The Caucasus Emirate on Twitter — Part Three

Posted: 11/06/2013 in Observations

For a recent university paper, I conducted an exploratory study into how the Caucasus Emirate uses the microblogging site Twitter. I’ve extracted some of the key points of the study for your reading pleasure — although it’s worth noting that the full paper contains more details and references the relevant literature.  This third post looks at links contained within tweets, draws some conclusions from all three posts, and suggests some avenues for further study.  See The Caucasus Emirate on Twitter — Part One for details on the study subjects, the accounts that they follow, and the paper’s definition of extremism; see The Caucasus Emirate on Twitter — Part Two for details of interactions with other users.

Links

Links from the tweets of five Caucasus Emirate-associated accounts examined — Kavkazcenter (KC), UmmaNews_com (UN), IslamDin_tv (ID), VDagestan_Ru (VD) and Kavkazchat (KT) — were extracted from tweets using Excel formulae (see Part Two for details on the tweets harvested).  Because harvested data from Twitter shows links as shortened URLS, I ran them through a URL checker and URL revealer to find out the end destination for the links.  Websites linked to were assigned to one of 13 categories: the eight used for accounts followed plus:

9. Own website;
10. Picture (including Twitpic);
11. Video sharing platform;
12. Other social media platform (including Facebook);
13. Non-functioning or incomplete (usually either for now-suspended websites or because the links exceeded Twitter’s character limit).

Top Five Most Linked-to Websites/Accounts (Number of Links)

KC

UN

ID

VD

KT

Own website

(1,199)

YouTube

(614)

Own website

(218)

Own website

(50)

Own website

(20)

YouTube

(349)

Own website

(438)

Dailymotion

(18)

YouTube

(13)

Twitter picture link

(9)

Twitpic

(61)

Liveleak.com

(150)

YouTube

(8)

Twitter picture link

(5)

YouTube

(6)

AlArabiya_Eng

(Twitter)

(33)

Twitter picture link

(93)

KC

(3)

Facebook

(2)

KC

(3)

Echo.msk.ru

(33)

Facebook

(61)

ID

(3)

said-abu-saad.info

(1)

UN

Zekr.org

seyfullah.tauhid.biz

(1)

For all five accounts links to their own website contributed a large proportion of all links, and for four — KC, ID, VD and KT — comprised a clear majority.  Links to video-sharing platforms also made sizable contributions, and at least some of the content on these platforms is likely to have been posted by Caucasus Emirate media outlets.

KC

UN

ID

VD

KT

Extremist (in study)

31

(1.0%)

93

(3.0%)

2

(0.8%)

0

(0.0%)

3

(5.9%)

Extremist (other)

17

(0.6%)

119

(3.8%)

0

(0.0%)

1

(1.2%)

2

(3.9%)

Foreign media

125

(4.1%)

52

(1.7%)

0

(0.0%)

0

(0.0%)

0

(0.0%)

Non-functioning /incomplete

29

(1.0%)

122

(3.9%)

0

(0.0%)

2

(2.4%)

0

(0.0%)

Official

7

(0.2%)

3

(0.1%)

0

(0.0%)

0

(0.0%)

0

(0.0%)

Other social media platform

30

(1.0%)

61

(2.0%)

0

(0.0%)

2

(2.4%)

0

(0.0%)

Own website

1,204

(39.3%)

438

(14.2%)

223

(85.4%)

50

(61.0%)

20

(39.2%)

Picture

441

(14.4%)

99

(3.2%)

0

(0.0%)

5

(6.1%)

9

(17.6%)

Religion

7

(0.2%)

0

(0.0%)

2

(0.8%)

0

(0.0%)

1

(2.0%)

Russian media

124

(4.0%)

14

(0.5%)

4

(1.5%)

0

(0.0%)

0

(0.0%)

Terrorism analysis

6

(0.2%)

1

(0.0%)

0

(0.0%)

0

(0.0%)

0

(0.0%)

Unknown/Other

133

(4.3%)

75

(2.4%)

1

(0.4%)

0

(0.0%)

0

(0.0%)

Video sharing platform

364

(11.9%)

734

(23.7%)

26

(10.0%)

13

(15.9%)

5

(9.8%)

None

561

(18.3%)

1,328

(42.9%)

6

(2.3%)

11

(13.4%)

11

(21.6%)

Analysis of websites linked to by category does not add much to this picture since the accounts’ associated websites and video sharing platforms are already distinct categories.  However, it is noteworthy that for four accounts — KC, UN, VD and KT — tweets without any links were a relatively significant category, and constituted the single largest category for UN.  UN’s link-less tweets were predominantly reporting on incidents, with hashtagged place names indicating the areas with active Islamist insurgencies where they occurred.  Most frequently mentioned were Syria (343 tweets), Iraq (171), Somalia (140), Yemen (53) and Pakistan (40).  Driving traffic to websites appears to be a key goal of Caucasus Emirate Twitter usage, but there also appears to be a strong element of using them as a self-contained reporting mechanism.

Conclusions

The Caucasus Emirate appears to be primarily using Twitter for information gathering and provision purposes, and as a means to drive traffic to its own media outlets.  All of the accounts follow only a limited number of users, and most of those that they follow are or claim to be organisations and movements rather than individuals.  There is little in this exploratory study to suggest that the accounts are exploiting Twitter’s inherent networking capabilities:  not only do they follow few individuals, but their interactions with other users only a small proportion of the whole and are heavily oriented towards other Caucasus Emirate accounts.  Even KC, which engages other users considerably more than the other accounts, is primarily reactive and engages more with ideological opponents than supporters and potential sympathisers.  It appears that Caucasus Emirate accounts are largely neglecting the social element of social media and are to some degree utilising the platform as an add-on to an existing media strategy rather than as a self-contained medium.

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