US to study online presence of extremist groups

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The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has awarded a study grant of $585,719 to Michigan State University to look into social media’s role in furthering the cause of extremist groups such as ISIS and the far right movement.

“There is currently limited knowledge of the role of technology and computer mediated communications (CMCs), such as Facebook and Twitter, in the dissemination of messages that promote extremist agendas and radicalize individuals to violence,” said the agency.

“The proposed study will address this gap through a series of qualitative and quantitative analyses of posts from various forms of CMC used by members of both the far-right and Islamic extremist movements.”

The research will analyse forums tied to specific groups. For example, researchers will gather posts from three active forums frequented by the Islamic extremist community and four that are utilised by the far-right movement.

It will also study the content on popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Pastebin, YouTube, Facebook and LiveJournal posted by members of these movements.

Ultimately, the research will examine and document the variation and prevalence of ideological content in posts made by these individuals, noted the DOJ. It will also pinpoint the hidden networks of people who promote extremism, grouping them based on ideological similarities and geographic location. Their findings will be shared with counterterrorism experts in the United States.

During the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism held in the White House in February 2015, former Attorney General Eric Holder lauded the program that funded this research as one of the new methods being used by the Department of Justice to tackle terrorism.

 


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