Online/social media as a pathway towards violent extremism in East Africa

Question

How is online/social media used as a pathway towards violent extremism in East Africa?

Summary

Findings from a large and growing body of literature consistently highlight the increasingly sophisticated manner in which violent extremist organisations use the Internet and social media. However, there is relatively little empirical research to determine why and how individuals join violent extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab. Evidence is mixed and individual case studies are drawn predominantly from the global north.

Key findings include:

  • Extremist organisations are making more use of social media, and its importance is likely to grow.
  • Social media appears to facilitate pathways to extremism rather than act as a driving force.
  • There are limited examples of individuals radicalising entirely online, but there are signs that this could increase over time.
  • Current evidence suggests that offline socialisation remains of pivotal importance to violent extremism.

Suggested citation

Avis, W. (2016). Online/social media as a pathway towards violent extremism in East Africa (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1,373). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.