How Does Radicalization Occur Online?
- Extremist groups exploit the powerful global reach of social and digital media to infiltrate homes, schools, and communities around the world. Video propaganda, private chat groups, and online newsletters released by terror groups and their sympathizers have influenced many individuals to develop an imbalanced worldview that emphasized ideological extremism, intolerance, and discrimination. This propaganda is selective in what it displays. For example, materials released by the terror group Daesh online have omitted the executions, torture, and mass violence perpetrated against civilians, instead offering a glorified and untrue image of the group they have formed. Such information can often be convincing to at-risk individuals, many of whom believe they will make a tangible difference by aligning with extremist organizations. In recent years, ISIS romanticized the so-called Caliphate, obscuring what life was like under their rule. Despite displays of brotherhood, adventure, and equality in “true” Islam,” the reality was the opposite of the propaganda videos.
- Reporting objectionable content on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is an important way to reduce the general public’s exposure to distorted extremist media. For parents, talking to your children about the risks associated with the consumption of radical content is a productive way to initiate conversations on the dangers of extremist thought. While parents cannot consistently ensure that they are able to monitor every piece of content and every social network accessed by their children, it is important to lay the groundwork in addressing how youth are particularly vulnerable to online radicalization in their formative years. Healthy communication with your children is vital – encourage dialogue and a healthy flow of conversation to avoid isolation. If your children are not speaking to you about their life – they are talking to someone. Encouraging healthy dialogue can help prevent our youth from seeking those answers from those online.