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Assessment of Extremist Groups Use of Web Forums, Social Media, and Technology to Enculturate and Radicalize Individuals to Violence

NCJ Number
256038
Date Published
May 2019
Length
47 pages
Author(s)
Thomas J. Holt; Steve Chermak; Joshua D. Freilich
Agencies
NIJ-Sponsored
Annotation

This is the Final Summary Overview of a research project that investigated key issues related to technology and its influence on ideological far-right ideological expression online.

Abstract

The study had five goals. First, it examined the nature of ideological expression in a range of forums operating on various web forums associated with far-right movements and extremist groups generally. Second, it identified the ways that these messages may change over time as a function of participants in extremist communities. Third, it quantified the self-disclosure of technology use, communication of computer security principles, and diffusion of information and ideology to determine patterns of technology use and variations in technological sophistication within and across extremist communities. Fourth, it explored the structure of social networks based on participation in web forums within extremist movements generally. Fifth, it examined whether the nature of online communication changes in terms of content and volume immediately prior to and/or after violent acts are committed by these extremist movements. The study collected data from eight forums that were active in ideological groups oriented toward the “far right,” which includes a range of ideological beliefs. Study data were based on 18,120 posts derived from seven web forums operating online by and for individuals with an interest in the ideological Far Right, both in the United States and other nations. Web forums are a form of computer-related communication that enables individuals to connect and discuss their resources and needs. The expression of ideological beliefs in the far-right forums encompassed a variety of beliefs, including gun rights, conspiracy theories, hate-based sentiments, and anti-government beliefs. Anti-African American sentiment was more common compared to other ideological beliefs. Those with greater associations with others and reinforcement from other forums were more likely to become more radical over time. 7 figures and 6 tables

Date Created: February 10, 2021