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Cyber-routines, Political Attitudes, and Exposure to Violence-advocating Online Extremism

Mon, August 13, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 4, 413


While the Internet has generated new forms of social interconnectedness, its relatively unfettered transmission of information risks exposing individuals to hateful discourse and extremist content. Grounded in Routine Activity Theory and using online survey data (N = 768) of American youth and young adults, this study examines factors that bring individuals into contact with online extremist material advocating violence. Descriptive results show that nearly one-third of respondents encountered extremist material online that advocated violence. Logistic regression results indicate that exposure to extremist content advocating violence is positively correlated with specific online behaviors, including the amount of time individuals spend online, the number of social media platforms they utilize, and the virtual spaces they frequent. Additionally, feelings of dissatisfaction with major social institutions and economic disengagement are associated with a greater likelihood of exposure to extremist material advocating violence. We also find that target antagonism is correlated with exposure to extremist material advocating violence. In particular, being hateful and expressing political views online are positively associated with exposure. Moreover, being the target of hate and expressing a proclivity for risk-taking likewise demonstrate a positive correlation with exposure to such material. Finally, we find that online and offline guardianship are not significantly related to exposure to online hate advocating violence. This work has important implications for the applicability of Routine Activity Theory to an online setting.