISIL are particularly effective at waging that war with Twitter.

You mention that “as ISIL’s social media tactics became more apparent to Western democracy, security restrictions and privacy implications lessened the group’s direct stronghold over their Twitter community” (para. 8). Could you provide some further information around what happened, specifically what kind of security restrictions and privacy implications applied? I’m interested to understand Twitter’s response to this activity. And how do they view/monitor/regulate ISIL’s activity now that it’s decentralised?

I’m also interested to know the numbers of people that are involved with ISIL on Twitter. Is it possible to quantify given that the groups have splintered on the platform?

Thanks again!

Hi Anna,
Thanks for your questions!
I’ll make reference to this article by Wired that I referenced within my paper as it shows Twitter’s response whilst also highlighting the implications.
While Facebook has always heavily monitored the content on its platform, Twitter has always been known to be a bit more open and expressive with what they allow, including pornography, far-right, and a far-left views. As it a Web platform that is global it then becomes tricky on what is ‘freedom of speech’ or something that is truly dangerous! However, one of Twitter’s guidelines is “Users may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism”; this made it easy to ban accounts sharing obvious terror-related content such as beheading videos, but as mentioned in my paper, their use of crowdsourcing makes it hard to claim what a lot of what they’re doing is ‘terrorism’.
This following URL helps in uncovering how they’ve gone about removing hundreds of thousands of ISIL-related accounts. Whilst not opening up about all details the company still admits they struggle to lawfully remove accounts who don’t directly express terrorist threats, relying heavily on individual judgement of each accounts under the direction of Western governments.
Although there is obviously copious amounts of ISIL accounts on Twitter, with spam bots and accounts being rebuilt after being deleted, I guess it would be impossible to truly grasp how many real people are behind ISIL’s Twitter community! Surely amongst them would have to also be the usual Internet trolls trying to spark some outrage in any way they can.
This research definitely puts into perspective the dangerous blurred lines between freedom of speech and genuine threats. With the Internet constantly evolving I wonder if we could ever establish a range of laws that would remain relevant to Web users long enough to make a difference?

Thanks for that additional information Lachlan. We might not be able to quantify exact numbers, but the fact that 125,000 Isis Twitter accounts were deleted sheds some light on the scale of their activities.

I note at the end of that article Twitter says there is
“an increase in account suspensions and this type of activity shifting off Twitter” (Yadron, 2016, para. 12). Do you know what platform this type of activity is shifting towards?

The question of legislation is an interesting one, and is an area where I am keen to do more research. I think it is possible to legislate (or regulate), but that it is of course exceptionally difficult given the speed at which the internet is changing and the blurred lines between freedom of speech and genuine threats. Maybe you’ll see a future paper from me on that!

Thanks again for such a thoughtful response,

Hi Lachlan,

I was listening to the radio last night and they were talking about new legislation that has just been passed through the French Parliament addressing the very issue we’ve been discussing! I did a search this morning and found an article in The Wall Street Journal explaining the legislation, which requires social media platforms to take down hateful content within 24 hours, and talking about other countries that have implemented similar legislation (specifically Germany, which I am going to look into further). I managed to read the article once, but can’t get back into it again without a subscription, so I hope you can get into it okay. It’s the only current article I could find that wasn’t in French! Let me know if you have trouble accessing it, or let me know if you speak French and I can send some other links through 🙂


Hi again Anna,

I love your interest in this aspect of social media, it has definitely sent me down a rabbit hole of so many different loopholes and confusing realities when it comes to cyber laws!

This news is so relevant and amazing! Thank you so much for following this up. I read into it a bit more through a range of articles and it is interesting to see there is already backlash regarding points that have already been brought up in these comments. One article highlights that some are worried these laws could “lead to targeted campaigns against underrepresented voices”, which falls back to that fine line between free speech and hate speech. It also speaks of cracking down of ‘religious fanaticism’ which would be a lot of things that ISIL would have shared, but I wonder if they will be just as harsh on non-Islamic religious fanaticism also?

The article I found:

It really is a rabbit hole Lachlan! It’s going to be so interesting to watch how this develops in France.

I had a bit of a look into the laws in Germany, as they have had similar legislation in place since 2017. Interestingly, Germany is now in the process of expanding the law to make it compulsory for social media platforms to report posts “dealing with far-right propaganda, violence, murder or rape threats, terrorist attacks preparations or the sexual abuse of children” (Guerrini, 2020, para. 2) to the police.

That same article (Guerrini, 2020) has a link to an interesting report written by a Danish think tank about the effects of the German legislation in countries outside of Germany. According to the report, a number of authoritarian countries are using the legislation as inspiration to enact digital censorship and repression. That report is here:

Like you said… rabbit hole!


Guerrini, F. (2020, March 3). The problems with Germany’s new Social Media Hate Speech Bill. Forbes.

Hi Lachlan,

I don’t know very much about ISIL but I’m aware of how other groups such as the far-right and white supremacists use Twitter (and the internet in general) to prey on and recruit new members and it isn’t much of a surprise that ISIL have a sophisticated system. It’s alarming that so much research and knowledge about Twitter being used for such malicious purposes exists, and that it’s been going on for so long, yet so little seems to be done by Twitter to stop it from happening. Of course, it would be something that’s difficult to manage.

That many users don’t seem to be aware of the ways groups such as ISIL use Twitter to spread their propaganda and recruit new members is worrisome. If the knowledge spread further HOW such groups were using social media, I wonder how people might change their own social media usage?


Hi Chloe!
Thanks for your comment, I like how you’ve tied it back to other extremist groups such as white supremacists. A lot of my further discussion in the comments in the difficulty in distinguishing the line between freedom of speech and terrorism, and a lot of people seem to exclude far-right groups from the categorisation of ‘terrorists’ when they’re from Western civilisation. I think this is what makes the ability to define what is terrorism so difficult.
Your final question is an interesting perspective! If we were all more aware, I think we would definitely see a great fall in the trust so much of us have for Web-based communities which would be a great set back for the Internet! However, I wonder if people were more aware we would see more people utilise the abundance of vulnerable Web users to their advantage? We’re used to seeing influencers gained communities of millions, but is there any examples of someone used this for negative purposes? Imagine a Charles Manson figure using the Internet – how many followers and damage could they do?!

Hi Lachlan,
The line between freedom of speech and terrorism can be difficult to draw, but I think anything purposefully encouraging hatred or violence should be classed as hate speech, at least, and shutdown. And that includes far-right groups.

I’d hope that if more people were more aware of how terrorist groups use different social media platforms to recruit people, that if it were common knowledge, that overall we’d see less people falling for this type of stuff. Interesting that you mention influencers, as it seems that a fair few (they’re mostly YouTube gamers, it seems) funnel their followers into alt-right communities. Firstly by making “edgy jokes” that the left get offended over for “no reason”, which tends to lead their (predominately young male) followers into more and more far-right communities. I’m not sure if this is on purpose, but the few I’ve seen who have gotten flak for it haven’t seen to alter their behaviour or the people they interact with, who are sometimes either heavily associated with alt-right or actually write for openly anti-Semitic, racist, etc. It’s really kind of alarming when you look into it more.

Hi Chloe,

Interesting points! Reading your points about far-right views and comments on social media and how they’re often threatening has definitely given me some food for thought. What makes these comments difficult to criticise is that I have found for every far-right comment that encourages hate, there also seems to be a comment from the opposing left which is just as threatening. I am no fan of Trump, but I do see a lot of threatening comments made against him online.
I personally believe that the majority of hateful comments online have no real malice intention behind them, so people are willing to make them with no real thought of repercussion. However, as you pointed out, is it these small comments that are normalising and encouraging movements toward dangerous beliefs?

Hi Lachlan,
I think the difference between far-right comments online versus comments made from the left is that usually comments from the left don’t seem to leave the online space and the power dynamics? Like, comments about Trump, those dumb “eat the rich” comments is that they’re generally made in jest in predominantly left-wing spaces and nobody is actually going to go out and eat a rich person. Whereas there have been numerous violent riots, shootings, and other physical, real world attacks from people on the far-right.

The small comments that people tend to read as having no malice behind them are definitely part of the issue, as it does normalise these things. And so is the way that people on the left tend to villainise anybody who doesn’t use the correct terminology, even if they mean well, which makes people easier targets for the far-right to try recruit — “people tried to do the right thing and got pushed away/villainesed for it, doesn’t that prove the left is cruel and mean?” tends to be the sort of rhetoric that the far-right uses. And nasty comments being normalised makes it easier for people to say things, mean it, and get away with it. They aren’t a white supremacist, even though they’re saying the same things that white supremacists say. They’re joking! But the reality is the amount of hate crimes against different group has gone up in the last couple years, so people are meaning the mean comments made online.

Hi Lachlan
I have never use twitter before and reading your post gives me a better understanding of twitter.
I liked your description of the potential problems of using twitter about somebody using twitter in an incorrect way.
I definitely picked up a lot from your paper as I was not aware of on some the ways Twitter has been used..


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