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Ellie Hall
I spent a good part of 2 years reporting on ISIS internet and how the group uses social media — in 2019 it's mind-boggling to me how well the coordinated cross-platform effort to remove them from the internet worked and how there hasn't been a similar one for white supremacists.
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Ellie Hall 16 Mar 19
Replying to @gwupoe
From a 2016 report on Twitter extremism: "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."
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Ellie Hall 16 Mar 19
Replying to @gwupoe @intelwire
"The clear advantage enjoyed by white nationalists was attributable in part to the effects of aggressive suspensions of accounts associated with ISIS networks." Source: Sept. 2016 study of Twitter extremism by :
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Ellie Hall 16 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
Adding to this: Twitter / Facebook / YouTube began cracking down on ISIS content in earnest — seeking it out and suspending accounts — after the group released the horrific video of James Foley's execution in Aug. 2014.
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Ellie Hall 16 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
The Christchurch shooter livestreamed his attack. The video was disseminated across the internet even as platforms desperately worked to remove it.
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Ellie Hall 16 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
It will be interesting to see if platforms implement a similar "zero-tolerance, you post this video or a still image from it and you're permabanned" policy with the Christchurch attack video.
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Ellie Hall 16 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
Since there seems to be interest in this! Before platforms began cracking down, I wrote a lot of stories about how ISIS members — primarily women — used social media. The vast majority of the time, these ISIS accounts would be up until I asked Facebook/Twitter for comment.
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Ellie Hall 16 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
(It's been almost 5 years, and while platforms have done a pretty thorough job of purging ISIS social media accounts, this still is a huge issue. Both Facebook and Twitter have said recently that they rely on journalists for content moderation: )
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Ellie Hall 16 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
Since the platforms weren't being proactive in getting rid of ISIS members and their supporters, users began to do it for them. Groups formed. People started teaching others how to find / report these posts not just to platforms but host sites that unknowingly hosted ISIS content
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Ellie Hall 16 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
Also, this content wasn't just propaganda and/or official ISIS videos. Members, especially women, posted photos, anecdotes about their lives — they invited people into their world with the unspoken understanding that they were there to help if you wanted to join that world.
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Ellie Hall 16 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
In 2015, I identified Hoda Muthana through her militant Twitter account and interviewed her and her father. Talking with Hoda, it became clear that she had been radicalized by this "sisterhood" that she found online:
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Ellie Hall 16 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
The sense of community and intimacy with others that is fostered by social media was a big part of why ISIS was good at radicalizing and recruiting online.
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Ellie Hall 17 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
For those interested! Some of my stories from over the years about ISIS, the internet, social media, and how they used these platforms to recruit and radicalize:
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Ellie Hall 17 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
1.) My first story about about the online networks of female ISIS supporters and members from 2014, focusing on the extensive social media presence of 20-year-old Aqsa Mahmood, who ran away from her home in Scotland to join the group:
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Ellie Hall 17 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
2.) I followed up this story 6 months later. Many of the women from my 1st piece were still online w/ new accounts. Their posts purposefully made ISIS life look attractive, with selfies, cat photos, cute kids — and anecdotes about owning Yazidi slaves:
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Ellie Hall 17 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
3.) Going through the tweets for that story, I traced the account of a female ISIS member back to TN. I spent weeks in Chattanooga reporting out the story of Ariel Bradley, a homeschooled, evangelical Christian, and how she became an ISIS wife and mother:
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Ellie Hall 17 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
4.) When then-15-year-old Shamima Begum (now fighting to return to the UK) joined ISIS in 2015, I wrote about how Twitter facilitated her recruitment and that of many other young women/girls — including an 18-year-old who live-tweeted her trip to Syria:
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Ellie Hall 17 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
5.) After 3 American teenage girls tried to join ISIS — they were detained in Germany and sent home to their parents — I wrote about how their social media accounts connected them with ISIS members and telegraphed their growing radicalism before they left:
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Ellie Hall 17 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
6.) I also wrote about one of the first women to join, then escape ISIS and travel back to her home country — Dutch citizen Sterlina Petalo. She was arrested upon her return to the Netherlands, but charges were eventually dropped due to lack of evidence:
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Ellie Hall 17 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
7.) The most famous ISIS member on the internet, Dutch jihadi Israfil Yilmaz aka "Chechclear" used multiple social media platforms for YEARS to talk about his life, post cat pics, and spread the group's message. I wrote about his use of Tumblr in Nov. 2015
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Ellie Hall 17 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
8.) Finally, I want to end the list with my story about how ISIS members — men and women — joked on social media about the Yazidi women and girls they enslaved and raped, and made posts justifying their treatment of them:
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Ellie Hall 17 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
Until the crackdown, ISIS posts with graphic content — videos of horrific executions, photos of severed hands and heads, men being crucified while still alive, or fighters and even children posing with dead bodies — were the easiest to report/get taken down for obvious reasons.
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Ellie Hall 17 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
Here's the thing, though. The posts w/ stories, the people who were there to listen, to understand, to answer questions, to convince that everyone else was wrong and only their way of thinking was correct? From what I saw, that was the most dangerous ISIS content on the internet.
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Ellie Hall 17 Mar 19
Replying to @ellievhall
As I said in my first tweet, platforms found a way to basically eliminate ISIS internet — by mid-2016, Twitter was suspending new ISIS accounts within minutes of their creation. Tools appear to exist. It remains to be seen if they'll be used against white supremacists. /FIN
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