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The Role of Social Media in the Evolution of Al-Qaeda Inspired Terrorism

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2017
2 pages
This article summarizes the report of an NIJ-funded research project entitled, "The Role of Social Media in the Evolution of Al Qaeda-Inspired Violent Extremism," which compared online networks that mobilize and direct Americans for jihadist action.
Jihadist terrorism activities in the United States have been linked to a global terrorist movement that relies on modern communication technologies, media, and a globalized social consciousness to promote its belief system and radicalize susceptible persons who have access to Internet media. The NIJ-sponsored study conducted an analysis that compared the network structure of American terrorism offenders inspired by Hezbollah, Sunni extremist groups aligned with Al Qaeda, and ISIL. Young men and women have joined the Islamic State in patterns similar to chain migration, following in the footsteps of others from their town or neighborhood and bonding with friends or peers who nurture and reinforce their views. Some recommendations for addressing these influences are to focus on community education; establish a duty to report; develop court-enforced treatment programs; disrupt and prevent the development of localized extremist hubs; monitor cumulative influence networks; continue to disrupt and intercept travel to foreign terrorist organizations; and suppress producers rather than consumers of terrorist propaganda online.

Date Published: September 1, 2017