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The Role of Social Networks in Facilitating and Preventing Domestic Radicalization: What Research Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice Tells Us

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2024
35 pages

This report examines research funded by the National Institute of Justice's Domestic Radicalization to Terrorism program, focusing on the impact of social networks in domestic radicalization and how social networks can either facilitate or prevent radicalization; it also discusses limitations and challenges in assessing information about anti-radicalization programs for policymakers, law enforcement, practitioners, and researchers.


This report presents findings and lessons drawn from research to determine what the role of peer relationships and social dynamics can play as either a gateway or gatekeeper preventing domestic radicalization in the United States. The report notes that the research reviewed is not generalizable across contexts, however themes and similarities across research findings are highlighted for further consideration and research. The document notes one theme from the research findings which indicates that social networks can play an important role in either facilitating or preventing radicalization and engagement with violent extremist groups and ideologies, even for lone actors whose radicalization may be impacted through online subcultures as well as peers and family members. The research evaluated in this report also indicates that roles of social networks can vary; in some cases the absence of social bonds can motivate radicalization while in other cases the presence of certain types of social bonds may encourage radicalization. The various themes from the research analyzed here suggests that there are complex reasons for the radicalization of individuals. Research findings suggest that the need to shift from asking whether connections influence radicalization to asking when they influence radicalization. The report provides insights from the research that may be applied to future research regarding programs that support anti-extremist connections, and illuminates important avenues for additional research such as internet-assisted radicalization and the role of online networks.

Date Published: April 1, 2024