How Does Isis’ Online Propaganda Demonstrate Mechanisms of Radicalisation?

A large-scale, computer-assisted analysis of ISIS’ video and text online content (across many different types of online media) to explore how this might affect individuals at a cognitive level.

The self-proclaimed “Islamic State” is well-known for its use of the social media to elicit fear and communicate and promote its ideology. This study seeks to identify how ISIS’ online propaganda demonstrates the dynamics of radicalisation by conducting a large-scale, computer-assisted analysis of ISIS’ online content—both video- and text-based—and by linking the results of this narrative structure to the cognitive dynamics theorized to play a role in individual’s commitment to political extremism and violence. Specifically, the project will harvest ISIS’ propaganda on social media in real-time, creating a large corpus of textual information. The analysis will document what this propaganda is talking about and how the themes, issues and claims interconnect within argumentative and explanatory structures. This will evaluate how ISIS’ online propaganda makes use of polarizing language known to foster intergroup conflict, and offer a clear view of the group’s arguments. The project will also conduct language use analysis to provide a clear, yet nuanced picture of the structure and logics of ISIS’ online propaganda. This study will show the dynamics of persuasion over which ISIS’ propaganda rests, using robust tools for the analysis of online content and building on past scholarship in critical ways.

Research questions

  • How does ISIS use social media? E.g. how often is video- and text-based content uploaded, how often is it viewed and/or shared, and by whom?
  • Which theorized mechanisms of radicalisation are frequent and which are rarely found in online media?
  • (How) does ISIS use different language in different types of online formats (e.g. text, video, Twitter and to appeal to different audiences?

Principal Investigator

Dr Stephane Baele


University of Exeter, UK





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