Online Radicalization Behaviors By Violent Extremist Type
Baltes, Halle F
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Existing research suggests that different types of violent extremist organizations utilize distinct approaches to radicalize and mobilize potential recruits online. Specifically, previous studies indicate that Violent Islamic Extremist (VIE) groups attempt to create virtual breeding grounds that mimic in-person socialization. Conversely, Radical Right Extremist (RRE) organizations forgo web-based community-building efforts, preferring instead to proliferate mass amounts of alternative ideological propaganda to subvert mainstream narratives. There is little research examining whether the phenomenon continues at the actor level among the individuals actually committing terrorist attacks. Therefore, this study qualitatively investigates whether web-based behaviors differ by actor type through a comparative case study analysis. To do so, the research explores the radicalization of perpetrators prior to six terrorist attacks in the United States. The study tests the hypotheses that internet behaviors vary by actor type (H1), with VIE subjects presenting more interactive online engagement (HIa) and RRE subjects showing more one-way absorption of information (H1b). The resulting evidence does not support the hypotheses as little discernible difference has been discovered between the online radicalization behaviors that VIE and RRE actors partook in. In fact, the results suggest that if a difference does exist, it is that RRE perpetrators engage in more online interaction than VIE counterparts. However, this slight discrepancy results from a case with inconclusive data due to contradictory reports. Therefore, the findings show little significant difference in online radicalization among actor types.