Accession Number:

ADA570734

Title:

Internet Radicalization: Actual Threat or Phantom Menace?

Descriptive Note:

Master's thesis

Corporate Author:

NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL MONTEREY CA DEPT OF NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:

2012-09-01

Pagination or Media Count:

109.0

Abstract:

According to popular opinion, accessing radical Islamic content and connecting with extremist networks through the internet causes radicalization and recruitment to commit terrorist acts. Anecdotal evidence has been used to support this assertion. The assumption is that the internet has created a new path to radicalization and recruitment. However, whether computer-mediated communication CMC and internet functionalities e.g., web sites, e-mail, chat rooms, forums, weblogs, text messages, online games cause individuals to become radicalized has not been thoroughly studied. This thesis explores whether a correlation can be found between radicalization and radicalizing content and extremist networks accessed through CMC and internet functionalities. The thesis examines the psychological and sociological elements of radicalization perceptions of the impact of the internet on radicalization, recruitment, and terrorism radicalization causes and the radicalization process the presence of radicalizing content in conventional communications and contacts e.g., face-to-face communication in a mosque and nine case studies of individuals to determine the roles of CMC, conventional communication, and vulnerabilities in radicalization. Three of the nine case studies analyzed support the conclusion that internet radicalization is possible, but the other cases show that root causes and individual vulnerabilities may have a greater impact on the radicalization process. Since some circumstances involving CMC may increase the likelihood of radicalization, the fear of internet radicalization may be reasonable, but the number of incidents validating that fear makes the threat unlikely. Internet radicalization appears to be more a phantom menace than a real threat. The appendix contains summaries of 16 cases frequently cited as examples of internet radicalization and recruitment, but in which CMC is actually used for utility or support rather than for internet radicalization.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Psychology
  • Computer Systems
  • Unconventional Warfare

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE