WASHINGTON, March 25 (UPI) -- The Islamic State's use of social media to recruit hires is under fire, thanks to online vigilantes who have come together to sabotage the fighters and fundraisers on Twitter.
The New York Times reported the vigilantes were using screen names like TouchMyTweets, The Doctor and IS Hunting to target suspected IS accounts, blacklist the accounts in question and urge other Twitter users to report the accounts to the social network's violations department.
The group is sometimes associated with hacking organizations like Anonymous. Women hackers who identify themselves as "Anonymisses" also are devoting significant time to hunting down online IS activities and accounts.
Hacking collectives began in 2014 as violent images of IS beheadings and executions grew online. The New York Times reported the Islamic State has grown its following on Twitter and critics, including cyber-security experts, have said Twitter has allowed IS abuse of social media to happen with little intervention.
Author J.M. Berger and data scientist Jonathon Morgan of crowd-data intelligence group Ushahidi, however, have shown Twitter has taken measures to stem the tide IS recruiting on social media – by increasing the organizational costs to the fighters of operating on Twitter.
The researchers said some 18,000 pro-IS Twitter accounts have been suspended by the company, reported DefenseOne. Some 70,000 to 90,000 Twitter accounts are used by the Islamic State, according to The New York Times.
Islamic State supporters on Twitter were identified by their behavior, followings, and other publicly available data. They are more active than the average Twitter user, the researchers said.
In addition to tweeting beheadings and IS propaganda, IS accounts complained frequently about account suspensions.
75 percent of IS supporters tweeted in Arabic and only 20 percent preferred English.
The accounts were most often traced to Saudi Arabia, followed by Syria, Iraq and the United States.
Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, has said the U.S. State Department's protocol on limited communication with the IS on Twitter is an "embarrassment" that provides a legitimizing boost to IS, reported DefenseOne.