Islamic State's online supporters include 300 Americans: report

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Why Can't the U.S. Counter ISIS' Online Propaganda?

Active online supporters of the Syria-based Islamic State movement now include about 300 people identifiable as Americans, said a study by academic experts published on Tuesday.

SEE ALSO: Man who threatened to 'execute' white students at Chicago university is arrested

George Washington University's Program on Extremism said in the study that the number of other Americans who passively "consume" Islamic State propaganda runs to "several thousand," though they are not necessarily active supporters of the group.

Twitter is the "platform of choice" most widely used by the active core of American supporters of Islamic State, it said.

People who were interested in ISIS from other countries:

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Islamic State's online supporters include 300 Americans: report
ANKARA, TURKEY - MARCH 17: A passport photo alleged to belong to 22-years-old British woman Jalila Henry and to have been used by her twin sister Jamila Henry (known and named by Turkish officials as Jaila Nadra H) as she tried to travel through Turkey to Syria to join Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) terrorists. Jaila Nadra H was detained after an operation staged by the Turkey's Ankara Province Police Anti-terrorism department in the city's bus terminal in Ankara, Turkey on March 17, 2015. (Photo by Turkish National Police/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Renu Begum, eldest sister of Shamima Begum, 15, holds her sister's photo as she is interviewed by the media at New Scotland Yard, as the relatives of three missing schoolgirls believed to have fled to Syria to join Islamic State have pleaded for them to return home, on February 22, 2015 in London, England. Police are urgently trying to trace Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-old Amira Abase after they flew to Istanbul in Turkey from Gatwick Airport on Tuesday. (Photo by Laura Lean - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - MARCH 17: A 22-years-old British woman, Jamila Henry (known and named by Turkish officials as Jaila Nadra H) who is alleged to have tried to travel through Turkey to Syria to join Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) terrorists, who has been detained after an operation staged by the Turkey's Ankara Province Police Anti-terrorism department in the city's bus terminal in Ankara, Turkey on March 17, 2015. (Photo by Turkish National Police/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Handout still taken from CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police of (left to right) 15-year-old Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana,16 and Shamima Begum,15 at Gatwick airport, before they caught their flight to Turkey. Metropolitan Police officers are in Turkey as the search continues for three missing schoolgirls believed to have fled to Syria to join Islamic State.
Fighters from the Iraqi Imam Ali Brigade, take part in a training exercise in Iraq's central city of Najaf on March 7, 2015, ahead of joining the military operation in the city of Tikrit. Some 30,000 Iraqi security forces members and allied fighters launched an operation to retake Tikrit at the beginning of March, the largest of its kind since Islamic State (IS) group forces overran swathes of territory last June. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
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American ISIS activists and sympathizers also use other social media, ranging from open forums such as Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr to more secretive messaging apps including Kik, Telegram, surespot and the dark web, the study said.

American online ISIS supporters are sufficiently active and noisy to have established themselves as "nodes," or leading voices promoting Islamic State themes, while others serve as "amplifiers," who repost materials from more prominent activists.

The study said U.S. Islamic State activists have helped craft a "unique innovation" in militant messaging. This involves creation of "shout out" accounts, which enable activists to "introduce new pro-ISIS accounts to the community and promote newly created accounts of previously suspended users, allowing them to quickly regain their pre-suspension status."

The study noted that, although American social media accounts linked to ISIS are regularly suspended, among the activists such suspensions have become a "badge of honor and a means by which an aspirant can bolster his or her legitimacy."

Operators of suspended accounts usually set up and start using a newly created account, using only a variation of the previous user name, "within hours" of most suspensions, it said.

Even though Islamic State's forerunners first emerged after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Islamic State's "message did not exist" before the organization established itself in Syria and became involved in a civil war against the government of President Bashar al Assad, said Lorenzo Vidino, one of the study's principal authors.

Vidino cited FBI statistics indicating that U.S. authorities are currently pursuing 900 terrorism-related investigations in all 50 U.S. states. His study noted that 71 individuals have been charged by U.S. authorities with ISIS-related offenses since March 2014, with 51 of those arrests occurring in 2015.

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