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How extremists use the social media

Published 27. Februar 2017, 15:26 h
Bielefeld University’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence (IKG) to head new research partnership

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the X-SONAR research network to analyse extremist activities in social networks. This new research partnership is being coordinated by Bielefeld University’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict (IKG). With a grant of  3 million Euros, the partnership will not only be carrying out research on how radical extremist groups communicate with, recruit, and mobilize people in virtual reality but also analysing approaches of prevention and intervention.


Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin Viktoria Roth und Professor Dr. Andreas Zick vom IKG arbeiten gemeinsam im neuen Forschungsverbund, der von der Universität Bielefeld koordiniert wird.
Research assistant Viktoria Roth and Professor Dr. Andreas Zick are working together in the new research partnership coordinated by Bielefeld University’s IKG. Photo: Bielefeld University.
‘We want to apply new methods and analyses to understand how people become radicalized and turn to terror’, explains the head of the research partnership Professor Dr. Andreas Zick. He adds, ‘in the applied field, this means for example improving the training of security forces.’ According to Zick, the researchers require ‘what are, to some extent, completely new technologies based on knowledge about the dynamics and courses of radicalization.’ Projects within the research partnership will be carried out at the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology (SIT), the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, the Landesinstitut für Präventives Handeln [State institute for preventive action], the German Police University in Lower Saxony, and the Landeskriminalamt Niedersachsen [State office of criminal investigation in Lower Saxony]. Numerous institutions will be collaborating with the core team. These include the German Forum for Crime Prevention (DFK), the Institute for Legal and Criminal Sociology (IRKS) in Vienna, but also such associations as the Voluntary Self-Monitoring of Multimedia Service Providers (FSM), jugendschutz.net [Youth protection on the Internet], and an education authority in Hamburg.

Bielefeld University’s IKG will be carrying out its own project within the research partnership in close collaboration with the Institut Psychologie und Bedrohungsmanagement [Institute for Psychology and Threat Management] in Darmstadt. The Bielefeld project, which is receiving 1.1 million Euros of funding, concentrates on analysing extremist activities in social networks from a social psychological and sociological perspective. The young research team headed by Professor Dr. Andreas Zick is particularly interested in how people are recruited for extremist ideologies and terror groups over the Internet and how young people become radicalized through the internet. This will involve carrying out network analyses, qualitative content analyses, and numerous case studies. ‘We can draw on five years of research on radicalization,’ explains Andreas Zick.

IKG has already analysed radicalization processes in third-party-funded projects, making it one of the leading institutes in the field of empirical radicalization analysis. ‘Through our comprehensive analysis of recruitments, mobilizations, and team building by terror groups in the Internet, we are examining exactly where young people are currently being radicalized in Europe,’ explains Viktoria Roth. She has already worked in a research project addressing how young women join terror groups. Most jihadist assailants in Germany became radicalized through communication on the Internet. ‘The Internet is where both the message and the commitment are conveyed,’ explains Andreas Zick. Findings from the research partnership will be presented regularly on the IKG homepage, at public meetings, and over the university press office.

Contact:
Professor Dr. Andreas Zick, Bielefeld University
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence (IKG)
Telephone: 0521 106-2442
Email: sekretariat-ikg@uni-bielefeld.de

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