Terrorist Experts' Perceptions of how the Internet has Shaped International Terrorism

Samuel Forrest Wilson II, Walden University


Mass media and the Internet have emerged as enablers for terrorist planning, facilitation, and communication. The Internet allows terrorists to operate without the confines of borders and increases the potential impact on victims. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the perceptions of American terrorist experts on how terrorists' Internet use has shaped international terrorism. Stepanova's asymmetric conflict theory served as the theoretical framework of this study. Specifically, this study explored terrorists' Internet-based recruitment strategies, the ways in which those recruitment efforts were supported in the United States, the measures to counter such recruitment efforts, and the future direction of terrorist recruitment in the 21st century. Data were collected through in-depth semistructured interviews with a purposive sample of 10 American terrorist experts. Data were analyzed using thematic coding. Findings indicated that terrorists' Internet use has resulted in challenges for counterterrorism agencies in the United States and abroad due to the ability of terrorists to easily close, change, and create new websites or accounts. These findings may inform the work of domestic and international counterterrorism entities in creating policy objectives that address the fluid nature of Internet recruitment, including proactive and coordinated responses by member states. This action may improve the United States' security through more effective recognition and response to terrorist Internet tactics.