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Not Your Typical Social Media Influencer: Exploring the Who, What, and Where of Islamic State Online Propaganda

Megan Stubbs-Richardson, Jessica Hubbert, Sierra Nelson, Audrey Reid, Taylor Johnson, Gracyn Young, and Alicia Hopkins

In this paper, we examine the online distribution of 12 Islamic State magazines across 27 unique social media, dark web, blogs, and message boards using Babel Street software. In doing so, we ask who the prominent contributors are, what is being discussed pertaining to the magazines, and where the magazines are being disseminated across a variety of forums. We found most of the documents to consist of discussing content from a neutral standpoint followed by an even split between pro- and anti-Islamic State. Most (53%) of the discussions were found to be intended for news consumption with 28% being shared for academic resources. However, in this research, we also uncovered 6% of the 433 discussions to be in attempt to recruit for the Islamic State with 2% of the documents aiming to brag about military accomplishments of the Islamic State. Most of the documents appeared on social media and blog websites, with fewer coming from the dark web and message boards. This is the first study of its kind to offer a comprehensive overview of how Islamic State magazines are being disseminated online and by whom.

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