Generalized Gelation Theory Describes Onset of Online Extremist Support

Pedro D. Manrique, Minzhang Zheng, Zhenfeng Cao, Elvira Maria Restrepo, Neil F. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We introduce a generalized form of gelation theory that incorporates individual heterogeneity and show that it can explain the asynchronous, sudden appearance and growth of online extremist groups supporting ISIS (so-called Islamic State) that emerged globally post-2014. The theory predicts how heterogeneity impacts their onset times and growth profiles and suggests that online extremist groups present a broad distribution of heterogeneity-dependent aggregation mechanisms centered around homophily. The good agreement between the theory and empirical data suggests that existing strategies aiming to defeat online extremism under the assumption that it is driven by a few "bad apples" are misguided. More generally, this generalized theory should apply to a range of real-world systems featuring aggregation among heterogeneous objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number048301
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 27 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Generalized Gelation Theory Describes Onset of Online Extremist Support'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this