JM Berger on Extremists on Social Media, the Post-ISIS Challenge

JM Berger on Extremists on Social Media, the Post-ISIS Challenge

[Applause] so thank you very much for having me I when I thank Mara and Lisa and everybody at Fox Paul's made this a great experience you know I was really hoping there would be something relevant in the news that that I could talk about today so I'm just gonna have to make do my topic is going to be the post Isis challenge on social media and you know we've we've obviously spent a great deal of time and energy and money researching the innovative packets that Isis has brought to the social media arena and these tactics are not unique to Isis they are ultimately something Isis has been the pioneer they've been the first ones to really do this effectively but they are certainly not going to be the last ones and I want to talk a little bit about how social media itself facilitates these these kinds of extremist movements and what we should be thinking about as Isis's influence declines what's going to come next so I start off my opening example here is is the Flat Earth Society the Flat Earth Society I'm sure some of you have heard of it they believe what their name says there were the earth is slide they have thousands of likes on Facebook they have thousands of followers on Twitter many of these people are serious about believing the earth is flat even though they're accessing Twitter on a mobile phone that uses a satellite that's orbiting the planet so the flat earth societies been around for a long time this isn't a new thing this this is a fringe belief that has lingered for many years and but what we're seeing now is that there's this kind of sudden surge of new interest in it and I think that we can you know really start to think about this in terms of what social media does for communities who are outside the mainstream so so these are a few examples of fringe movements that have some kind of presence on social media the Republic for the United States is a sovereign citizen shadow government in the u.s. they have 5,000 likes on Facebook they have hundreds of members some of whom are potentially violent and others who are just happy to clog the court system with fake documents the American Nazi Party has 9,000 followers and I'm going to be publishing soon a more extended look at some white nationalism and Nazi activity on Twitter if you use Twitter you probably run into some of that already Davida key is believes that reptilian aliens have taken over the leaders of the United States and and the world community as part of a Rothschild conspiracy he has a hundred fifty thousand followers on Twitter he has seven hundred and forty five thousand lights on Facebook some of these are ironic which I know because when I went to his Facebook page I saw some of my friends were following them and I'm pretty sure they don't believe that reptilians are running the world Infowars which is I'm sure most of you probably heard of it but it's a right-wing conspiracy site that is incredibly influential among American extremists one hundred six thousand followers on Twitter and four hundred and fifty four thousand followers likes on Facebook some of those are Russian BOTS that are designed to pump up people who look freaky but a lot of those people legitimate followers who have a real interest in this so this is a Venn diagram of the American Nazi Party which is in turquoise and the Flat Earth organization which is in pink they both have about the same number of followers what this shows is that they have out of the 10,000 followers that each of these have there are about 12 in common so the idea that this is just like cool kids who follow freaky stuff you know is not applied to this these groups are there's overlap depending on how similar somebody's beliefs are the kind of ideology they're into but it's it's it's not like all the stupid people there's 10,000 stupid people on Twitter and they're all following these couple stupid accounts they are separate groups of stupid or otherwise misinformed people who are independently pursuing their interests pursuing their dreams so the Flat Earth Society got a big boost recently lines a little white for this screen but well you can see is that starting in about June there was a rapper named gob Bob who suddenly decided to declare his support for flat earther ISM resulting in two gigantic spike in followers so the Flat Earth Society was you know running around 400 followers on Twitter for a very long time and all of a sudden they have 5,000 followers you've got Bob is now a prominent supporter Tila Tequila who's probably one of the twelve people who overlapped between that Nazi and Flat Earth Society diagram has also come out and support and what this really kind of illustrates is just how quickly things can change in this environment there there's every fringe belief that you can imagine can be found somewhere online and you know I'm going to use an example that if any of you have heard me speak before you've heard me use this example but if you were a radical druid living in Peoria Illinois in the United States in 1950 you would go your whole life without ever meeting another radical druid you know now in the current environment that same person can get online and can be planting trees with friends in a matter of a couple of days you and anything that you're really interested in you can find a couple dozen or a couple hundred or a couple thousand people who share that interest so these numbers are relatively small on Twitter we're talking about a 310 million monthly active users on Facebook we're talking upward of 1.5 billion and the support that these groups get is objectively tiny so the Flat Earth Society its followers represent for one thousandth of 1% of all Twitter active users which is basically statistically 0 similarly the American Nazi Party was at 0.003 percent Infowars much stronger showing but it's still 0.03 4 percent this is these are tiny tiny tiny fractions of the overall online community the issue is that you you only need to hit that tiny fraction to create a massive disruption in society and the example that is Isis so peak Isis on Twitter and let me just say a few words because we've a lot of the presentations I've been listening to have rightly pointed out that what happens on social media is not a complete picture of what's happening in the world and and you know our focus obviously this conference is on online extremism that were heavily focused on that but what's happening online is increasingly a very good proxy for what's happening in the outside world and increasingly even if all members of a movement are not online enough members of movement are line to get the benefits of being on social media so when when social media first came on the scene back in the you know early 2000s and and for several years I was I was kind of a skeptic about the rhetoric that was being said about what people talked about it's gonna change the world I was you know I sort of looked at and said well you know this jihadi propaganda is really the same stuff that they did offline they're just doing it all online now and it's not such a big difference I was terribly terribly wrong about that and and I'm gonna talk about why what happens online is is having a tremendous impact on the world you can argue for correlation or causation and I think what you're going to see in this talk is an argue for causation but you know if you understand the environment if you know what you're doing you're not just like plugging in a hash tag and say oh look this has tagged it great so something's happening but if you understand the environment you understand the populations that you're looking at and what kind of social media they use and how they use it this is a remarkable tool for seeing what's going on and and for coordinating things that happen offline so Isis is a really good example of this because they were really the first extremist group to take an industrial approach to social media they created large social media teams thousands of users who worked in in synchronized ways starting in about 2013 and then becoming very visible in 2014 and you know the social media pieces played a huge part in the foreign fighter flows some online recruiting happens but what we see is that especially from the West those fighters are almost always on social media at some point they're going to the internet they're going to social media to find out more about the group and to make the social contacts that let them get into the group and Isis has created an incredible disruption for the region in the world and when you look at their user base on here and this is much larger than their user base in the real world but you know on Twitter at their peak they were about 1/100 one point six one hundredths of one percent of the overall user base so these tiny percentages can translate into objectively large numbers when you're talking about populations as basis you have a 300 million population you have 1.5 million on Facebook and you have 7 billion people in the world this is a tiny fraction of any of those populations is objectively a very large number of people and if they are acting in a coordinated manner 10,000 people acting in a coordinated fashion can can create an incredible disruption 10,000 people in a relatively confined geographical space like a city or a County 10,000 people in the middle of the city protesting will shut that city down so you know these tiny percentages are translating into into real-world effects so you know the question is what's new here and you know as I said my you know my initial reading of this was you know inspire magazine came out and I said this inspire magazines not new people here know this I mean you know newspaper editors didn't but you know their English language jihadi magazines been around for years full-color beautifully designed magazines you know been in circulation in print in the 80s in the 90s and and it's the same for all of these different kinds of movements so when I was growing up and I was a teenager I read a lot of UFO books I was really into it I could get that stuff I didn't have an internet but I had a library and the library had those books in it and I read them and I was really obsessed with them for a while there's people like me who made the x-files a success similarly one thing that was writing I grew up in a fairly rural area of Pennsylvania and my friends and I'd like to read soldier of fortune magazine so if you follow far-right movements in the United States you know soldier of fortune is like a huge incubator of that stuff it's it's nominally a magazine for mercenaries which is why we were reading it because we were like you know for 12 years old and we're figure we're gonna be badass mercenaries when we grow up did that didn't work out but but there was a lot of other stuff in there there's a lot of conspiracy theories there's a lot of right-wing anti-communist kind of propaganda and you know I found it I heard about this somehow it was on a newsstand you know you could order it the radical ideas got out they would get out in in simple organic ways they would get out in very organized ways so the Afghan jihad comparable number of fighters went to Afghanistan that had gone to Syria Syria is now outstripping Afghanistan but you know this was a significant number it took place more slowly it took place over ten years instead of over four years but upwards of 20,000 foreign fighters went through Afghanistan including probably a couple hundred Americans and the word got out through videotapes they had video tapes they would take them to community centers they've taken to mosques Dula Azam the leader of the foreign fighters in Afghanistan came to the United States he did tours they did TV shows like local cable access TV shows they got the message out they were able to recruit Jonestown you know it the cult that famously ended in a terrible massacre you know got a couple hundred Americans out of out of the United States and to Guyana based on a sort of crazy ideology and led them to their deaths no internet you know in the one area that I've been looking at particularly in recent rears is sort of this anti communist publishing houses that were operating in the United States through the 50s and 60s so the John Birch Society rabid anti-communist society that really incubated a lot of other domestic us extremist movements they published so much stuff newsletters you know books just I mean their catalog is unbelievably huge there's a company called Omni publications that is really the key vector through which a lot of anti-semitic conspiracy theories became popularized in the United States and and in Europe in the 50s and 60s and they still exist they actually have a website now and they still they're selling these same old books from like 1935 without the money a conspiracy so in some ways this isn't new extremist groups will always go to the best technology that's available to them affordably and they'll use it so but something's changed right so we all sense this we're having conferences about this that that weren't being had 30 years ago 40 years ago there's way more of us studying this issue now you know and and Isis is is really you know come to be emblematic of this change as the big problem that we're all obsessed with solving and figuring out how to deal with what they're doing online so this change comes from a couple of different factors it's pretty complicated arena but there are four things that are really fundamentally different for an extremist group trying to recruit in the Internet age so the first is security so you know I was reading soldier fortune magazine if I had questions about you know becoming a white nationalist fighter in Rhodesia as they were often soliciting for in the pages of that magazine I would have had to go talk to some dodgy people about that and you know people who are violent potentially dangerous heavily armed people I might you know 12-year old me might have been a little nervous about doing that in fact so over here old me would have been nervous about doing that so nervous that I wouldn't have done it online you can start talking to a violent extremist without exposing yourself to physical risk so instead of having to to really take that first step into danger before you're exposed to an ideology and radicalization and recruitment and all the stuff that we've been talking about over these two days you had to make it you had to be committed enough that you were willing to take a at least one risky step of talking to somebody who is potentially dangerous and now you can talk to that person you know freely you can get online you can start talking to them on Twitter you don't have to disclose your own identity you don't have to disclose where you are and you can get to know the person before you take the risk so you can get comfortable with with the person on the other end of this this spectrum and that's a big deal you know you're able you're gonna hear all the arguments same arguments you would have heard before but you don't your barrier to entry is much lower so you don't have to take that physical step discovery so I'm using the phrase that William Gibson popularized it's a faster than meet space cyberspace you can find the people you're looking for you have a variety of tools to locate people who share your interests as opposed to you know my radical druid in Peoria what's he gonna do he's gonna have to like go to Ireland do you know to find somebody who's likely to share his interests now you get online and if you find one account that that shares your interest then you know Twitter and Facebook and Google will recommend lots of other stuff that reflects that so if you create a Twitter account follow one jihadist it will give you 20 jihadist recommendations you don't even have to do the work yourself it will be served up to you so discovery is radically different than it used to be you know you don't have to send a recruiter out in meatspace to shake hands and potentially be exposed potentially get arrested maybe they're gonna get thrown out of mosque that they're trying to recruit in all these complications just suddenly fall away and and the process of finding people who share your interests has become dramatically exponentially simpler remote intimacy this is something that I sort of experienced myself and really started to appreciate after I was corresponding with Omar Hammami the American who joined al-shabab I had interviewed him initially because he broke without Shabaab and he was you know making mounting a criticism of them and I wanted to find out more about that so I interviewed him on email and then he persistently he got onto Twitter to promote his plight that he was the Al Shabaab was gonna kill him for speaking out and he you know repeatedly trying to engage with me on Twitter so finally I just I didn't want to talk to him in public at first because I didn't want to publicize his you know ideology so I started direct messaging with him and this continued for almost a year intermittently but pretty consistently and so at some point in this process I realized like you know there's a human being on the other side of this and I feel like I know this guy and it's not same as knowing somebody in real life but it feels the same you know I have colleagues who I work with online who I've met in the real world once or twice but I talk to them online every day and and there's a feeling of intimacy with them I feel like I can trust them I feel like I know them so you don't have to be in the same place as the recruiter or the fighter or the person who has the ideology you can feel a really intimate relationship with somebody over social media in some ways it can feel a little more intimate than real you know when you're talking to somebody on Twitter on direct messages and talking to somebody on telegram you know how they look doesn't matter how they smell doesn't matter you know whether they're you know leaning in too close or standing too far back a lot of stuff drops away is just really an exchange of words and so this is powerful and it was more powerful than I think you know I would have guessed if he went back ten years and and and looked at this question and then finally the speed of contagion so I think that this is something that we're only really beginning to see understand and the example I'd like to think about in this is if you look at early Christianity in the very earliest days of Christianity Christianity was very apocalyptic orientation to its religion can you still hear me over the construction so Christianity you know if you look at the earliest scriptures the earliest things that were written it's very apocalyptic in nature and it's spread for what at the time was a very fast pace around the Middle East into Rome but fast for its time was about three centuries and in that three centuries a lot of things can happen so there were pressures to moderate essentially the the apocalyptic peace started to fade because there you know there were a lot of people who expected the end of the world was coming in 4550 AD when that didn't happen things had to adjust you know you start to get social structures around it you started to have bishops your constituencies that were that were arguing about what you know exactly what do we believe and what are our practices and eventually you had authority figure who came in and sort of consolidated everything so the ideas spread very quickly for the day but not faster than the ideas could evolve so even as the ideas are spreading they're evolving and and to some extent this is like the game of telephone right so you know you just whisper something in person's ear they whisper to the next person you go across the room and it's completely different when it gets out on the other end all this oral transmission over long periods of time naturally causes changes in the topic that's being discussed Isis comes up with its version of the salad ideology which has gone through some evolution in the years prior to this but the version that Isis presented was able to spread globally much faster than it could change so in its original form it's everywhere suddenly so there's the the evolutionary which I think you know there are people here probably better qualified to comment on this than me but I think that you know the evolutionary process is gonna push toward moderation and sustainability I mean the evolution fundamentally pushes towards sustainability and Isis was able to spread globally in two years with virtually no evolution so what we have is that ideas are traveling much faster than they can evolve and that favors fringe ideas so all of these things we everybody you know especially in policy circles I'm sure you've experienced this frustration and talking to people in policy circles treat Isis is is it's as if it's very special and you know it is special in the sense that they were first they came up with the idea to really you know go out and automate their social media to synchronize it the people who were behind their social media campaign understood how social media works in a period where everybody else is still trying to catch up none of this stuff is exclusive to Isis's ideology there's nothing special about Isis that makes it a unique example of how these ideas will spread and propagate they're just first and we're already seeing that other groups are starting to emulate what they're doing you know in lesser and greater ways and and that's what we're sort of moving toward that's the post Isis challenge is how are we going to deal with those groups so the group that is most obviously emulating Isis's tactics on social media it was white nationalists there are what you're seeing here is a graph of a particular subset of white nationalism it's Twitter followers of accounts that are based on real-life organizations so they have some kind of offline component in the United States so it's a very limited set but what we've seen is that that set has grown explosively over the last six years I did study in 2012 on the grupe I repeated it without publishing in 2014 just to see what was going on and we'll be publishing gwu we'll be publishing something soon on the current state these guys are exploding onto social media they're their current the current size of the network is is bigger and it's more active than Isis at its peak there are a couple of reasons for that they don't have the same suspension pressures primarily so let's go to the next slide so a few things fuel set the stage for this so white nationalists had been you know pushed out of public discourse in the United States you know pretty aggressively by this 1970s it was remarkably uncool to be a white nationalist in the 80s in the early 90s they tried to rebrand themselves as neo-nazis and skinheads and trying to recapture some coolness and they they were the ISIS – you know Ku Klux Klan was Al Qaeda and neo-nazis were Isis similar kind of evolution it's much smaller scale but they really couldn't get any traction because you know a lot of these values had just been completely pushed out of the mainstream so a lot of that suppression of that content originated with the mainstream media mainstream media was more progressive than the regular population they started putting out content that said you know made a judgment about racism you know Archie Bunker and the Mod Squad and you know a million different things a million different ways that that message was reinforced if you're a neo-nazi you were not going to get a TV show so the only TV show about Nazis that was succeeding in this period was Hogan's Heroes and that was a operation the news you know which is the most important part of a political movement is access to news and the news was dominated by people who were opposed to white nationalism so these gatekeepers really forced the movement into the shadows they were they were required to do their business in secret they would hold camp at Camp camping trips in the south and they started using the internet and its earliest forms so they had bulletin boards you know dial-up bulletin boards back in back in the 80s and they had a lot of they basically follow it ever trend so they got on to they got on the forums message protected forums they got into any any online function that they could find and and all of that stuff is great but it's only you're talking to a closed community it's you know really just the people who are going to bother to sign up for storm front or who you're talking to you're not reaching a wider audience so when we think about how this is going to affect things going forward it may dismay you to hear this given that everybody here has been working on this problem for years and experiencing great frustration Isis is the easy problem so Isis was doing his work at massive volume and so it's easy to detect and and it pushing the boundaries of the Terms of Service both in the types of content they use and the types of activity they do for pardon the automation they use they're breaking the rules left and right getting these guys off of social media is a relatively easy task because they're breaking the rules they're putting out incredibly graphic violence they're making specific threats of violence but most importantly they have no place to support in any mainstream society even though they're not a mainstream base of support so nobody tolerated and like marched on City Hall with protest signs saying please don't suspend Isis on social media they privately they're not going to do it in public there is no constituency forces that doesn't apply to everybody else so you know white nationalism as we are fortunately experiencing both in the United States and in the UK and broadly in Europe white nationalism has constituency and they and they are able to blur the lines and and really present themselves in ways that do not violate the Terms of Service and create a more legitimate free speech problem so you know an organization or a government is going to be much slower to try and stamp out white nationalist sentiment than they are with Isis so all the resources that we have on Isis are not available for every other fringe group that's coming up so this leads to a couple of complicated calculations we got freedom of speech which I just touched on we're seeing the mainstreaming of these movements which I just touched on the more mainstream they are the harder it is to push back on them on social media we have a corporate AA cracy which I'm going to talk about a little bit more in a minute that just means that the decisions about what is acceptable speech are being made by companies and largely not by societies and we have a bias and enforcement so Isis if you're an Isis supporter at this point you're you know on social media you're living in fear you're gonna be gone any minute and if you're a white nationalist you have to be pretty egregious to get off next slide please so unfortunately after thinking about this for a long time I feel that this is going to have dramatic implications for where we go as a society over the next 10 or 20 years I think because social media favors identity you can use an identity marker on your avatar you can find identity groups very easily I think we're looking at a massive social reorganization I think identity groups are going to come back with a vengeance it is going to be difficult to stop them because when you are focused on an identity group or an extremist belief you were a monomaniac and social medias structurally favors monomaniac say favors people who go on every day and tweet the same thing every and and bother people and not be discouraged so there's a huge structural bias toward people who have these fringe views and antisocial views and so we're entering an age of what we're seeing with Isis is a super empowered super minority tiny fraction of all the people in the world who can create a gigantic problem who can kill a lot of people who can paralyze economies who can paralyze regions so where does this go so there are a couple of possible outcomes the best case is that we quickly evolve tools that reinforce the resilient center right so good people get online and they tweet bring back our girls but they don't tweet it for a day and then go home they like keep tweeting it and they keep doing things on social media that that promote the center I don't think that's likely to happen but it could another thing that could happen is that new social platforms will arise that are structured differently that don't reward monomania in the same way that's a somewhat more possible regardless use some of these effects I'm gonna talk about we're still gonna see at least for a while because this isn't gonna happen overnight we're gonna have to get lucky and it's gonna take time the worst case scenario is that we're going to see mass migrations along identity lines religion race you know we're gonna see people do what they're doing with Isis is they pick up and move and they go and gather in physical meets base with people who share their ideas that they they were able to find online and again it's it's micro percentages it's like 0.001 percent of all white people decide they're gonna move to the Pacific Northwest and start a white supremacist paradise that's that's a huge disruption that's a huge huge problem so I mean it's going to push toward separatism we're gonna see escalating violence as these movements become more empowered and also as they they push back on each other and we're gonna see Wars and revolutions because foreign fighters always bring terrible terrible problems in the places they go the middle road could be we make sporadic progress with occasional viral outbreaks of extremism so Isis's pun viral outbreak the rising tide of white nationalism is another but ultimately we're sort of like making progress and we manage to defuse these situations before they turn into all-out wars Civil War's you know we get skirmishes instead of gigantic battles in the middle road we get these outbreaks concurrently instead of getting I'm sorry we get them consecutively instead of concurrently so we have one problem and then we move on to the next problem and then we move on to the next problem instead of ten problems popping up at the same time let's see a show of hands how many people think we're gonna get lucky and have them be one at a time anybody yeah so so the middle road is not you know we can hope for it but I'm not optimistic I think we're probably going to be looking at the worst-case scenario so that brings us to the final point which is that how do we deal with this how are we going to go about countering this problem and understanding it and the first big obstacle and and really the biggest obstacle is that this is that social media is a corporate RC so we are not talking about of real public square these are companies that own these platforms and control what's on these platforms and they carry out enforcement against the users of these platforms every day in volumes that they do not disclose and for reasons that they do not disclose so we don't know how many people get suspended on any given day on any of these platforms and we don't know why and we don't know the demographics of who's being suspended and whether there's some kind of bias at play in there this is a tremendous challenge in trying to come up with this broad solution to this problem white nationalists may have an easier time of it than black nationalists I'm guessing you know if you tried to put in a some kind of enforcement policy against each of these groups I'm guessing that that black nationalist would probably have a harder time keeping their accounts online you know and there are a variety of ways that bias can creep into this so nobody wants a world where you know Google Facebook and Twitter are deciding what's acceptable morality and what's acceptable speech but that's the world we have and as these platforms become increasingly important increasingly part of the public discourse this problem is only gonna get worse they also operate in global jurisdictions so different countries have different standards this gets the incredibly complicated problem none of these companies want to work with government in a really active way for reasons that are laudable but it's still you know when you sit down and we're gonna try and figure out how to solve this problem that's a real that's a real challenge so ultimately there is no obvious solution at this time to all of this and that's why I tend to think we're going to see the worst case scenario I think we're in for a rough 10 years with a lot of a lot of violence and a lot of turmoil and I think the best thing we can do is not be surprised by it so this is why I'm being the prophet of doom today and so I would now be happy to take some questions [Applause] thank you very much so yeah now we're going to do take a couple of questions we've got about twenty minutes we're already running over could I please ask you when you're before you ask your question can you wait for the microphone and also give your name and affiliation okay yeah thank you Jefferson or Max Planck Institute in Holland Germany he mentioned or you showed that other extremist groups are now learning obviously from from Isis that was like the first but there is an innovative behavior and he mentioned white extremist groups and that would specifically question about al-qaeda so what did you know that broader jihadist movement so to speak so what did they learn and are they certainly may be more more it's more a problem because they represent like the they can represented most of the broader like the more mainstream maturity of an Isis okay they're clearly fringe but you know we are like representing real issues after yeah thanks yeah so al-qaeda has learned from Isis somewhat they have taken tentative steps to sort of use some of the same techniques that that Isis is used in terms of automation in terms of synchronization but al-qaeda is is culturally averse to social media partly because they are in constant danger of being drone Isis doesn't worry about that so much and and it turns out that until recently they were correct not to worry about it so much so we CL know Sarah has a significant presence but they're not doing the same kind of synchronized stuff but they are benefiting so they're benefiting but they're benefiting a more organic way and not in the same sort of obvious sudden escalation that we saw with Isis the white nationalists are really more emulating the Isis approach now but what they do is they don't they're they're content they're not posting graphically violent content the time and they're not you know some of them are careful about not violating the Terms of Service so they're able to stay online and organize it in a much better way but they're running hashtag campaigns they're doing automation you know they're they have recruitment programs that run inside a broader social network in the same way that Isis does so you know those kinds of specific tactics are being exploited now and then the beauty of all this of course is these are super complicated systems so you have an emergence problem which is that you know to two months from now somebody's going to figure out how to you know organize a chain of tweets that become self-aware or something else that we fail to anticipate so I worry about that a little more than a continuation of the things we've seen so far any other question Moin hwacha from DC university my question for you is how do we treat propaganda by other Islamist organizations which are equally deadly as Isis for example Java toonastra Haram Giavotella salami and many others in Iraq and Syria in Libya or in Afghanistan you have Isis in Afghanistan as well should that propaganda be treated as seriously as it is being treated in terms of Isis or what should be well that's a good question it's a difficult question so you know we have a we're currently looking at an incredibly complicated jihadi landscape right now and right now decisions are being made very ad hoc so the Taliban for instance has been out online on social media for ever without any real significant pressure being put on them except sporadically Javad al-nusra is in the position of being part of this rebel coalition and so there's some ambivalence in the Western governments about what are we gonna do about it whereas in the Gulf governments are completely enthusiastic about Jabal al nusra al-nusra could also break with al Qaeda this is obviously anybody who follows al-nusra knows that every two weeks there's a story saying that they're gonna break with al Qaeda and it never happens but it's a logical move for them and you know you kind of have to think that sooner or later that's probably gonna happen so then what do you would what do you do with them you know do we draw the line there do we draw our R el shamah I don't I don't have easy answers for all of these things the Isis the thing about Isis as a geopolitical actor is that it is you know connoisseur of chaos it is it is actively trying to disrupt everything in the region and everything outside of the region in ways that are so aggressive that you can't tolerate them which is why they they have gotten the crackdown that they have with these other groups then you start to get into these sticky areas and the company's you know I I mean to some extent I think I'm sort of making a criticism of these companies in this speech because you know because they have become not really through there any fault of their own they've become the de facto dictators of free speech around the world companies don't like gray areas so Isis is easy chevelle donors are harder or RFM is harder still and you know each of these things that comes up I think that it's it's going to be more and more difficult to do a suppression campaign like has been done against Isis so I think that you know it'll it'll depend on what kind of propaganda they're putting out and and what they're doing but you know there's no formula for this I think that you can apply to these new generation of other extremist groups that are going to be using the medium martial whirring University of Amsterdam and part of Fox poll so you're indicating it's only a very small part of the social media to 0.002% that's still a huge amount of data a lot of unstructured data so how do you deal with that well my experience has been that if you know a few accounts that are in the particular extremist movement that you're looking at that you can find a lot more accounts and that when you find a lot more accounts than you can find maybe almost all the counts so I think that you know a failing in particularly how governments approach this has been to do they want – they want a top-down solution so they want to be able to load the Internet up in their browser and press a button and all the extremists will pop out of the Internet whereas it's what's much more practical is that you you know you do some manual identification of your initial actors and then you build your snowball your networks out so once you have that one of the advantage of that we do have in this that I I think I glossed over and because I was running out of time is that trend detection is is much much easier in an age of social media this is an incredibly powerful tool that we really have not exploited fully and and you know I speak from the experience of you know one reason I got to work on a book on Isis is that I I saw them coming on social media before I saw them coming on the ground and you know you could see the rift with al-qaida was particularly really the thing that first interested me in in Isis I was like wow you know forum administrators who have twitter accounts are suddenly switching their allegiance and then when you looked at their you saw you spin out their social network and you see that more and more people around that network are also switching their religions and so you can there's a lot of really cool stuff we can be doing with trend detection that I think we're only at the beginning of so you know being forewarned is is good in some cases it will help in other cases it may not but I think that's that's you know the utility of this data aside from identifying individual bad guys is is really to sort of not get flabbergasted every time one of these things comes up so you know when in 2015 2014 you know we're subjected to an endless series of stories about Isis coming out of nowhere that helps Isis when they're perceived is coming out of nowhere so you know the more we can anticipate and educate people about what's gonna happen the lesser the impact will be correctly if you talk about trends it's basically the number of followers or easy statistics other than what's in the text what kind of images are there what are they using as images how are they spread those kind of things or are you also taking those into account no I'm talking about that whole spectrum of things so I mean you know in terms of what I found is that you can if you have a good set of people who are interested in a certain topic so say they're tweeting like genocide if you collect the people around those people this is just one example through way I approach things and everybody else here has a lot of great ideas on this too but I don't you know I look at those people who are who are tweeting where genocide and then I collect everybody who's following them and then I look at what other hashtags they're tweeting and then I try and figure out where the overlapping networks are there's a lot of interesting stuff you can do extracting value from text I'm not a big fan of semantics and sentiment analysis but I do like word pairs in collocation and you know word frequency kind of stuff is stuff that's very basic but it gives you some idea of what's going on I don't have that the cool image technology that we saw on display here but I think that's another another really interesting way to approach it so you know our ability to process get intelligence out of the data is you approve as this goes on and and so you know that's that's a bright spot in this Fox poll might bring some new things yes I learned stuff I just can't Facebook and so my question is more around separatism separatist movements and so you know that in Turkey there is PKK obviously they are fighting against Isis there is YPG but the government is sort of fighting both against them and Isis so how do you see this as a worst-case outcome for let's say either for Turkey or for you because basically Turkey is the sort of the hub like between like sort of like the border between Isis and well I mean I'm not a regional politics expert but even I can see that Kurdish separatism is going to be a big issue in in the post Isis environment and you know there's a lot of a lot of political opposition to it at the same time the United States has been you know really liking how the Kurds are taking on Isis and so you know I don't know what kind of understandings they might have behind the scenes on that and and I'm not you know I I wear a lot of hats but regional regional politics expert is not one of them so certainly I can see enough to be concerned about it and heard the PKK is very good at Twitter by the way so but I I don't think I can comment on that intelligent enough to anyone else Laura Smith BBC monitoring just perhaps on the day of the UK referendum outcome I can't quite deal with the bigger picture I know I felt bad because I knew everybody was already gonna be in a pretty gloomy mood are you coming in here implications that you're drawing from online activity and the sort of nature of Fringe Society fringe community impact isn't it the case that is the impact of is actually comes from the impact it's made on the ground in real terms and it wasn't the Internet activity that came first so just aren't there many sort of factors real life factors including that favor the status quo including sort of people in charge and the corporate toxicity that you referred to don't lots of things actually sort of militate for sort of more sane outcome than you suggest please say yes [Laughter] well the on-the-ground situation in Iraq certainly I mean you know offline pieces of this are hugely important and and I don't mean to minimize that what I think is that the the input coming from the social media network places is going to take volatile situations and make them more volatile and I think you can make a pretty good case for that with is you know III I guess that's kinda the best the least depressing way I can I can probably put that I serenity no Netherlands data analytics thank you for your talk I was I would like to go back to the top topic of the white nationalism you said the problem there is that their communication is on blurred lines how do we go around that so except for the responsibility of the corporations how do you tackle that point yeah that's the problem so with the white nationalists there are there are certainly organized efforts at this point that that do break the rules you know they do violate the Terms of Service so you know I'm sure most of you know that I've been you know a big advocate of suspensions on the Isis networks for a long time and with white nationalists there is activity that can and should be suspended because it's like direct harassment there's threats physical threats you know organized campaigns of harassment that have driven people off of Twitter a number of journalists are written about that if you you know I think something I think the companies could approach the question of organized harassment in a more effective way there might be a way to draw lines around organized harassment that would give you some tools to to moderate activity on these networks the problem is a lot of white nationalists on online are will take a line and you know we can you can question the sincerity of this this ideological point they're making and I do question the sincerity of it that they just simply love their own people and you know they're not that they don't hate anybody and blah blah blah and you know I think you look at these networks if you are unfortunate to spend any time reading into them you can quickly see that that's not true but when you're a person who's into all the human beings are still making all the decisions about suspensions with very few exceptions like very gross automated behavior might get automatically suspended by but otherwise a human being is reading this content and making a call so if you're you know you get a report somebody's got a swastika or they got the white power logo on their thing and you know but the person's content is like oh well I just love my people and you know it gets to be a gray area then you have an additional complication which is that and we see this in the Donald Trump campaign in the United States and we're see we saw with brexit is that white nationalists are mainstreaming themselves so they're becoming there they're leveraging issues that are close to them to become part of the mainstream conversation and then you get into the question of so we already are uncomfortable right with Facebook Google and Twitter being the morality place are we are comfortable with them doing social engineering are they you know because because that's the next thing it's like when or when when are we drawing the line between stopping a violent extremist group and socially engineering communities to make a better world in their vision of it and and you know any any fan of dystopian fiction will tell you that that never ends well so I don't I don't have the answers to that those I have I have the questions and you know I'm throwing them out here to this group of smart people and hopefully see some more conversation about this that will help inform my own thinking thank you very much I'm going to close the session now I think I believe we're having lunch and I'd like you to join me again in thanking Jo for an [Applause] you

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