Exploring the hidden social networks of ‘lone actor’ terrorists

David Bright, Chad Whelan, Shandon Harris-Hogan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Terrorism has typically been considered an organized activity undertaken by networks of individuals who share a collective identity and purpose. In recent years, media, law enforcement and scholarly attention has increasingly focused on the construct of the lone actor terrorist. However, lone actor terrorism has suffered from significant conceptual confusion, particularly with regard to whether such actors actually radicalize and/or undertake acts of violence alone. In order to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of this emerging phenomenon, this paper analyzes five lone actor attacks perpetrated in Australia between September 2014 and the end of 2017. It examines what (if any) interpersonal relationships these lone actors had with others, along with the nature of such connections and any ideological or logistical support these individuals may have provided. A personal network design is used to visualize interpersonal relationships and explore the nature of such connections. The paper concludes by discussing implications for policy and practice, and for the construct of the lone actor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-508
Number of pages18
JournalCrime, Law and Social Change
Issue number5
Early online date6 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Illicit networks
  • Lone actor
  • Social network analysis
  • Social networks
  • Terrorism


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