New online ecology of adversarial aggregates: ISIS and beyond

Neil F Johnson, M. Zheng, Y. Vorobyeva, A. Gabriel, H. Qi, N. Velasquez, P. Manrique, D. Johnson, Elvira M Restrepo, Chaoming Song, Stefan Wuchty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

Support for an extremist entity such as Islamic State (ISIS) somehow manages to survive globally online despite considerable external pressure and may ultimately inspire acts by individuals having no history of extremism, membership in a terrorist faction, or direct links to leadership. Examining longitudinal records of online activity, we uncovered an ecology evolving on a daily time scale that drives online support, and we provide a mathematical theory that describes it. The ecology features self-organized aggregates (ad hoc groups formed via linkage to a Facebook page or analog) that proliferate preceding the onset of recent real-world campaigns and adopt novel adaptive mechanisms to enhance their survival. One of the predictions is that development of large, potentially potent pro-ISIS aggregates can be thwarted by targeting smaller ones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1459-1463
Number of pages5
JournalScience
Volume352
Issue number6292
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 17 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • General

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    Johnson, N. F., Zheng, M., Vorobyeva, Y., Gabriel, A., Qi, H., Velasquez, N., Manrique, P., Johnson, D., Restrepo, E. M., Song, C., & Wuchty, S. (2016). New online ecology of adversarial aggregates: ISIS and beyond. Science, 352(6292), 1459-1463. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaf0675