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Researching the Role of Social Media in Promoting and Countering Terrorism

   School of Health and Society

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  Dr P Eachus  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

A three year programme of research will attempt to evaluate the role played by the media, especially social media, in a number of prominent terrorist attacks. A mixed methodology will be used for this study and will include a systematic review of relevant media, coupled with techniques and technologies for the analysis of social media, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The aim of the study is to evaluate the extent to which the authorities and commercial organisations should manage social media during a terrorist attack.

Social media can be a force for good and have proved their worth at times of disaster for example. However, as with all new technologies, terrorists can also exploit these technologies for their nefarious means for example in the Mumbai terrorist attack that was managed using social media by virtual planners based in Pakistan. Other attacks that followed this strategy include the Westgate attack in Nairobi in 2013 and more recently those in Paris and Belgium. In all these cases, virtual planners played a part in the attacks using social media as appropriate.

Social media can also be a force for good when dealing with the threat or aftermath of a terrorist attack. Within 10 minutes of the Boston Marathon bombing, in which three people died, the Boston police Department was using social media, in particular Twitter and Facebook, to let people know what had occurred and quickly corrected misinformation spread by professional media outlets and social media itself. It didn’t take long for the media to realize that the most accurate information about the bombing was coming from the official Boston Police Department Twitter account. This was hailed as a watershed moment for law enforcement and social media.
In summary we can see that, in the context of terrorism, social media presents us with something of a dichotomy. The aim of this study is to investigate, in detail, the nature of this dichotomy from the perspectives of the terrorists, the victims, and wider society.

Health Sciences Research at the University of Salford
The Centre for Health Sciences Research at the University of Salford comprises a multidisciplinary team of staff and research students drawn from the health professions and related disciplines. The research centre has world class research facilities including three biomechanics laboratories, a clinical imaging suite, a psychology lab and a rehabilitation flat. The School currently boasts over £5 million pounds of research funding and has extensive national and international links, with both academic and clinical partners. There is also a vibrant community of approximately 100 students studying either at Ph.D. level or Master’s by research.

For this studentship, you would work within the Applied Psychology research group, see for further details. To find out more the research undertaken in Health Sciences at Salford see and to learn more about studying for a Ph.D. n health sciences at Salford, see

Candidates should have a first or upper second class honours in an area relevant to the proposed research. This includes areas such as Psychology, Media, Sociology, Criminology. Experience of analysing social media using a variety of techniques is essential. A Masters degree or equivalent qualification or other evidence of research skills and experience is preferred but not essential.

Funding Notes

This project is self-funded. However, we are willing to explore alternative funding options for the right candidate. For guidance on making your application please visit:
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