Understanding the Community's Perceptions Towards Online Radicalisation: An Exploratory Analysis

Understanding the Community's Perceptions Towards Online Radicalisation: An Exploratory Analysis

Loo Seng Neo (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/IJCWT.297860
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This study seeks to understand the community’s perceptions towards detecting signs of online radicalisation and examine whether different community members would exhibit different levels of understanding. A 57-item survey was administered to 160 undergraduates from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and 160 Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers. Based on the ratings of the 42 online radicalisation indicators identified by Neo (2020), two-factor analyses were separately conducted using oblique rotation to undercover a four-factor structure for the NTU sample and a three-factor solution for the MTurk sample. The results revealed valuable insights into how community members would identify terrorist threats. Furthermore, the survey revealed differences in the participants’ views on the role of the internet in radicalisation pathways and their perceptions regarding various counter-terrorism strategies. Together, the findings would contribute to the discussion of how law enforcement could better engage and work together with the community members to detect terrorist threats.
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2. The Important Role Of The Community In Countering Radicalisation

The media’s portrayal of attacks and the perpetrators behind them have shaped how people react to and formulate opinions about radicalisation and terrorism. Previous research has shown how the lack of or incorrect knowledge about terrorism has led the community to develop negative attitudes towards specific segments of the community (Abdul Rahman, 2019). For example, even before the perpetrator—responsible for the 2011 Norway attacks—was arrested, the media was quick to assume that the attack was motivated by Al-Qaeda. Many mainstream media were drawing this link without any conclusive evidence—e.g., the newspaper “The Sun” carried the headline “Al-Qaeda Massacre: Norway’s 9/11”. Eventually, investigations revealed that the perpetrator was not an Al-Qaeda supporter and instead was a right-wing terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik (Sehgal, 2011). In itself, such media framing risks the likelihood of people associating certain religions with terrorism (von Sikorski et al., 2017) and influences how they would identify terrorist threats.

In the context of jihad attacks, such perceptions may also increase the occurrence of Islamophobia (Abdelkader, 2016) and reinforce unwanted stereotypes of Muslims. These developments can lead to dangerous outcomes where individuals are harmed or traumatised due to their affiliation to certain groups. As Cameron et al. (2013) write:

Beards and rucksacks (as seen in video images of the bombers) became symbols of suspicions; everyday actions, such as taking a seat on the train or going out, could activate potential terrorism stories, reinforced by internalised voices of fearful parents or relations. (p. 9)

Similarly, such stereotypical and biased mindsets may manifest in the cyber domain in the form of verbal abuse and unnecessary reporting of accounts—belonging to specific groups of individuals—to the authorities and social media companies. Hence, this prompts a critical need to rethink how one’s experiences and knowledge on online radicalisation would impact our opinions about what kind of online content is deemed radical and who are considered dangerous.

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