Social Media in Africa

A Double-Edged Sword for Security and Development: Executive Summary

Published in: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Centre for Africa (November 2018)

Posted on RAND.org on November 05, 2018

by Kate Cox, William Marcellino, Jacopo Bellasio, Antonia Ward, Katerina Galai, Arya Sofia Meranto, Giacomo Persi Paoli

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This study explores social media use and online radicalisation in Africa. Information and communication technology (ICT) in Africa is a double-edged sword: while it can promote social, political and economic development, it may also increase opportunities for radicalisation. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms can arm terrorists with a low-cost tool to attract, train and communicate with followers and potential recruits. Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other violent extremist groups in Africa now use social media to share their messages and attract new recruits. There is an on-going debate over the role of online activities in the radicalisation process. However, much of this debate has focused on Western countries, particularly in relation to ISIL's online influence of homegrown terrorism and of foreign fighter travel to Iraq and Syria. Less is known about patterns of online radicalisation in Africa and about the extent to which African national governmental strategies focus on addressing this issue. To address this gap in knowledge, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) commissioned RAND Europe to explore social media use and online radicalisation in Africa. This is the first publically available study to analyse how social media is used by al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and ISIL to contribute to radicalisation in seven African countries—Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda by applying lexical and network analysis techniques to primary Twitter data.

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