While the Islamic State (IS) continues to be one of the most influential terrorist groups in the real world, American White nationalists outperform them in the virtual world in nearly every social metric, from follower counts to tweets per day, reveals a new study.
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On Twitter, IS's preferred social platform, American White nationalist movements have seen their followers grow by more than 600 per cent since 2012, the study said.
The researchers at George Washington University's Programme on Extremism examined and compared the use of Twitter by White nationalists, Nazi sympathizers, and IS supporters.
"The White nationalist datasets examined outperformed ISIS in most current metrics and many historical metrics. White nationalists and Nazis had substantially higher follower counts than ISIS supporters, and tweeted more often," the study said.
"Nazis had a median follower count almost eight times greater than ISIS supporters, and a mean count more than 22 times greater," the study noted.
The researchers found that IS supporters had better discipline regarding consistent use of the movement's hashtags, but trailed in virtually every other respect.
"The clear advantage enjoyed by White nationalists was attributable in part to the effects of aggressive suspensions of accounts associated with ISIS networks," said the study authored by JM Berger.
In August, Twitter announced that it suspended 235,000 accounts for violating its policies related to promotion of terrorism in the six months since February.
But White nationalists and Nazis operate with relative impunity, the study pointed out.
For the study, the researchers analysed two "demographics datasets," each containing 4,000 highly relevant accounts. The first demographics dataset represented White nationalists broadly, while the second is more focused on Nazi sympathies. These datasets formed the basis for their analysis.
Their analysis showed that the most popular theme among white nationalists on Twitter was the concept of "white genocide," the notion that the "white race" is directly endangered by the increasing diversity of society.
Social media activists tweeted hundreds of times per day using repetitive hashtags and slogans associated with this trope.
They also found that followers of White nationalists on Twitter were heavily invested in Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
"White nationalist users referenced Trump more than almost any other topic, and Trump-related hashtags outperformed every white nationalist hashtag except for #whitegenocide within the sets of users examined," the study said.