Al-Qaeda on Web 2.0: Radicalization and Recruitment Strategies

Al-Qaeda on Web 2.0: Radicalization and Recruitment Strategies

Anne Gerdes (University of Southern Denmark, Denmark)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-132-0.ch010
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This chapter investigates al-Qaeda’s use of Web 2.0 as a tool for radicalization and recruitment. The media network of al-Qaeda is described in order to demonstrate the impact of their well structured media strategy for harnessing the power of the Web. They use a strategy that makes them stand out from other extremist groups, who in most cases lack an overall approach towards branding and Web communication. It is shown why this strategy works and enables al-Qaeda to set the agenda for online global jihadism and cultivate virtual communities of engaged jihobbyists. Finally, a virtue ethical perspective demonstrates the shortcomings of the al-Qaeda Web 2.0 strategies, by which it is suggested that their Achilles’ heel is exactly the ideas inherent to Web 2.0, which are reflected in a bottom up participatory perspective. Thus, the Al-Qaeda online social movement does allow for engaged user participation, but without providing opportunities for free spirited critical reflection and self articulation of goals.
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The wave of uprisings in the Middle East underlines the fact that al-Qaeda’s overall impact has been rather small. Young Arabs like everybody else want to live in free societies. Thus, al-Qaeda has not been able to convert the public at large. Nevertheless, the global online jihad movement will still be able to initiate self-radicalization among young people with extremist attitudes.

According to the recognized specialist on al-Qaeda strategy, ideology and media, Dr. Jarret Brachman, al-Qaeda - the most famous practitioners of jihadist ideology - nowadays conceptualizes itself as a media group who uses terrorism, rather than a terrorist group that uses the media.

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