The Global Engagement Center (GEC) plays a key role in the US strategy to counter ISIS’s messaging. Using modern cutting-edge technology, the Center is focused on bringing together and enabling a global network to confront the hateful messages ISIS puts out daily that recruit and inspire people to commit violence. The rise of ISIS in 2014 and the group’s subsequent successful online messaging and recruitment campaigns spurred urgent inquiries from policymakers and security experts regarding how to combat extremists groups’ use of  the  Internet.  Among other things, these initiatives emphasize the need to identify at-risk individuals in the early stages of their radicalization process.

The capstone team reviewed cases of known extremists which provided anecdotal evidence of online behavior changes leading up to the adoption of extremist actions, however, they could not correlate these actions to early radicalization.  Through the exploration of data, modeling and methodological issues inherent in using analytics to develop indicators of radicalization displayed online, the team found that identifying early stages of radicalization required access to information beyond open source data and provided suggestions for alternative avenues for data exploration.