Social media has become a significant aspect of American life and culture.
Criminal groups including extremists of various ideological milieus have found social
media useful in their recruitment efforts. Further, these online spaces allow extremists to
easily interact with one another, reinforcing each other’s radical perspectives. Little
research has examined social media’s role in radicalization and fewer studies have tested
the differences between the radicalization processes of individuals espousing disparate
ideologies. Using Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States, a data set of
804 extremist men, this study sets out to determine whether the role of social media in the
radicalization process varies between Islamist and far right extremists using social
learning as a theoretical framework. The results indicate no significant difference
regarding the role of social media in radicalization between Islamists and far rightists.
Additionally, the odds of having radical friends and family were much lower for Islamists
than far rightists, suggesting only partial support for social learning theory as an
explanation of radicalization.