Expert: Islamic State Social Media Study ‘Trivializes’ Threat

Jamal al-Harith
Washington, DC

From California to New York, and everywhere in between, the Islamic State has been able to recruit dozens of young Muslims over social media and through other means to wage jihad against America.

A study published on Tuesday by the George Washington University Program on Extremism titled “ISIS In America, From Retweets to Raqqa,” documented that 2015 has been the biggest year for terror-related arrests since 2001, when Al Qaeda suicide bombers carried out the 9/11 attacks.

The study found that many of the Islamic State recruits are younger individuals, and a large group were converts to Islam, and that the jihadi outfit had successfully recruited women for their jihad.

The University study observed the social media accounts of some 400 Americans it found to be sympathetic to the Islamic State.

About 40 percent of charged Islamic State conscripts were converts to Islam, and 23 percent of overall social media supporters from the analyzed group were converts, according to the data published Tuesday.

“The individuals range from hardened militants to teenage girls, petty criminals and college students,” Lorenzo Vidino, the director of the GWU program on extremism, told the New York Times. “The diversity is staggering.”

“For law enforcement, it’s extremely difficult to determine who makes a big leap from keyboard jihadist to doing something,” he added.

Ultimately, the report “trivializes the threat” because it white-washes the motives of Islamic terrorists, Katherine Gorka of the Threat Knowledge Group tells Breitbart News.

Gorka’s organization recently published a comprehensive white-paper on the Islamic State’s threat to America.

She pointed to several sections of the GWU study that seem to overly complicate the motives for jihadis to engage in terror.

For instance, the report claims: “The profiles of American ISIS sympathizers… are extremely diverse.” It also talks about the “complexity of the threat” and cautions against “simple solutions.”

The study focused centrally on the jihadi group’s successful use of social media as a means to reach out to westerners.

The average age of the American recruit for the Islamic State is 26, according to the study, which found that ISIS sympathizers ranged from 15 to 47 years of age.

According to the report, 86 percent of the ISIS recruits were male, and the vast majority of those drafted for their cause were American citizens.

Also, the use of informants was critical to make over half of the arrests, the research found.

Alarmingly, only about half of the suspected ISIS members had plans to travel overseas, creating the possibility that they preferred to conduct terror attacks inside the United States.

The report comes following revelations from the FBI that there are approximately 900 open investigations inside the United States related to the Islamic State.

FBI Director James Comey said in late October that the number of ISIS inquiries are “slowly climbing.”

“If that becomes the new normal… That would be hard to keep up,” Comey said in a speech to intelligence officials.