Investigating the Role of Social Media in the Formation of Intellectual Deviation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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Over the last few years, social media have witnessed a huge demand and use by all segments of modern society, especially the younger generation. Such platforms have become tools for exchanging ideas and opinions and forums for discussion. Generations which, in contrast to their predecessors, have been initiated into a society replete with social media. As such, these generations have had social media shape their lives and mould their way of understanding the world around them, and have also been earmarked for the religious terrorism and extremism which has resulted in shocking events such as 9/11, the Arab Spring, and the dawn of violent religious terrorists, such as ISIS (Jenkins, 2011). This research will aim to combine these two facets of modern day life and assess how they influence and interact with one another in the minds of Saudi Arabia’s youth. This is done by identifying the role and influence of social media on intellectual deviation: terrorism in Saudi Arabia and understanding its causes and explaining the part that social learning theory has in facilitating the recruitment of individuals through popular social media in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Social learning theory is effective in showing how relatives and friends are influenced by social media and allows us to determine whether these social platforms contribute to the propagation of terrorism, especially amongst close-groups. A mixed methods approach is used to collect qualitative and quantitative data. The researcher conducted interviews with two official investigators in the Saudi Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) and interviews with one of the families affected by the terrorist groups. The study also received 250 separate questionnaire replies from the general public by electronic survey to elicit their opinions and attitudes towards the phenomenon of terrorism. In addition, 50 questionnaires were received from investigators in the Saudi Public Prosecution Service and also from experts in criminology at Naif University, KSA. The results of the current study indicate that important factors are: the recruitment of relatives and friends, family environment control, and the need for educational curriculum reform. This researcher also highlights the significance of activating community participation regarding the promotion of concepts of intellectual security through community awareness and internet monitoring. Such monitoring includes especially open websites, electronic games which target young minds and particularly combat games. Our analysis shows that most of those who joined extremist groups were able to persuade a relative or friend to join them or support them at home through propaganda or financial support. Our data analysis covers factors such as age and gender tests; independent samples, T-Tests, the analysis of variance (ANOVA) and multiple comparisons with Least Significant Difference (LSD). The researcher concludes that social media usage and terrorism factors cannot be separated from each other and gives some recommendations for further research in this domain, particularly in the area of encrypted languages which are heavily utilised among terrorist groups. Further discourse analyses should be carried out in this rich and important research domain.