Online Jihadism important driving force behind global Jihad movement

The Internet has become a powerful catalyst for international violent Jihad in 2012, concludes the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) in the publication ‘Jihadism on the Web - a breeding ground for Jihad in the modern age', released today.

The appeal of jihadist ideologies remains as great as ever, particularly for young Muslims worldwide. The Internet has become the most important medium for the dissemination of these ideologies. Virtual interaction between jihadists leads to radicalisation and to the emergence of new jihadist networks. The AIVD expects online Jihadism to become a crucial factor in the threat to the Netherlands and to other Western countries in the next few years.

Core forums

The AIVD has found that a number of influential jihadist Internet forums are the de facto core of the global virtual Jihad movement, which are crucial to the dissemination of radical ideas. Such core forums are usually part of the so-called invisible Web, a part of the World Wide Web that cannot be found by readily accessible search engines. They are constructed and secured by fanatical jihadists who do not have any formal affiliations to jihadist organisations, such as Al-Qaeda. Various groups, each posing a specific threat, are active on the well hidden core forums. Jihadist cyberspace offers them a virtual marketplace: this is where experienced explosives experts in for example Pakistan get in touch with and support young enthusiastic jihadist wannabes living on the other side of the world, eager to take violent action.

Contributing factors

Online Jihadism has become a powerful catalyst for international violent Jihad. On the one hand, this has been caused by a worldwide growth of the number of Internet users. The Internet allows an increasing number of people from an increasing number of countries to be touched and inspired by jihadist ideas. In addition, a growing number of more experienced jihadists are coming online, driving and enriching the dynamics of online Jihadism. As a result of this globalisation of virtual Jihad, the threat to the West can emanate from a large number of countries. In other words, pinpointing the origin of the threat to the West has become increasingly difficult.

On the other hand, the professionalisation of online Jihadism has also contributed to the growth of jihadist cyberspace. Worldwide counterterrorist measures, for instance, have led to greater security awareness in jihadist cyberspace. As a result, more and more jihadists are capable of concealing their identity, their location and the content of their communications. Their activities have become less visible and more difficult to trace back to a person, which is causing them to send an increasingly violent message.

These two developments have boosted the effects of online Jihadism, allowing it to become a breeding ground for new jihadist networks and individuals. In years to come online Jihadism will therefore remain a crucial factor in the threat to the West. The AIVD endeavours to counter this threat, for example by working together with, informing and mobilising (inter)national partners at an early stage.

This AIVD publication aims to increase understanding of online Jihadism and to contribute to an accurate assessment of this virtual threat.

View the publication Jihadism on the web.