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The Role of the Internet and Social Media on Radicalization: What Research Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice Tells Us

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2024
35 pages

This report examines research funded by the National Institute of Justice, Domestic Radicalization to Terrorism program, focusing on the role of social media and the internet in influencing radicalization and violent extremist dynamics.


The focus of this report centers on National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-funded studies with published results that specifically focused on the role of the online space, synthesizing findings based on four main criteria: online exploitation; online engagement; online risk; and online mitigation. The report refers to studies that draw from a variety of populations, online areas of focus, and periods of time, so while they are not scientifically comparable, they do provide useful information for policymakers, program coordinators and practitioners, and researchers focused on radicalization and terrorism in the online space. Research findings suggest that the role of the internet in radicalization processes is complex, and the extent to which social media and the internet function as a direct and singular cause of radicalization is unclear; certain factors such as individual characteristics, backgrounds, and ideological influences may play varying roles in the process. Research studies analyzed in this report cover topics such as the different types and prevalence of explicitly ideological material within far-right internet forums, female trajectories to radicalization and their use of the internet, and more. The document suggests that further research is especially needed for understanding how risk of radicalization varies across different online materials. Findings also highlight how policymakers and practitioners seeking to prevent and reverse radicalization must tailor their engagement across different platforms, like recruiters do, but they must also consider how the online space is just one part of a larger radicalization strategy that should be addressed holistically.

Date Published: April 1, 2024