The weaponisation of digital media for furthering the Jihadist ideology in Australia
The benefits of digital media have been transformational and have led to the evolution of a digitally connected society. However, digital media has also been weaponised by extremist groups to further their agenda. The declaration of the establishment of a Caliphate by the Islamic State in 2014 and their sophisticated use of digital media have led to the reinvigoration of Jihadist activities, including in Australia. Since 2014, nine terrorist attacks have occurred, and sixteen proven plots have been foiled in Australia. Furthermore, as of early 2022, more than 100 persons have either been convicted of terrorism offences or are in prison charged with terrorism offences. Jihadism continues to be a significant threat to Australia, while digital media has not only expanded the threat landscape but has also gone through a significant transformation.
Despite the significant role of digital media in Jihadist radicalisation (JR), recruitment, planning and mobilisation of people, the existing research has focused on a few media theories in isolation, while there are a very limited number of studies that provide a comprehensive outlook on the role of digital media in enabling JR. The research area of Jihadism with a focus on digital media is underexplored in Australia.
This thesis examines key media theories in the context of Jihadist ideology and the role of digital media in the JR process, and proposes an emergent framework to explain digital JR. This ten-staged framework draws from an existing radicalisation model and has been elaborated further to meet the specific requirements in Australia. This framework will be instrumental in developing a deeper understanding of digital JR and in providing valuable insights to facilitate sharpening the current, Countering Violent Extremism initiatives, in addition to informing law enforcement and policy decisions on counter-terrorism strategies.