See No Evil, Fear No Evil: Adolescents’ Extremism-related Media Literacies of Islamist Propaganda on Instagram


  • Elena Pohl Gender and Research Specialist, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
  • Claudia Riesmeyer Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich


Islamism, Instagram, Youth, Propaganda, P/CVE, Media Literacy


Islamist extremists are a group that pose a particular threat not only due to their proneness to violence but also because they recruit transnationally, utilizing freely accessible social media platforms such as Instagram. One of their key target groups is adolescents, a group that is particularly vulnerable and in need for orientation due to a variety of life-stage-specific challenges. As a result, adolescents are particularly susceptible to external influences on platforms such as Instagram. Recognizing this, Islamist extremists focus their strategic communication on adolescents, using a variety of strategies for both their messaging and the format of their content on Instagram to make it appealing to this group. To protect adolescents, the importance of extremism-related (media) knowledge is emphasized. However, the transfer of knowledge to action is not without preconditions. This paper is based on semi-structured interviews with 12 adolescents in Germany and examines how they apply their knowledge on Islamist extremism when using Instagram and whether, and why, a break between knowledge and action occurs. The study reveals several individual, situational, and message factors that interfere with the process and deter adolescents from applying their knowledge and protecting themselves.


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