Predicting Online Radicalisation

Principal Investigator

Dr Laura Smith

Research Institution

University of Bath

Project Summary

The central aim of this project is to develop a conceptually-grounded algorithm that can be combined with social media analytics software to predict radicalisation of mainstream users. Their research questions are, how and why do people develop identification with radical Islam online over time?

The challenge in addressing these issues is that there are currently no big data analytics systems that can enable three necessary and significant sets of analyses:

  • Longitudinal analysis (meaningful change in an individual’s posts over time)
  • Qualitative analysis of the narrative content of a large volume of posts
  • Prediction of the emergence of new online psychological groups or expansion of existing groups.

To address this challenge, the researchers will develop a software tool with help from stakeholders at Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (dstl) that is technically compatible with the IT systems of government agencies, and that can ethically harvest and rigorously analyse a large volume of publicly available social media data to provide conceptually-informed warning of security threat.

By building upon the capabilities of an existing software tool, Chorus, and integrating it with a new conceptual framework from Psychology to explore the usefulness of a novel analysis of longitudinal qualitative big data, the researchers aim to identify novel variables derived from online language that can explain a significant amount of variance in the development of extremism. The project will thus provide initial tests of the new software capabilities, and proof of concept for a ‘radicalisation algorithm’.


The research will impact on UK efforts to counter extremism by developing the Chorus software and radicalisation algorithm in collaboration with dstl, and engaging government agencies in discussions about the tools. It will also benefit strategic communicators by demonstrating practical ways to communicate and target audiences to maximise effectiveness of risk-mitigating messages.

These contributions can in turn be expected to benefit the general public in the longer term by greater and more effective public engagement in understanding the risks associated with online socialisation. Improved understanding of online socialisation and radicalisation will help social media users navigate the psychological online environment more safely. Finally, this project is expected to have significant capacity-building benefits in the new and emerging field of social media / big data analytics.

Contact Information

For further information, please email Laura at