Assessment of A Foreign Fighter’s Twitter Trajectory: Before and After Travel

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This summary captures the main findings of a longitudinal content analysis of a known foreign fighter’s (FF) public social media activity for signs of radicalization toward violent extremism. 1,906 messages sent out from the seed FF profile between 13 September 2012 and 23 February 2014, were subjected to a detailed, hand-coded categorization and content analysis. In addition, the links to videos, pictures, and websites contained in 226 of the messages were also reviewed and analyzed.  Time mapped content patterns showed an early pre-occupation with religious concepts and duty, increasing prominence of tweets advocating the need for action and martyrdom prior to the FF’s travel to Syria, a break in activity for the duration of travel, and a significant change in content after arrival in Syria: 1. tweets about ISIS rose from 2% (prior to travel) to 41%; 
interactions with others increased from 11% to 30%; 
radicalization and martyrdom content formed most of the remainder; 
religious tweets dropped to 2% (from 27% early on in the sample). 
In addition, potential hallmark content was identified – concepts, as well as platforms – which merit further research for broader representation. 

While the findings of a single case study cannot be generalized, the longitudinal content analysis shows considerable promise for further research into the use of social media and cross-disciplinary collaboration in identifying patterns and hallmarks that may be useful from an early warning perspective. 

Ragheb Abdo, The SecDev Group