Faculty Publications


Terrorists and social media messages: A critical analysis of Boko Haram’s messages and messaging techniques

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The Palgrave Handbook of Media and Communication Research in Africa

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Post-colonial Nigeria has been plagued with violent conflicts. A bloody civil war in which an estimated 1 million people were killed ravaged the country from 1967 to 1970. Interethnic and intra-communal conflicts have also shaken the foundations of the nation since 1960 when colonial rule ended. Other violent conflicts that have plagued the country are religious conflicts in Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Kafanchan, Zaria, Jos, Maiduguri, and many other places. Blood-letting in the name of religion in these and other places in Nigeria has left thousands dead and wounded. Destruction of property in the course of religious violence in Nigeria has also wreaked economic calamity on the country. For instance, wanton destruction of property during the Maitatsene religious uprising in Kano from 1980 to 1985 resulted in the loss of lives and of millions of dollars. Clashes between members of the militant Shi’ite religious sect and the Nigerian army in 2016 led to the demolition of an entire neighborhood in Zaria city Nigeria’s latest bout of violence emanates from a deadly terrorist group, Boko Haram. Since 2009, it has killed over 20,000 people, displaced more than one million people, and contributed to the devastation of Nigeria’s northeast region. Initially, Boko Haram could not be contained by Nigerian security forces. It captured and held on to 14 local government districts and it constantly churned out online propaganda about its invisibility and its certainty that it would impose a radical Islamic government over the entire country. This chapter provides a critical analysis of Boko Haram’s propaganda. It examines the group’s core messages and the stylistic techniques used in delivering them. The chapter notes that Boko Haram deliberately used crude, unvanished imagery to reinforce the brutality of its actions in suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, and direct attacks against military barracks, markets, mosques, and churches. We contend that the effectiveness of Boko Haram’s propaganda began to decline as it suffered military defeats by Nigerian forces.


Department of Political Science

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UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa