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This project examines messaging strategies on publicly accessible microblogs (e.g., Twitter) used by extremist ideological groups. Our objective is to provide Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decision-makers and associated partners with insights about processes extreme ideological groups use to recruit members, harness social identities, mobilize communication around issues, increase commitment to extremism, and incite violent action. We analyze digital traces (e.g., websites, microblog archives) and conduct controlled, randomized experiments to understand how messaging content and strategies foreshadow extreme cognitions, affect, and behaviors. Key insights from our analyses have uncovered the following insights: Key Findings from Digital Trace Results

• Rise in religious rhetoric on microblogs preceded violent events. We observed this phenomenon across multiple jihadist attacks. A similar, though more muted, rise in religious rhetoric preceded the Jan 6 Capitol riots.

• Violent ideological groups use appeals to social identity along with language that justifies the group’s stances and emphasizes differences with outgroups. Non-violent groups use appeals to social identity along with language that focuses on group agency, future possibilities, and is more hesitant. Implications: These findings provide important signals for analysts monitoring rhetoric from known and emerging ideological groups that mark escalation toward extremism and violence. Findings also identify key language differences between non-violent and violent groups


Grant Acknowledgment and Disclaimer This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under Grant Award Number 20STTPC00001-02-01. The views and conclusions included here are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.