Cyber Jihad Taxonomy: Qualitative Analysis of the Behavior of Jihadi Members on Social Networks

Udi Sommer; Gahl Silverman (Bar-Ilan University)​

Researcher

In an era of a global war against Islamic extremist terrorism, a major element has become the increasing presence of terrorist groups online. ‘Cyber Jihad’ that has proliferated, simultaneously with the significant growth of social networking sites, has become an enormous challenge and ushered in a new and terrifying era (that includes most recently the attacks in Paris, Brussels, Orlando and Nice).

Previous studies in this field, applied quantitative approaches to developing an algorithm or to draw a global map of connections between distinct terrorist organizations. However, existing work largely disregarded the aspect of individual extremist Muslims, their behavior, activity patterns and thus the jihad subculture they form online, which provides the infrastructure for terrorist activity.

The proposed study will use a holistic qualitative approach, assisted by a mixed methods analysis software (NVivo11), to apply a two-stage inquiry in order to: (1) identify the characteristics of a potential Jihadi terrorist; (2) identify the taxonomy of the discourse between Jihadi members; and (3) create a categorization of posts and replies that exhibit or inspire an implied preliminary jihadi terrorists’ behavior. The analytic leverage will then allow us to zoom in on the individual level and to draw a multilayered picture of cyber jihad subculture and the basis it sets for broader online terrorist activity.

Objectives of the Proposed Project

What are the characteristics of a potential Jihadi extremist as reflected in SNS discourse? This study has three main goals:

  1. To identify the characteristics of a potential Jihadi terrorist;
  2. To identify the taxonomy of the discourse between Jihadi members on SNS; and,
  3. To create a categorization of posts and replies that exhibit or inspire an implied preliminary jihadi terrorist behavior.

Methodology

This study will zoom in on the individual level and make a multilayered picture of cyber jihad subculture. We will employ a mixed methods analysis software (NVivo11), using a two stage inquiry to analyze posts and related replies. At the first stage, we will focus on a selected sample of posts and replies that contain Jihadi discourse through text, audio and video, in English and possibly in Arabic. Classification, discourse, conversation and semiotic analysis will be applied to study each post and related replies independently. At the second stage, Lexical Identifier Mapping, based on content analysis methodology, will be applied to group relevant posts and related replies based on content similarity.

Tel Aviv University, P.O. Box 39040, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel
UI/UX Basch_Interactive