NATO STRATCOM Report on ISIS/ISIL/DAESH Propaganda and Social Media Networks


Seal_of_the_United_States_Department_of_State.svgNATO STRATCOM COE

This report was funded by the United States Department of State and the Administrator of the project was NATO STRATCOM Center of Excellence. The full report was originally published by NATO STRATCOM.

To cite please use the following:

Shaheen, Joseph A.E. (2015). Network of terror: how DAESH uses adaptive social networks to spread its message. NATO STRATCOM COEAccess url:


I conducted research aimed at understanding the process by which ISIS disseminates propaganda online. My focus was not the content that is distributed but the method by which it is distributed. I did so using a number of qualitative, statistical, and numerical analysis techniques in hopes of gaining a deeper insight into their operations and making recommendations for NATO and NATO member states on how to combat them effectively. I discovered a number of important findings the most salient of which is on how individual level decisions made by many of their members have contributed to the survival of their propaganda capabilities, and in some instances an advanced ability to thwart efforts to eliminate their message and their outreach to both locals as well as westerners.


Table of Contents




Executive Summary. 3

Introduction. 6

Method of Analysis 6

Why the Focus on Twitter?. 7

Mode I—Environmental Scan. 10

Structured Media Content 10

Impact through Volume & General Trends 11

Keywords as Geo-locator 13

Semantic Analysis 15

Mode II—Twitter Traffic Network. 17

Network Structure (Topology) 17

Account Centrality. 20

Mode III—Friend/Follow Networks 22

Mode IV—Network Leadership. 27

Mode V—Account Behavior 29

Continuous Building of Adaptive Cognitive Networks 29

Signaling to Avoid Discovery. 31

Speedy and Adaptive Closure. 32

Identifying System Vulnerabilities 32

Conclusions 38

The DEER Process 40

Recommendations 41

Future Research. 45


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