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Following America’s “War on Terror,” al-Qaeda and its affiliates became highly decentralized in terms of organizational and media operations. Though mass media outlets continue to play a significant role in drawing attention to al-Qaeda’s transnational campaign, Salafi Jihadists have recently begun to rely on new media for purposes of legitimization and promotion. The Internet serves as a suitable platform for these groups’ media objectives since it is inherently anonymous and absent of censorship. Most importantly, the Internet facilitates al-Qaeda in reaching a global audience, which is made evident by the growing amount of Salafi Jihadist media that is translated or created for English speakers. The latter change may seem paradoxical to the groups’ anti-Western sentiment, but it underscores an important shift in al-Qaeda’s recruitment strategies. The proliferation of English content promoting the Salafi Jihadist cause may imply that al-Qaeda is shifting its attention towards the Muslim diaspora in the West with the intent to recruit, radicalize, and promote acts of terror.

This study analyzed a variety of online publications that were disseminated by al-Qaeda and similar Salafi Jihadist groups. The sample included speech and video transcripts, digital magazines, and articles that were analyzed for the intent to radicalize readers through the employment of Albert Bandura’s eight mechanisms of moral disengagement. The analysis provided substantial support for the latter claim, indicating that many of the digital publications disseminated by Salafi Jihadist groups are intended to both radicalize and recruit readers through the promotion of moral disengagement.


terrorism; new media; al-qaeda; ISIS; jihad; propaganda; moral disengagement


Communication Technology and New Media | International Relations | Social Influence and Political Communication

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.