Online-Radicalisation: Myth or Reality?

The proliferation of extremist, jihadist and violence-inciting websites, blogs and channels in social media has long since become a major theme in security policy. Extremists and terrorists use the new technological tools to communicate with each other, to organise themselves and to publicise their ideas. Whereas terrorists in the previous millennium were still dependent on journalists to report their acts and to draw attention to their group and their ideology, potentially violent groups today are in a position to publish their story and their intentions unfiltered on the web, and to communicate with each other swiftly and effectively across national borders. Ever since the case of Australian teenager Jake Bilardi, who travelled to the territories of the so-called Islamic State (IS)
and in 2015, at the age of 19, committed a suicide attack in Ramadi (Iraq), however, it is not just online communication by extremists that is in focus, but also the phenomenon of online radicalisation. According to the current state of information, Bilardi converted to Islam without any direct influences from his immediate environment, radicalised himself exclusively via online media, and travelled to Syria with the help of online contacts. His case, and many other cases of Western recruits, raised the question of whether a process of radicalisation can take place exclusively online or if online propaganda is only one facilitating factor that promotes and perhaps accelerates radicalization, but is in itself not sufficient to explain the whole process. Unfortunately, there are still not enough systematic, empirical studies on this subject area and our knowledge is generally limited
to known perpetrator profiles. Nevertheless, some general statements can be made regarding online radicalisation.

Tags: Counterterrorism, Islamic State, Radicalisation