U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Role of Social Networks in the Evolution of Al Qaeda-Inspired Violent Extremism in the United States, 1990-2015

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2016
71 pages
This study analyzed the networks and organizations that mobilize and direct Americans in committing jihadist action or that raise money in the United States for Hamas and Hezbollah.
The study concluded that family members and spouses are often the first to know when a person is about to engage in a violent jihadist-inspired attack. American "homegrown" terrorists are rebelling against perceived national U.S. policies and values, the beliefs of their parents, and against the American Muslim community that embraces the American way of life. Based on these study findings, the authors recommend that State and Federal laws should make it a duty to report suspicions about imminent criminal activity related to terrorism. These laws would be similar to those requiring the reporting of suspicions of child abuse. Also, the growing involvement of converts and the diffusion of risk outside metropolitan areas suggests the need to educate community leaders, teachers, prison wardens, and social workers in the recognition of the signs of dangerous radicalization. Further, it is recommended that there be a top-down suppression of the purveyors of extreme political violence rather than a bottom-up elimination of militant social media activists. Such social media transmissions are often important sources of information for law enforcement in identifying high-risk individuals. Data for this study were collected as part of the Western Jihadism Project, a database of Western nationals associated with terrorist plots related to Al Qaeda and aligned groups, including ISIL. Data are from the early 1990s to the end of 2015. 9 figures, 2 tables, and a list of publications stemming from this study

Date Published: June 1, 2016