Do Community Engagement Efforts Reduce Extremist Rhetoric on Social Media?
71 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2017
Date Written: March 24, 2017
Over the past few years, efforts at countering violent extremism (CVE) have increased around the world. In the United States, much of the focus has been on community engagement -- programs aiming to reduce radicalization by empowering local communities to identify warning signs of extremism before individuals engage in violence. The emphasis on community engagement is rooted in the idea that local knowledge held by families, neighbors, and friends is crucial for countering radicalization. Understanding whether engaging communities is effective is of paramount importance, especially with the rising accessibility of extremist materials on the Internet and social media. However, to date, there has been little systematic study of the effectiveness of community engagement programs in reducing radicalization in the United States. This paper uses new geo-located data on the online behavior of Islamic State supporters and their followers on Twitter, along with information on community engagement activities held by the Department of Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties during the Obama Administration from 2014 to 2016, to examine whether community engagement events are associated with reductions in pro-ISIS content on Twitter in these localities. The findings show that community engagement activities are followed by a decrease in online pro-ISIS rhetoric, especially in areas that have held a large number of these events.
Keywords: ISIS, recruitment, foreign fighters, radicalization, Twitter, CVE
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