In the past, communication by terrorist groups to outsiders was largely limited to static propaganda produced by the groups and passively consumed by targeted audiences. However, the onset and global diffusion of Internet technology since the late 1990s and early 2000s has fundamentally changed how terrorist groups engage with audiences of all types. When the Internet first became widely available to the public as a communications tool, terrorist groups primarily used it to reach new audiences to which they previously lacked access. In these early days, much of what terrorist groups electronically distributed was simply a computer-mediated form of their previous propaganda—only to a larger, more geographically diverse audience. Some communicative affordances of the Internet, however, allowed terrorist groups to connect audiences in ways that had previously been impossible. For instance, often called “the first hate site on the Internet,” Stormfront consisted of a series of discussion forums on which members of the site could discuss issues related to white nationalism, organize in-person meetings, share stories, and engage in a host of other activities. In a sense, Stormfront represented the first online social network specifically designed to allow those associated with an extremist ideology to connect and communicate.
Gill, Paul, Kurt Braddock, Sanaz Zolghadriha, Bettina Rottweiler, and Lily D. Cushenbery. 2019. "Terrorist Propaganda After the Islamic State: Learning, Emulation, and Imitation." In ISIS Propaganda: A Full-Spectrum Extremist Message, eds. Stephane J. Baele, Katharine A. Boyd, and Travis G. Coan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 242-265. https://global.oup.com/academic/product/isis-propaganda-9780190932459?q=katharine%20boyd&lang=en&cc=us#