Automating Terror: The Role and Impact of Telegram Bots in the Islamic State’s Online Ecosystem
In this article, we use network science to explore the topology of the Islamic State’s “terrorist bot” network on the online social media platform Telegram, empirically identifying its connections to the Islamic State supporter-run groups and channels that operate across the platform, with which these bots form bipartite structures.
As part of this, we examine the diverse activities of the bots to determine the extent to which they operate in synchrony with one another as well as explore their impacts.
We show that these bots are mainly clustered around two communities of Islamic State supporters, or “munasirun,” with one community focusing on facilitating discussion and exchange, and the other one augmenting content distribution efforts.
Operating as such, this network of bots is used to lubricate and augment the Islamic State’s influence activities, including facilitating content amplification and community cultivation efforts, and connecting people with the movement based on common behaviors, shared interests, and/or ideological proximity while minimizing risk for the broader organization.
A. Alrhmoun, C. Winter, J. Kertész, Automating Terror: The Role and Impact of Telegram Bots in the Islamic State’s Online Ecosystem, Terrorism and Political Violence (2023)