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BYU student studying Tweets to learn how ISIS is gaining support in U.S.

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Posted at 3:24 PM, May 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-17 23:59:26-04

PROVO, Utah - The terrorist group ISIS has been gaining support in America, especially among women, and now one BYU student is working to find out why.

Alex Miller has been studying the twitter accounts of western women who publicly support ISIS.

He focused on accounts that posted frequently and had gained over 300 followers.

Thirty accounts met this criteria and Miller randomly picked 10 to study for a full week.

One of the women he studied recently left her home in Alabama to join ISIS in Syria.

Miller said she and others he studied don't seem to shy away from the terrorist group's brutality and violence, quite the opposite.

He said they often celebrate the horrific acts with video and images.

Officials said those findings are surprising in one specific regard.

Authorities said, currently, many experts assume women who support ISIS are attracted by visions of a romantic adventure or some kind of humanitarian appeal.

Based on Miller's research, that might be an incorrect assumption.

"The intelligence community tries to counter recruitment by using violent imagery, trying to show that it is barbaric,” Professor Celeste Beesley said, who teaches political science. “According to Alex’s research, that is actually a recruitment technique that they (ISIS) are using, especially through these women. Somebody is misunderstanding the audience and that’s a problem."

Miller researched the topic for Beesley's class on the politics of terrorism.