Sitemap Contact Events New Home

Database of research projects FEDRA


Research actions



Research and applications > Projectendatabanken > Database of research projects FEDRA

Radicalisation and social media: a test of an integrated model (RADIMED)

Research project TA/00/43 (Research action TA)

Persons :

Description :


The Internet has caused a fast and significant change in a relatively short period of time. It is impossible to imagine almost all the aspects of everyday life without Internet. In the meantime, Internet keeps on adopting new forms and continually creates new possibilities. Amongst the current trends, we also see the rise of social network sites. Almost every offline group and social actor is also represented online. It is therefore not surprising that also radicals, political extremists and terrorists use this medium to their advantage and capitalize on the many possibilities of the Internet .
More recently there have been both national as international violent incidents that not only seemed radically inspired, but were also for a big part inspired, planned and organised through Internet by using social media (e.g. Breivik). This caused the policy makers to occupy themselves in an increasing extent with the question what governments can do to fight online radicalisation and recruitment. In spite of this, there is no unanimity on influence, significance and consequences of the changes in the use and the possibilities of Internet that brought along Web 2.0 applications on the process of radicalisation with them. This research proposal hopes to bring an insight to an extent in which social media can influence and boost radicalisation. In addition, it wants to bring clarity to the way new social media play a part in (self-) radicalisation


The study has three important objectives: (1) Studying the nature of the relation between the exposure to extremist messages in social media an radical attitudes. (2) Verifying the relation between the perceived legitimacy of the criminal justice system (perceived procedural justice), social vulnerability, the exposure to radical messages in social media and radical and flexible attitudes. (3) Verifying the influence of extremist messages in social media on the psychological resistance of youngsters. The antecedents and the consequences of the use of and the exposure to radical messages in social media will be verified by means of an integrated model. The theory of procedural justice, the theory of social vulnerability and insights concerning the radicalisation processes and dynamics of social groups are generally used as an integrated framework to study individual differences in radical attitudes. Finally, the influence of extremist messages in social media on the process of radicalisation will be verified in order to fit in the new social media in a model of radicalisation.
Furthermore, attention is also given to the gender dimension. Firstly, it is verified to which extent the theoretical starting point is applicable to men and women. Secondly, additional efforts will be made to discover the gender-sensitive aspects of the phenomenon radicalisation in the qualitative section. The research team strives for a general understanding of the problem and will include radicalism inspired by the right-wing, radicalism inspired by the left-wing, radicalism inspired by religion and activism inspired on animal rights in the analysis.µ


A multi-methodological approach is used.
Surveys were conducted amongst adolescents in Antwerp and Liège (young adults between 16 and 25 years old) for the quantitative section.
H1: Social vulnerability is positively related to radical attitudes.
H2: Low perceived procedural justice is positively related to radical attitudes.
H3: Social vulnerability is positively related to the exposure to extremist messages in social media.
H4: Low perceived procedural justice is positively related to the exposure to extremist messages in social media.
H5: Exposure to extremist messages in social media intermediates the relation between social vulnerability, perceived procedural justice an radical attitudes.
H6: The effect of social media and perceived procedural justice is different for men and women and for social vulnerable groups. This is called “the amplification hypothesis”: it is assumed that the role of perceived procedural justice and the exposure to social media is stronger for social vulnerable groups.

In-depth interviews will be carried out for the qualitative section with both radical as non-radical adolescents. The interviews look for an answer on the following questions: Which kinds of social media have an influence on youngsters and how? What is the impact of the use of social media in the radicalisation process? What causes the psychological resistance of youngsters to break if they are exposed to extremist messages in social media?


By means of a literature research, the surveys and interviews the researchers will come to (1) Insights on the relationship between procedural justice, social vulnerability, social media and radicalisation. (2) Insights on the way and to the extent (Belgian) youngsters are exposed to and susceptible to radical messages through new social media. Is the impact of these messages under or overestimated? (3) Gain insights on the way social media influence and mediate the radicalisation process. (4) Useful policy recommendations can be used for the prevention of radicalisation on the basis of these results. The ultimate goal is to expose the influence of social media on the process of radicalisation and give it a place within an integrated model of radicalisation.
The research will lead to a research report for the Federal Public Service of the Interior and the publications of articles in both important scientific magazines in various domains as in policy-oriented magazines. In conclusion, the results will be presented at a final seminar that will be organized by the VVC.

Documentation :

Comprendre et expliquer le rôle des nouveaux médias sociaux dans la formation
de l’extrémisme violent. Une recherche qualitative et quantitative (RADIMED) : résumé
  Pauwels, Lieven - Brion, Fabienne - De Ruyver, Brice ... et al  Bruxelles : Polituique scientifique fédérale, 2014 (SP2586)
[To download

Verklaren en begrijpen van de rol van blootstelling aan nieuwe sociale media en gewelddadig extremisme. Een geïntegreerde kwalitatieve en kwantitatieve benadering (RADIMED) : samenvatting  Pauwels, Lieven - Brion, Fabienne - De Ruyver, Brice ... et al  Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2014 (SP2587)
[To download

Explaining and understanding the role of exposure to new social media on violent extremism. An integrative quantitative and qualitative approach (RADIMED) : summary  Pauwels, Lieven - Brion, Fabienne - De Ruyver, Brice ... et al  Brussels : Belgian Science Policy, 2014 (SP2588)
[To download

About this website

Cookies policy

Personal data

© 2020 Science Policy PPS