With the rise of the Internet, there has been growing interest in its impact on radicalisation and extremism in the circles of policymakers, scholars, and the media. The Internet and ‘online radicalisation’ have quickly joined the ranks of other mono-causal explanations of radicalisation, such as mental illness or religion. When evidence arises that the Internet was used during a process of radicalisation, this is often coined as the sole explanation for their actions. This may result in a lack of understanding of a deeper and far more complex issue.
This Insight summarises the findings of a study that examined how the Internet and social media influenced the radicalisation processes of extreme-right lone actors who carried out or attempted to carry out large-scale terrorist attacks in Western democracies since 2000. The study aimed to investigate online radicalisation by identifying mechanisms seen as particularly relevant for explaining the process. The findings suggest that online radicalisation is more complex than commonly assumed, and furthermore, that it cannot be meaningfully analysed independently of offline influences.