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Radicalisation in the Digital Era: The Use of the Internet in 15 Cases of Terrorism and Extremism

NCJ Number
Ines von Behr; Anaïs Reding; Charlie Edwards; Luke Gribbon
Date Published
76 pages
This study conducted exploratory, primary research on the role of the internet in the radicalization of 15 terrorists and extremists in the United Kingdom.
Study findings confirm that the internet had a significant influence in the radicalization process of the violent extremists and terrorists whose cases were examined. The five study hypotheses are supported by the findings. First, the internet creates more opportunities to become radicalized. Second, the internet acts as an "echo chamber," i.e., a place where individuals find their ideas supported and echoed by other like-minded individuals. Third, the internet accelerates the process of radicalization. Fourth, the internet allows radicalization to occur without physical contact with like-minded terrorists. Fifth, the internet increases opportunities for self-radicalization. The researchers advise caution in generalizing from this study because of the small number of cases that constitute a convenience sample; thus, the narratives of those terrorists in the sample do not necessarily reflect the way in which all violent extremists and terrorists use the internet during their radicalization; however, this study provides useful insights that can guide future studies in this area. Cross-referencing, validation, and challenging hypotheses require more empirical evidence. The 15 cases were identified by the research team in consultation with the British Association of Chief Police Officers and British Counter Terrorism Units. Interviews were conducted with the senior investigative officers involved in the cases, and the online behaviors of the convicted terrorists were examined from data recovered by the police directly from the individuals' computers. A literature review was also conducted. Tables, figures, and bibliography