How Online Propaganda Works

Posted: 23rd June 2011 by Will McCants in propaganda, Recruitment, social media

Shmukh user al-Sakit argues that you need a wide distribution of jihadi propaganda on mainstream forums in order to attract a small amount of people.  He observes that the three top mainstream Arabic forums have one million users each.  If you post jihadi propaganda to all of them, only 10% (300,000) are likely to look at it.  Of those, 10% (30,000) will like what they see.  Of those, 10% (3000) will embrace the idea of jihad. Of those, 10% (300) will propagandize. Of those, 10% (30) will go out to fight in a jihad.  Of those, 10% (3) will seek martyrdom.  

That’s much the way I think about it, which is why countering the effects of jihadi propaganda is so difficult.  It just needs to mobilize a few.

  1. Here’s another study explaining how people behave in social media. Less than 1% are in the extreme. Trying to counter the small number of extremists on line through social media is inefficient and ineffective. Better to identify the extremists using social media, then try to influence their behavior through direct engagement on a direct person-to-person basis.

    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2010/06/20/inside_the_mind_of_the_anonymous_online_poster/?page=full

  2. Danit says:

    A question arising from this post is wether there’s a distinction between active users and unregistered viewers? In many sites you can view such propaganda without the need to identify or register, thus substantially broadening the above mentioned scope. The sometimes website presented number of entries can be manipulated to both higher or lower values.

    Another question is, how many of these viewers actually get those materials from Jihadi websites? In the 1st issue of Inspire there are clear instructions to obtain such materials from Jihadi monitoring websites saying “if you’re clean, stay clean”. No connections with specific tailed users, no traces or evidence and most importantly complete anonymity.