Spiders of the Caliphate: Mapping the Islamic State’s Global Support Network on Facebook

This report analyzes the strength of the Islamic State’s (IS) network on Facebook using online network measurement tools and uncovers the myriad of ways in which IS operates on Facebook. To do so, we mapped the accounts and connections between 1,000 IS-supporting Facebook profiles with links to 96 countries on every continent except Antarctica using the open-source network analysis and visualization software, Gephi. It should be noted, however, that hundreds of additional pro-IS profiles were excluded from the dataset. This is because while we were able to identify the IS supporting Facebook accounts, there was no information on those users’ locations. Therefore, this data represents only a portion of IS’s support network on the platform. Our analysis of online IS communities globally, regionally, and nationally suggests that IS’s online networks, in particular on Facebook, are growing and can be utilized to plan and direct terror attacks as well as mobilize foreign fighters for multiple areas of insurgency. Secondly, IS’s presence on Facebook is pervasive and professionalized, contrary to the tech company’s rhetoric and efforts to convince the public, policymakers, and corporate advertisers from believing otherwise. Our findings illustrate that IS has developed a structured and deliberate strategy of
using Facebook to radicalize, recruit, support, and terrorize individuals around the world. According to our observations, it appears that IS utilizes a limited number of central players who work to magnify the group’s presence on the platform, and also works to strengthen its networks so that no one individual IS Facebook account (node) serves as an irreplaceable connection (edge) to other pro-IS accounts located elsewhere.

Tags: Facebook, ISIS, Network Analysis