Cheering for Osama: How Jihadists Use Internet Discussion Forums

This report from the not entirely uncontroversial Quilliam Foundation – which focuses exclusively on Arabic-language websites – should be understood in the context of three important trends in the Arab world: rapidly rising Internet usage, high levels of youth unemployment, and the continuing lack of real political change and sufficient peaceable outlets for legitimate political dissent. These factors together create a situation in which Jihadist websites which offer radical, utopian solutions to complex socio-economic and political challenges can easily appeal to young people who are bored, frustrated and lack basic opportunities to live full and productive lives. The potential consequences of al-Qaeda’s ideology being adopted by large numbers of young people in the Arab world do not need to be spelt out. Unlike other reports on online extremism which have tended to focus on the structural, technical or social aspects of extremist websites, this report has chosen to focus more explicitly on their content; in other words, to direct attention towards the message rather than the medium. This will not only help policy-makers to more effectively understand the dangers posed by extremist websites, and how to better tackle them, but will also allow a more informed approach to challenging extremism more widely.

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