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Multidimensional Vulnerabilities for Online Radicalization

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $750,000)

Several studies suggest a possible relationship between mental health problems, developmental disorders, problematic internet usage and vulnerability to radicalization.

This project proposes to conduct foundational research on better understanding the vulnerabilities for online radicalization to terrorist ideologies and domestic terrorism especially involving multidimensional vulnerabilities related to cognitive and behavioral factors.

This is a three-year, multi-site, mixed methods study with a case control design with three aims: 1) qualitatively characterize the experiences of radicalized persons with these vulnerabilities and how they use social media and the internet, 2) surveying persons involved in domestic radicalization to demonstrate the frequency of indicators of vulnerability, and 3) use this knowledge to build and pilot an assessment tool to improve identification methods.

The applicants will identify and survey those interested in, engaging in, sympathetic to and actively supporting domestic terrorism (specifically, white supremacy) as well as “formers” (those who were once in the “life” but have now gotten out). The applicants partner with Life After Hate, a group that has been involved with the deradicalization of individuals who have been involved in the white supremacist movement. Interviews will consist of digital self-report surveys, in-person survey interviews (conducted by at least thirty individuals who have formerly been involved in the white supremacist movement), and internet ethnography. The study proposes to look at multidimensional vulnerabilities related to weak social and family support/bonds, trauma and environmental exposures, mental illness and personality disorders, and problematic internet use to characterize the experience of radicalized persons with these vulnerabilities.

Findings from the in person interviews and online surveys will be used to develop the VO-RAD (Vulnerabilities to Online Radicalization) quantitative assessment battery. The findings from this project should strengthen assessment, practice, and policy, especially by devising an evidence-based strategy for assessment of those involved in, or at risk of, online radicalization. It will also result in multiple products tailored for use by practitioners from community-based organizations, mental health, and law enforcement, which will assist them in addressing online radicalization including those persons with multidimensional vulnerabilities.

"Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14)."


Date Created: August 31, 2018