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CHAPTER 6:  Conflict  and  criminality  

While  the  number  of  survey  respondents  reporting  negative  or  abusive  feedback  to   their  faith-­‐related  social  media  posts  was  relatively  small,  the  public  interest  in  how   ‘extreme’  cases  are  handled  merits  a  more  thorough  investigation.  Particularly  in  light   of  high-­‐profile  instances  such  as  the  murder  of  Asad  Shah  and  the  government  reports   of  online  Islamophobia  and  anti-­‐Semitism,  this  chapter  seeks  to  quantify  the  scale  of   the  issue  within  the  UK.     6.1  Religious  extremism     Extremist  groups  such  as  so-­‐called  Islamic  State  (also  known  as  ISIS  or  Daesh)  which   claim  a  religious  affiliation  are  generally  reputed  to  make  very  effective  use  of  social   media  to  spread  their  divisive  message.  The  group  makes  use  of  bots  (automated   software)  to  create  Twitter  accounts  and  disseminate  its  message.  ISIS  has  ‘legitimate   support’  on  social  media,  according  to  J.M.  Berger,  a  George  Washington  University   fellow  specialising  in  extremism.  But  it  is  ‘less  than  it  might  seem’  he  adds.  ‘And  it  owes   a  lot  of  that  support  to  a  calculated  campaign  that  would  put  American  social-­‐media-­‐ marketing  gurus  to  shame.’14     Berger  and  Morgan  in  their  2015  ISIS  Twitter  Census  further  describe  that:     Much of ISIS’s social media success can be attributed to a relatively small group of hyperactive users, numbering between 500 and 2,000 accounts, which tweet in concentrated bursts of high volume.

An  Independent  newspaper  report15  in  February  2016  revealed  that  Twitter  had  closed   down  125,000  accounts  linked  to  ISIS  activities.  The  company  noted  the  difficulty  in   targeting  hate  speech,  observing  that  there  existed  no  ‘magic  algorithm’  to  detect  this.   However,  the  news  report  also  references  legal  action  being  brought  against  Twitter   Inc.  by  the  widow  of  an  American  victim  of  an  ISIS  bombing  in  Jordan.  Her  rationale,   which  potentially  precipitated  the  company’s  flurry  of  account  closures:     Without Twitter, the explosive growth of Isis over the last few years into the mostfeared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible.

While  the  Easter  tragedy  befalling  Asad  Shah  was  shocking  in  its  violence,  strong  hate   speech  has  been  evidenced  on  social  media  at  other  times.  Particularly  in  the   aftermath  of  terrorist  attacks  by  IS  –  notably  in  Brussels  and  Istanbul  –  a  peak  in   Islamophobic  comments  have  been  reported.  Hate  monitoring  group  Tell  MAMA   reported  a  326%  year-­‐on-­‐year  rise  in  anti-­‐Muslim  hate  incidents  in  2015.                                                                                                                       14

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/isis-­‐iraq-­‐twitter-­‐social-­‐media-­‐ strategy/372856/   15  http://www.independent.co.uk/life-­‐style/gadgets-­‐and-­‐tech/news/125000-­‐isis-­‐linked-­‐accounts-­‐ suspended-­‐by-­‐twitter-­‐a6857371.html  

Putting Your  Faith  in  Social  Media  

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Putting Your Faith in Social Media  

Research findings regarding the social media expression of people of faith. By David Giles, Web and Social Media Manager at The Salvation Ar...

Putting Your Faith in Social Media  

Research findings regarding the social media expression of people of faith. By David Giles, Web and Social Media Manager at The Salvation Ar...