Informational properties of extremist content: An evidence-based approach

Waseem Afzal, Jacob Wallis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extremism poses a danger to any society and can be detrimental if unchecked. In the post-web era, extremist groups have started using information networks to influence public perception, gain silent sympathisers, and radicalize youth. One such group–the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)–deftly uses information networks to intimidate rival groups, terrorize populations, radicalize youth, and recruit foreign fighters from Western countries—thus posing a threat to the security of regions in which it operates and in which it has supporters. This research study has developed a framework to analyse the content produced by ISIS and proposes a pseudocode designed to enable agile and responsive information operations. This framework is based on four elements: (1) qualitative and (2) quantitative properties of information, (3) affective and emotional dimensions, and (4) contextual factors. It was found that ISIS’s information strategy is multi-tiered and designed to adapt to the affordances of digital media. ISIS’s content is rich in affective and emotional cues, religiously-significant terms, and a romanticized view of martyrdom and the caliphate. Their content also uses highly negative and positive information bias (skewness) to demonize enemies and legitimize ISIS’s agenda respectively. It is hoped that the proposed framework along with the pseudocode and findings of this study will enable the security agencies to develop a counter-informational response.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-90
Number of pages24
JournalAustralian Army Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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