#Greenbirds: Measuring Importance and Influence in Syrian Foreign Fighter Networks

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This 2014 report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR) presents the findings of a 12-month study on the social media profiles of 190 Western and European foreign fighters. Two-thirds of those presented in the study were members of Jabhat al-Nusra or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The paper examines how foreign fighters in Syria receive information about the conflict and who inspires them to action. Through examining the database ICSR found that foreign fighters view social media as an essential facet of what happens on the ground in Syria. They receive the majority of their information about the conflict from disseminators and not through official media channels.

This report will be useful to scholars, practitioners and researchers interested in understanding the processes involved in evaluating the impact of radical influencers online. It is particularly useful for understanding how radicalized individuals utilize social media, view the conditions in which they operate, and structure their self-identifying narrative with the help of external actors. It is uncovered that the disseminators in the study are unaffiliated to Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS, though they are supportive and sympathetic individuals. Furthermore, they are largely based in the West and in other areas outside of the conflict zone. They include new spiritual authorities to whom foreign fighters look to for inspiration and guidance. Two individuals in particular are identified as major disseminators and influencers in Australia and the United States. 

Joseph A. Carter, Shiraz Maher, Peter R. Neumann