The Making of the Salafi-Jihadi Visual Presence – An Evidence-Based Approach

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The fourth webinar in the Progressive Terrorism Studies series explored the latest research on the making of the Salafi-Jihadi visual presence online.

The fourth session presented reflections on adopting an evidence-based approach and explore new technological opportunities available by adopting an increasingly evidence-based approach and stronger data culture in the study of Salafi-Jihadi groups. As researchers in the field become increasingly comfortable with coding and programming languages the door to new types of analysis, previously too complex or time consuming to consider, continues to open.The session covered a forthcoming study of over 300,000 images shared within the Salafi-Jihadi information ecosystem to examine what the visual output of the Salafi-Jihadi movement looks like:

• How many unique images do are shared in a year?

• What proportion are so-called ‘official’ pictures?

• What role do other images play within the theological context of the movement?

• How do images relate to theological texts – can explanations be cited from existing Salafi-Jihadi texts?

• What does being able to ‘read’ the images tell us about what is being communicated?

• With a baseline what other techniques can be used to examine image production, including machine learning, and image clustering, which can vastly improve our understanding of the movement?

Claims of a linear decline in ISIS media production being strongly correlated to territory have now been debunked by numerous studies. The session will discuss analytical approaches that can provide a more authentic understanding of Salafi-Jihadi media production. This session will be of use to researchers who are seeking to understand the meaning of Salafi Jihadi content, policymakers seeking to counter the Salafi-Jihadi narrative and working to deter new recruits from joining the movement.


  • Dr Ali Fisher, Explorer of Extreme Realms, Human Cognition 
  • Dr Nico Prucha, Chief Content Curator, Human Cognition

Chaired by: Dr Elizabeth Pearson, Cyber Threats Research Centre at Swansea University and Associate Fellow of RUSI.

This event was open to invited guests and RUSI members. 

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