Studying Global Extremist Organizations' Internet Presence Using the DarkWeb Attribute System

A Three Region Comparison Study
  • Hsinchun Chen
  • Jialun Qin
  • Edna Reid
  • Yilu Zhou
Part of the Integrated Series In Information Systems book series (ISIS, volume 18)

Nowadays, global extremist organizations are heavily utilizing Internet technologies to increase their abilities to influence the world. Studying those global extremist organizations’ Internet presence would allow us to better understand extremist organizations’ technical sophistication and their propaganda plans. However, due to the lack of efficient automatic methodologies, few previous researches have attempted to study the extremist organizations’ online presence on a global scale. In this work, we explore an integrated approach for collecting and analyzing extremist online presence. We employed automatic Web crawling techniques to build a comprehensive extremist Web collection which contains around 1.7 million multimedia Web documents. We then used a systematic content analysis tool called the Dark Web Attribute System to study these extremist organizations’ Internet usage from three perspectives: technical sophistication, content richness, and Web interactivity. We also conducted statistical analysis to cross-compare the technical sophistication and effectiveness of Web sites created by extremist groups from different regions. Our analysis results showed that all extremist organizations covered in this study demonstrated high level of technical sophistication in their Web presence but extremist organizations from different regions have different patterns in their Internet technology deployment and online content delivery. Our analysis results would help domain experts deepen their understanding on the global extremism movements and make better counterextremism measures on the Internet.


Middle Eastern Technical Sophistication Extremist Group Content Richness Domestic Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, A., “Risk, Terrorism, and the Internet,” Knowledge, Technology & Policy, 16:2, 24-33, Summer 2003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armstrong, H. L. and Forde, P. J., “Internet Anonymity Practices in Computer Crime,” Information Management & Computer Security, 11(5), pp. 209-215, 2003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arquilla, J. and Ronfeldt, D., “Cyber War Is Coming!” Comparative Strategy, 12(2), 1993.Google Scholar
  4. Becker, A. “Technology and Terror: the New Modus Operandi,” Frontline, 2004, available at
  5. Bowers, F., “Terrorists spread their messages online,” Christian Science Monitor, July 28, 2004, available at
  6. Chakrabarti, S., van den Berg, M. and Dom, B., “Focused crawling: a new approach to topicspecific Web resource discovery,” in Proc. of the 8th International World Wide Web Conference, Toronto, Canada, 1999.Google Scholar
  7. Chen, H., Qin, J., Reid, E., Chung, W., Zhou, Y., Xi, W., Lai, G., Bonillas, A. A. and Sageman, M., “The Dark Web Portal: Collecting and Analyzing the Presence of Domestic and International Terrorist Groups on the Web,” In Proc. of International IEEE Conference on Intelligent Transportation Systems, 2004.Google Scholar
  8. Chou, C., “Interactivity and interactive functions in web-based learning systems: a technical framework for designers.” British Journal of Educational Technology, 34(3), pp. 265-279, 2003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Coll, S. and Glasser, S. B., “Terrorists Turn to the Web as Base of Operations,” Washington Post, Aug 7, 2005.Google Scholar
  10. Demchak, C., Friis, C., and La Porte, T. M., “Webbing Governance: National Differences in Constructing the Face of Public Organizations,” Handbook of Public Information Systems. G. D. Garson. NYC, Marcel Dekker, 2001.Google Scholar
  11. Denning, D. E., “Information Operations and Terrorism,” Journal of Information Warfare (draft), 2004, available at
  12. Elison, W., “Netwar: Studying Rebels on the Internet,” The Social Studies, 91, pp. 127-131, 2000.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. FBIS, “Arab Afghans Said to Launch Worldwide Terrorist War,” Paris al-Watan al-’Arabi, December 1, 1995, pp.22-24, FBIS-TOT-96-010-L.Google Scholar
  14. Hillman, D. C. A., Willis, D. J., and Gunawardena, C. N., “Learner-interface interaction in distance education: an extension of contemporary models and strategies for practitioners.” The American Journal of Distance Education, 8(2), pp. 30-42, 1994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoffman, D. L. and Novak, T. P., “Marketing in hypermedia computer-mediated environments: Conceptual foundation.” Journal of Marketing, 60(3), pp. 50-68, 1996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. ISTS, “Examining the Cyber Capabilities of Islamic Terrorist Groups”. Report, Institute for Security Technology Studies, 2004.
  17. Internet Haganah, Internet Haganah report, 2005, available at
  18. Jenkins, B. M., International Terrorism, Crescent Publication, Los Angeles, 1975.Google Scholar
  19. Jenkins, B. M., “World Becomes the Hostage of Media-Savvy Terrorists: Commentary”, USA Today, August 22, 2004.
  20. Delio, M., “Al Qaeda Websites Refuses to Die,” Wired, April 7, 2003, available at: http://,1377,583562,00.html?tw=wn_story_page_next1 .
  21. Jackson, Brian J. Technology Acquisition by Terrorist Groups: Threat Assessment Informed by Lessons from Private Sector Technology Adoption. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, vol. 24, p183-213. 2001Google Scholar
  22. Jesdanun, A., “WWW: Terror’s Channel of Choice,” CBS News, June 20, 2004.Google Scholar
  23. Kelley, J., “Terror Groups Hide Behind Encryption,” USA Today, Feb 5, 2001, available at
  24. Lawrence, S. and Giles, C. L., “Searching the World Wide Web.” Science, 280(5360), 1998, pp. 98.Google Scholar
  25. Lawrence, S. and Giles, C. L. “Accessibility of information on the Web.” Nature, 400, 1999, pp. 107-109.Google Scholar
  26. Lyman, P. and Varian, H.R., “How Much Information.” published by the UC Berkeley School of Information Management and Systems, 2000.Google Scholar
  27. McCallum, A., Nigamm, K., Rennie, J., and Seymore, K., “Building Domain-Specific Search Engines with Machine Learning Techniques” Proc. AAAI-99 Spring Symposium on Intelligent Agents in Cyberspace, 1999Google Scholar
  28. Michalewicz, Z., Genetic algorithms + data structures = evolution programs. Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 1992.Google Scholar
  29. Muriel, D., “Terror Moves to the Virtual World,” CNN News, April 8, 2004, available at
  30. Nunnelly, J., Psychometric theory. McGraw Hill, New York, 1978.Google Scholar
  31. Palmer, J. W. and Griffith, D. A., “An Emerging Model of Web Site Design for Marketing,” Communications of the ACM, 41(3), pp. 45-51, 1998.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Preece, J., Online Communities: Designing Usability, Supporting Socialability, 2000, New York City, Wiley.Google Scholar
  33. Reid, E., Qin, J., Chung, W., Xu, J., Zhou, Y., Schumaker, R., Sageman, M., and Chen H., “Terrorism Knowledge Discovery Project: a Knowledge Discovery Approach to Addressing the Threats of Terrorism” in Proc. of 2nd Symposium on Intelligence and Security Informatics, ISI 2004, , Tucson, Arizona, 2004.Google Scholar
  34. Rusay, C., “User-centered design for government portals,” Digital Web Magazine, Jan 16, 2003, available at government_portals/
  35. Schneider, S. M., Foot, K., Kimpton, M., and Jones, G., “Building thematic web collections: challenges and experiences from the September 11 Web Archive and the Election 2002 Web Archive,” in Proc. of the 3rd ECDL Workshop on Web Archives, Trondheim, Norway, August 2003.Google Scholar
  36. Tekwani, S., “Cyberterrorism: Threat and Response,” Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, in Proc. of the Workshop on the New Dimensions of Terrorism, 21-22, Singapore, 2002.Google Scholar
  37. Thomas, T. L., “Al Qaeda and the Internet: The Danger of ‘Cyberplanning,’” Parameters, Spring 2003, pp. 112-23, available at /03spring/thomas.htm.
  38. Tsfati, Y. and Weimann, G., “ : Terror on the Internet,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 25, pp. 317-332, 2002.
  39. Trevino, L. K., Lengel, R. H., and Daft, R. L., “Media symbolism, media richness, and media choice in organizations: A symbolic interactionist perspective.” Communication Research, 14(5), pp. 553-574, 1987.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Qin, J., Zhou, Y., Reid, E., Lai, G. and Chen, H. (forthcoming). “Analyzing Terror Campaigns on the Internet: Technical Sophistication, Content Richness, and Web Interactivity,” International Journal on Human Computer Studies, accepted for publication, forthcoming.Google Scholar
  41. Weimann, G., : How Modern Terrorism Use the Internet,” Special Report, U.S. Institute of Peace, 2004, Available at sr116.pdf.
  42. Whine, M., “Cyberspace: A New Medium for Communication, Command and Control by Extremists,” 1999, available at
  43. Xu, J. and Croft, B., “Querying Expansion using Local and Global Document Analysis.” in Proc. of the 19th Annual International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval, Zurich, Switzerland, 1996.Google Scholar
  44. Zhou, Y., Reid, E., Qin, J., Chen, H., and Lai, G., “U.S. Domestic Extremist Groups on the Web: Link and Content Analysis,” IEEE Intelligent Systems Special Issue on Homeland Security, 20(5), pp. 44-51, 2005.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hsinchun Chen
    • 1
  • Jialun Qin
    • 2
  • Edna Reid
    • 3
  • Yilu Zhou
    • 4
  1. 1.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of ManagementUniversity of MassachusettsLowellUSA
  3. 3.Clarion UniversityClarionUSA
  4. 4.Information Systems & Technology Management DepartmentGeorge Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations