U.S.-based white nationalists and self-identified Nazi sympathizers use Twitter with “relative impunity” and often have far more followers than militant Islamists, reports Reuters. A study released Thursday by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism found that 18 prominent white nationalist accounts, including that of the American Nazi Party, have seen a sharp increase in Twitter followers to a total of more than 25,000, up from about 3,500 in 2012. The study’s findings contrast with declining influence on Twitter for the Islamic State amid crackdowns that have targeted the militant group, according to earlier research by report author J.M. Berger and others.
“White nationalists and Nazis outperformed ISIS in average friend and follower counts by a substantial margin,” the report said. “Nazis had a median follower count almost eight times greater than ISIS supporters, and a mean count more than 22 times greater.” While Twitter has waged an aggressive campaign to suspend Islamic State users – the company said in an August blog post it had shut down 360,000 accounts for threatening or promoting what it defined as terrorist acts since the middle of 2015 – Berger said in his report that “white nationalists and Nazis operate with relative impunity.” A Twitter spokesman declined to comment.