Terrorists in cyberspace are increasingly utilizing social media to promote their ideologies, recruit new members, and justify terrorist attacks and actions. This study explores the ways in which types of social media, message contents, and motives for spreading propaganda take shape in cyberspace. In order to empirically test these relations, we created a dataset with annual terrorism reports from 2011 to 2016. In our global cyberterrorism dataset, we used and connected cyber-resources (Facebook, online forum, Twitter mentions, websites, and YouTube videos) and legal documents of individual cases that were mentioned in the reports. The results show that YouTube videos were used primarily for propagating certain ideologies and for recruiting members for Al Qaeda and ISIS. Al Qaeda-affiliated cyberterrorists used YouTube videos as both individual sources and embedded sources for Facebook and Twitter, whereas ISIS-affiliated cyberterrorists predominantly used YouTube videos and Twitter posts.

Note on the Author(s)

Kyung-shick Choi is both a Professor of Criminal Justice at Bridgewater State University as well as the Criminal Justice Cybercrime program coordinator at Boston University. His research interests are in cybercrime, cyber-criminology, and cybersecurity.

Claire Seungeun Lee is an Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Department of Chinese Studies at Inha University, Incheon, South Korea and is also a Research Fellow at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Trained as a sociologist, her research interests include the movement of technology, people, crime, and social implications of social and new technologies.

Robert Cadigan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at Boston University. His current research interests focus on terrorism and the media.