Social Media and Terrorism Research: Problems and Solutions

Posted: 5 Mar 2018

Date Written: March 2, 2018


Generally speaking, the availability and affordances of social media can be seen as a tool to spread terrorism. The development of new technologies plays a major role in facilitating roles of terrorist, radical movements to mobilize their ideas and recruit new people and true believers. A small poster printed from the Internet and hung in a local bodega may look beautiful and peaceful with flowers and bright colours, but could actually be an embraced call to terrorist attacks and glorification as a martyr; however, this does not come without factors.

These major arguments lead to the major focus in this study which is mainly on terrorism in the context of social media. This paper has two fold objectives. The first one is to critically analyse social media practices used by radical and terrorist movements exemplified by the Islamic State. The second one is to shed lights on challenges facing researching terrorism in social media and suggesting solutions mainly to methodological frameworks.

This paper draws on the body of literature at the intersection of social media, terrorism studies and critical discourse studies (KhosraviNik 2017) to lay the foundation for a social media critical discourse analysis of the ways Islamic terrorist propaganda machine appropriates the digital participatory spaces. The paper accounts for social media discourses of the so-called Islamic State aka ISIS/ISIL.

The preliminary results show that Islamic State’s members or sympathizers redistribute IS’s materials by sharing, liking, editing and re-uploading on various social media platforms rather than one platform. Strategically, they use ‘Fake Account Creation’ to increase their publicity and mobility to reach wide audiences.

This research comes without facing major challenges presented mainly in data collection and sampling as well as finding a framework to analyse communication practices of social media. Also, there are factors that affect virtual audiences of terrorist groups/movements on social media, e.g. accessibility of the medium itself such as age, gender, location, socio-economic status, the availability of content mainly its linguistic demands as most of Jihadist or terrorist movements’ forums are published in Arabic language, but still there are some materials are produced in different languages.

Keywords: Terrorism, Islamic State, Social Media, Digital Media, Conflict

Suggested Citation

Amer, Mohammedwesam, Social Media and Terrorism Research: Problems and Solutions (March 2, 2018). TPRC 46: The 46th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy 2018. Available at SSRN:

Mohammedwesam Amer (Contact Author)

University of Newcastle ( email )

5 Barrack Road
Devonshire Building
United Kingdom

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