Library

Welcome to VOX-Pol’s online Library, a research and teaching resource, which collects in one place a large volume of publications related to various aspects of violent online political extremism.

Our searchable database contains material in a variety of different formats including downloadable PDFs, videos, and audio files comprising e-books, book chapters, journal articles, research reports, policy documents and reports, and theses.

All open access material collected in the Library is easy to download. Where the publications are only accessible through subscription, the Library will take you to the publisher’s page from where you can access the material.

We will continue to add more material as it becomes available with the aim of making it the most comprehensive online Library in this field.

If you have any material you think belongs in the Library—whether your own or another authors—please contact us at onlinelibrary@voxpol.eu and we will consider adding it to the Library. It is also our aim to make the Library a truly inclusive multilingual facility and we thus welcome contributions in all languages.

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TitleYearAuthorTypeLinks
Disrupting DAESH: Measuring Takedown of Online Terrorist Material and its Impacts
2017 Conway, M., Khawaja, M., Lakhani, S., Reffin, J., Robertson, A., and Weir, D. VOX-Pol Publication
This report seeks to contribute to public and policy debates on the value of social media disruption activity with respect to terrorist material. We look in particular at aggressive account and content takedown, with the aim of accurately measuring this activity and its impacts.

Our findings challenge the notion that Twitter remains a conducive space for Islamic State (IS) accounts and communities to flourish, although IS continues to distribute propaganda through this channel. However, not all jihadists on Twitter are subject to the same high levels of disruption as IS, and we show that there is differential disruption taking place.

• IS’s and other jihadists’ online activity was never solely restricted to Twitter. Twitter is just one node in a wider jihadist social media ecology. We describe and discuss this, and supply some preliminary analysis of disruption trends in this area.

• Our analysis rests on a dataset containing 722 pro-IS accounts (labelled Pro-IS throughout) and a convenience sample of 451 other jihadist accounts (labelled Other Jihadist throughout), including those supportive of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Ahrar al-Sham, the Taliban and al-Shabaab, active on Twitter at any point between 1 February and 7 April 2017.

• The Pro-IS accounts were located and identified using three methods: the original seed set of accounts (27%) were manually identified by the research team; the second set of accounts (30%) were identified ‘semi-automatically’ (i.e. automatically identified by the system and manually inspected and verified); and the third group of accounts (43%) were identified using an ‘advanced semi-automatic’ system via IS propaganda links.

• For the Pro-IS accounts, 57,574 tweets were collected, with 7,216 (12.5%) of these tweets containing out-links, i.e. links to wider websites, social media platforms, content hosting sites, etc. (not including links within Twitter). For the Other Jihadist
accounts, 62,156 tweets were collected, of which 7,928 (13%) contained out-links.

• One of the overarching objectives of this research was to provide an up-to-date account of the effects of Twitter’s disruption strategy on IS supporter accounts. We found that pro-IS accounts faced substantial and aggressive disruption, particularly those linking to official IS content hosted on a range of other platforms. The majority – around 65% – of the Pro-IS accounts in our dataset were suspended within 70 days of their establishment, with the overall suspension rate of pro-IS accounts probably being considerably higher.

• In a case study of accounts posting links to official IS content in a 24-hour period on 3 and 4 April 2017, 153 accounts were identified. A subset of 50 were ‘throwaway accounts’ (i.e. accounts specifically created on 3 April to disseminate IS propaganda with no expectation that they would stay online for any significant
period of time). Together these accounts sent a total of 842 tweets with out-links to IS propaganda on other online platforms. Within this 24-hour period, 65% of accounts were suspended within the first 17 hours (07.00–00.00 GMT). The 50 throwaway accounts suffered even higher levels of disruption, with a 75% suspension rate during the same time period. This demonstrates that the disruption to official IS propaganda distribution was reasonably effective in the first 24 hours after linking the content.

• We also compared the suspension rates of Pro-IS accounts versus Other Jihadist accounts to check for differential disruption. We found that more than 25% of Pro-IS accounts were suspended within five days of their creation; a negligible number of Other Jihadist accounts were subject to the same rapid response. Of those accounts in our dataset that were eventually suspended (i.e. 455 Pro-IS accounts and 163 Other Jihadist), more than 30% of Pro-IS accounts were suspended within two days of their creation; less than 1% of Other Jihadist accounts met the same fate.

• As a result of this disruption, IS’s ability to facilitate and maintain strong and influential communities on Twitter was found to be significantly diminished. Relationship networks were much sparser for Pro-IS accounts than Other Jihadist accounts. Other Jihadist accounts had the opportunity to send six times as many
tweets, follow or ‘friend’ four times as many accounts and, critically, gain 13 times as many followers as Pro-IS accounts.

• Pro-IS users who persistently returned to Twitter resorted to adopting counter-measures, such as locking accounts, diluting the content of tweets, using innocuous profile pictures, and adopting meaningless Twitter handles. This situation makes it extremely difficult to maintain a strong and influential virtual community.

• Twitter is, however, just one node in a wider jihadist social media ecology. Therefore, we analysed a sample of destinations from Twitter for official IS propaganda at three time points (4–8 February, 4–8 March (excluding 7 March), and 4–8 April 2017). During these periods, Pro-IS accounts linked to 39 different
third-party platforms or content hosting sites, as well as running its own server to host material. Of these, six remained prominent across the three time periods: justpaste.it, IS’s own server, archive.org, sendvid.com, YouTube and Google Drive.
These domains accounted for 83%, 70% and 67% of the URLs in the February, March and April sampling periods respectively. The takedown rate (as of 12 April) was 72%, 66% and 72% for the same sampling periods.

• Only 20 (or 0.04%) of all tweets from Pro-IS accounts contained a telegram.me link. The paucity of such links caused us to explore further; we found that just two of 722 Pro-IS users’ biographies and two of 451 Other Jihadist users’ biographies contained Telegram links. Neither group of accounts was therefore using Twitter to advertise its presence on Telegram.

• Our report makes three recommendations:

1. Modern social media monitoring systems have the ability to dramatically increase the speed and effectiveness of data gathering, analysis and (potentially) intervention, but probably only when deployed in combination with trained human analysts.

2. Active IS supporters who remain on Twitter, in particular content disseminators and their throwaway accounts, could probably be degraded further – though this may have both pros (e.g. detrimental impact on last remaining significant IS supporter Twitter activity) and cons (e.g. further degradation of Twitter as a source of data or open source intelligence on IS).

3. Our focus was largely on Twitter, but we also pointed to the importance of the wider jihadist social media ecology. As our analysis was not restricted to IS users and content, we also underline the often uninterrupted online presence and activity of non-IS jihadists. We point to the usefulness of maintaining a wide-angle view of the online activity of a diversity of these, particularly HTS, across a variety of social media and other online platforms.

• For the future, we propose replicating the present research, but with a larger and more equal sample of HTS, Ahrar al-Sham, and Taliban accounts. This would allow for a more systematic and comparative analysis of the levels of disruption of a range of non-IS jihadists, the vibrancy of their contemporary Twitter communities and Twitter out-linking practices. It would also allow us to identify their other preferred online platforms. Additional research is clearly also warranted into the wider jihadist social media ecology. In particular, we suggest analysing pro-IS and other jihadist activity on Telegram, which is almost certainly where IS’s online community has reconstituted, and comparing this with our present findings.
Winning the Cyberwar Against ISIS
2017 Byers, A., and Mooney, T. Article
Despite the efforts of the United States and its allies to fight the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), the group remains a formidable danger. It holds territory in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, and Syria and directs cells in Bangladesh, Egypt, France, the North Caucasus, and Yemen. ISIS operatives have conducted terrorist attacks in Europe—including one in November 2015 in Paris that killed 130 people—and lone wolves inspired by its propaganda have committed violence throughout the West.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, like that of former President Barack Obama, has publicly committed itself to defeating ISIS using conventional military means. This approach has its benefits, but it ignores a significant part of the threat posed by ISIS. The group is strong not only on the battlefield but also in cyberspace, where it uses sophisticated techniques to communicate with sympathizers, spread propaganda, and recruit new members all around the world. As one ISIS defector told The Washington Post in 2015, “The media people are more important than the soldiers.”
Toward a Framework Understanding of Online Programs for Countering Violent Extremism
2016 Davies et al. Article
There is an emerging consensus that ideologically-based narratives play a central role in encouraging and sustaining radicalization to violence, and that preventing, arresting, or reversing radicalization requires some means by which to address the effects of these narratives. Countering violent extremism (CVE) is a broad umbrella phrase that covers a wide array of approaches that have been advanced to reduce the radicalizing effects of extremist narratives. There is considerably less agreement, however, regarding the most appropriate means by which the mitigation of extremist narratives might best be accomplished. An important emerging area of interest is the role of the Internet, both as a forum through which narratives are transmitted and as an avenue for delivering CVE programs. At present, very little is known about which principles and practices should inform online CVE initiatives. This study attempts to establish a foundation and framework for these programs: first, by identifying the concepts and constructs which may be most relevant to countering violent extremism online, and second, by examining the available material from six online CVE programs in relation to these concepts. This examination suggests that these programs are lacking strong theoretical foundations and do not address important elements of radicalization, such as contextual factors or identity issues. It is important that future iterations of CVE programs consider not just the specific content of the narratives, but also take into account why these narratives have resonance for particular individuals
The Response of, and on, Twitter to the Release of Dabiq Issue 15
2017 Grinnell, D., Macdonald, S., and Mair, D. Article
The so-called Islamic State (IS) has a sophisticated media strategy (Winter 2017), an important part of which has been its English-language online magazine Dabiq. Launched in July 2014, a total of fifteen issues of Dabiq in the two years that followed. These issues were disseminated in a variety of ways, including archive sites (Bodo and Speckhard 2017), web forums and file-sharing networks (Gambhir 2016), the dark web (Stacey 2017), and even via an attempt to sell the freely available magazines for profit through the online retailer Amazon (Masi 2015). One of the most important forums for dissemination, however, was the social media platform Twitter (Bodo and Speckhard 2017; Gambhir 2016; Cunningham, Everton and Schroeder 2015; Shaheen 2015). Released in July 2016, the theme of Dabiq issue 15 was ‘Break the Cross’. After referring to a number of attacks that had occurred in the preceding weeks, the issue’s foreword called on ‘pagan Christians’, ‘liberalist secularists’ and ‘sceptical atheists’ to ‘recognize their Creator and submit to Him’. In addition to regular features, including ‘Among the believers are men’ and ‘In the words of the enemy’ (which, in this issue’ focussed on Pope Francis), and advertisements for other IS media, issue 15 contained an 18 page feature article, also titled ‘Break the Cross’. Arguing that the Bible does not display the three hallmarks of a true divine text, the article discusses the doctrine of the Trinity, whether Jesus was crucified, and whether Paul’s New Testament teachings are authentic (repeatedly stating that Paul was a known liar). It then seeks to establish the authenticity of the Prophet Muhammad, before asking Christians rhetorically: ‘O People of the Scripture, follow the truth from your Lord, whom you claim to love. Would you follow your parents and ancestors if you knew they were walking into a fire?’ and concluding ‘Know well that our fight will continue until you are defeated and submit to the rule of your Creator, or until we achieve martyrdom. Allah has made our mission to wage war against disbelief until it ceases to exist, as he has ordered us to kill all pagans wherever they are found’. Drawing on an original dataset, in this article we examine the response to the release of Dabiq issue 15 on Twitter. We examine the response in two respects: first, the response from Twitter itself, in terms of suspension activity; and, second, the response from other users, in terms of their engagement with posts disseminating the new issue. Before presenting our findings, we begin by offering an overview of our methodology.
Cracks in the Online “Caliphate”: How the Islamic State is Losing Ground in the Battle for Cyberspace
2017 Lakomy, M. Article
This article argues that the Islamic State’s cyber jihad, fully launched in 2014, is currently undergoing a regression that is demonstrated by the weakening of its quality, coverage and effectiveness. Comparing the character, major forms and popularity of Daesh’s releases from 2014 and 2015 with its most up-to-date productions, one can notice evident alterations signaling the long-awaited, but limited as yet, impairment of the “Caliphate’s” propaganda machine, composed of such specialized cells as the Amaq News Agency, al-Furqan Media, al-I’tisam Foundation, al-Himmah Library, or the al-Hayat Media Center. This transition is caused by a multitude of factors, with both offline and online origins.
Countering Insurgency in Kashmir: The Cyber Dimension
2017 Karua, V. Article
Countering the militancy in Kashmir has become a highly challenging task due to the exploitation of new information and communication technology by insurgent groups. The battlefield is now a multidimensional one, encompassing both physical territory and cyberspace. The overall capabilities of insurgents have been enhanced by tools in cyberspace that are inexpensive, ever more sophisticated, rapidly proliferating, and easy to use. Militants are systematically exploiting the Internet to generate moral support, recruit personnel, and transmit propaganda, leading to the further militarisation of the Kashmiri youth. This paper examines the potentially disastrous consequences of the use of cyberspace by an already strong insurgency in Kashmir. The objective is to understand the most effective means to counter the cyber dimension of the Kashmir insurgency.
Terrorism as Process Narratives: A Study of Pre-Arrest Media Usage and the Emergence of Pathways to Engagement
2017 Holbrooke, D., and Taylor, M. Article
Terrorism is a highly irregular form of crime where multiple factors combine to create circumstances that are unique to each case of involvement, or attempted involvement, in terrorist violence. Yet, there are commonalities in the way in which efforts to become involved unfold as processes, reflected as sequential developments where different forces combine to create conditions where individuals seek to plan acts of violence. The best way to frame this involvement is through analytical approaches that highlight these procedural dimensions but are equally sensitive to the nuances of each case. Analysing pre-arrest media usage of convicted terrorists, this paper focuses on the ways in which belief pathways and operational pathways interact in five distinct cases of terrorist involvement in the UK in what are termed ‘process narratives’.
Cloaked Facebook Pages: Exploring Fake Islamist Propaganda in Social Media
2017 Farkas, J., Schou, J., and Neumayer, C. Article
This research analyses cloaked Facebook pages that are created to spread political propaganda by cloaking a user profile and imitating the identity of a political opponent in order to spark hateful and aggressive reactions. This inquiry is pursued through a multi-sited online ethnographic case study of Danish Facebook pages disguised as radical Islamist pages, which provoked racist and anti-Muslim reactions as well as negative sentiments towards refugees and immigrants in Denmark in general. Drawing on Jessie Daniels’ critical insights into cloaked websites, this research furthermore analyses the epistemological, methodological and conceptual challenges of online propaganda. It enhances our understanding of disinformation and propaganda in an increasingly interactive social media environment and contributes to a critical inquiry into social media and subversive politics.
Die (De-)Konstruktion eines extremistischen Weltbildes. Eine Mixed-Methods Analyse von Al-Qaidas Online Magazin “Inspire”.
2017 Leimbach, K. Article
„Inspire“ ist ein hochprofessionell gestaltetes Magazin, das bis zu viermal im Jahr von AlQaida im Internet publiziert wird. Das Magazin wird in englischer Sprache veröffentlicht und enthält neben Bombenbauanleitungen im Stile des Do-It-Yourself Trends auch Artikel über die Unterdrückung von Muslimen, Koraninterpretationen oder Erfahrungsberichte aus dem Leben von sogenannten Gotteskriegern. In der vorliegenden Studie wird das Magazin aus einer sozialkonstruktivistischen und wissenssoziologischen Perspektive heraus analysiert, um den Inhalt von „Inspire“ auf Deutungsrahmen hin zu untersuchen. Mit dem Methodenmix aus semantischer Netzwerkanalyse und qualitativer Bild- und Textanalyse wird das Datenmaterial deskriptiv sowie qualitativ-rekonstruktiv erschlossen. Am Ende der Arbeit steht die Rekonstruktion der im „Inspire Magazine“ abgebildeten Deutungsrahmen und ihrer Zusammensetzung zu einem extremistischen Weltbild. Die Bestandteile des Weltbildes wurden in acht Dimensionen unterteilt, sodass dezidierte Aussagen über Zielgruppe und Mobilisierungsmechanismen möglich wurden. Darüber hinaus konnte theoretisch fundiert herausgearbeitet werden, wie das Weltbild konstruiert wird, nämlich über das Freund-Feind Schema, Mechanismen der Unterdrückung, das Bilden einer kollektiven Identität und das Nutzen der Vulnerabilität von Adoleszenz. Diese vier Ansatzpunkte bilden eine mögliche Erklärung für Selbstradikalisierungsprozesse über das Internet.
Countering Violent Extremism via Desecuritisation on Twitter
2017 Warrington, A. Article
The case of a civil society actor on Twitter entering a securitized discourse on terrorism illustrates the transformative theoretical potential that emerges from new forms of communication online. Through a qualitative analysis of tweets from the Average Mohamed profile, the potential to change a negative narrative of violent extremism operating within a securitised discourse of Islamic terrorism, is discussed in an online context. The arguments forming from this analysis offers a new approach to studying online counter narratives by linking a theoretical framework of securitisation and de-securitisation to recent political efforts Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) and Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE). Through the inclusion of a civil society Twitter account as an illustrative case, this paper explores how social media can challenge existing assumptions of who can be a de-securitising actor within security theory by blurring the lines between political and societal sectors in a securitised threat from Islamic terrorism. If and how a civil society actor can loosen the dichotomous discursive relationship between Self/Other relations within a contemporary discourse on terrorism becomes relevant for a theoretical discussion by presenting an argument suggesting that online CVE polices are more effective within the sphere of ‘normal’ politics rather than within the realm of securitization. This theoretical perspective offers an analytical framework including a wide range of actors involved in counter narratives policies which is useful for further CVE research.
Automatically Detecting the Resonance of Terrorist Movement Frames on the Web
2017 Etudo, U Article
The ever-increasing use of the internet by terrorist groups as a platform for the dissemination of radical, violent ideologies is well documented. The internet has, in this way, become a breeding ground for potential lone-wolf terrorists; that is, individuals who commit acts of terror inspired by the ideological rhetoric emitted by terrorist organizations. These individuals are characterized by their lack of formal affiliation with terror organizations, making them difficult to intercept with traditional intelligence techniques. The radicalization of individuals on the internet poses a considerable threat to law enforcement and national security officials. This new medium of radicalization, however, also presents new opportunities for the interdiction of lone wolf terrorism. This dissertation is an account of the development and evaluation of an information technology (IT) framework for detecting potentially radicalized individuals on social media sites and Web fora. Unifying Collective Action Framing Theory (CAFT) and a radicalization model of lone wolf terrorism, this dissertation analyzes a corpus of propaganda documents produced by V several, radically different, terror organizations. This analysis provides the building blocks to define a knowledge model of terrorist ideological framing that is implemented as a Semantic Web Ontology. Using several techniques for ontology guided information extraction, the resultant ontology can be accurately processed from textual data sources. This dissertation subsequently defines several techniques that leverage the populated ontological representation for automatically identifying individuals who are potentially radicalized to one or more terrorist ideologies based on their postings on social media and other Web fora. The dissertation also discusses how the ontology can be queried using intuitive structured query languages to infer triggering events in the news. The prototype system is evaluated in the context of classification and is shown to provide state of the art results. The main outputs of this research are (1) an ontological model of terrorist ideologies (2) an information extraction framework capable of identifying and extracting terrorist ideologies from text, (3) a classification methodology for classifying Web content as resonating the ideology of one or more terrorist groups and (4) a methodology for rapidly identifying news content of relevance to one or more terrorist groups
Assessing the Discourse of Online Extremism and Measures Proposed to Counter It
2016 Pohjonen, M., and Ahmed, R. Article


The discourse surrounding digital technologies is rapidly changing, namely from an entity with the potential to generate positive political change to one that can be abused by extremists. In light of this, a new “dispositif” of risk has emerged whereby governments are seeking to address the imagined dangers posed by digital technology through a series of pre-emptive measures. By examining how the relationship between digital technology and violent extremism has been articulated in the EU’s counter-terrorism policy, this article argues that critical distance is now needed from both these utopian and/or dystopian conceptualisations of digital technology and conflict.

Key Messages, Images, and Media Channels Radicalizing Youth in Kyrgyzstan
2017 Karimova, M. Article
Radical ideologies and violent extremism continue to plague Kyrgyzstan and the Central Asia region, with approximately 2,000 Central Asians traveling to Syria and Iraq to join violent extremist groups. As fear of terrorism has grown in the region, the Kyrgyz government has increased scrutiny of Islam, with authorities conducting “appraisals” of clergy leaders, and violent clashes occurring between state police and suspected violent extremists. Despite these crackdowns, however, recruitment into religious-based violent extremist organizations continues both in-person and online. Social media plays a significant role in the dissemination and absorption of radical ideologies and narratives in Kyrgyzstan. Internet sites and mobile phone applications, including those that allow for messaging and content exchange, are actively used by extremist groups banned in Kyrgyzstan, such as the Islamic State (ISIS).
Countering Far-Right Recruitment Online: CAPE’s Practitioner Experience
2017 Voogt, S. Article
Community Action for Preventing Extremism (CAPE) is Australia’s only not-for-profit counter-extremism project focused specifically on preventing a growth in right-wing extremism. By disseminating counter-narratives to extremism through the exitwhitepower.com website and directly engaging with individuals at-risk via social media, CAPE seeks to sow a seed of doubt that will reduce individual’s vulnerability to involvement in the far-right. This paper will outline CAPE’s practitioner experience in developing online interventions to challenge far-right narratives and the advantages of using this method of engagement. The paper will also outline distinctions between traditional white supremacist far-right groups and the increasingly active anti-Muslim groups, which create challenges for CAPE’s work in countering far-right online activity.
The Digital Caliphate. A Study of Propaganda from the Islamic State
2017 Kaati, L. Article
This report presents research carried out within the project (Ku2016/01373/D - Uppdrag till Totalförsvarets forskningsinstitut (FOI) att göra kartläggningar och analyser av våldsbejakande extremistisk propaganda) that has been assigned to the Swedish defence research agency by the Swedish Government. The project will continue until March 2019. The purpose of this report is to highlight various aspects of IS’s digital propaganda; How it is spread, what its content is, how the content varies over time, and how images are used in the propaganda. We have also studied the role of women and children in IS-propaganda, and how a youth culture called Jihadi cool has evolved with its own kind of clothing, music and cultural expressions. IS’s propaganda contains a variety of religious concepts and references, which IS sometimes use in a non-traditional way. Therefore, a chapter in this report describes how Islamic politico-religious language can be used to convey different kinds of messages
Dynamical Patterns in Individual Trajectories Toward Extremism
2017 Cao, Z. et al. Article
Society faces a fundamental global problem of understanding which individuals are currently developing strong support for some extremist entity such as ISIS (Islamic State) – even if they never end up doing anything in the real world. The importance of online connectivity in developing intent has been confirmed by recent case-studies of already convicted terrorists. Here we identify dynamical patterns in the online trajectories that individuals take toward developing a high level of extremist support – specifically, for ISIS. Strong memory effects emerge among individuals whose transition is fastest, and hence may become ‘out of the blue’ threats in the real world. A generalization of diagrammatic expansion theory helps quantify these characteristics, including the impact of changes in geographical location, and can facilitate prediction of future risks. By quantifying the trajectories that individuals follow on their journey toward expressing high levels of pro-ISIS support -- irrespective of whether they then carry out a real-world attack or not – our findings can help move safety debates beyond reliance on static watch-list identifiers such as ethnic background or immigration status, and/or post-fact interviews with already-convicted individuals. Given the broad commonality of social media platforms, our results likely apply quite generally: for example, even on Telegram where (like Twitter) there is no built-in group feature as in our study, individuals tend to collectively build and pass through so-called super-group accounts.
Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online
2017 Marwick, A., and Lewis, R. Article
■ Internet subcultures take advantage of the current media ecosystem to manipulate news frames, set agendas, and propagate ideas.

■ Far-right groups have developed techniques of “attention hacking” to increase the visibility of their ideas through the strategic use of social media, memes, and bots—as well as by targeting journalists, bloggers, and influencers to help spread content.

■ The media’s dependence on social media, analytics and metrics, sensationalism, novelty over newsworthiness, and clickbait makes them vulnerable to such media manipulation.

■ While trolls, white nationalists, men’s rights activists, gamergaters, the “altright,” and conspiracy theorists may diverge deeply in their beliefs, they share tactics and converge on common issues.

■ The far-right exploits young men’s rebellion and dislike of “political correctness” to spread white supremacist thought, Islamophobia, and misogyny through irony and knowledge of internet culture.

■ Media manipulation may contribute to decreased trust of mainstream media, increased misinformation, and further radicalization.
Cloaked Facebook Pages: Exploring Fake Islamist Propaganda in Social Media
2017 Farkas. J., Schou, J., Neumayer, C. Article
This research analyses cloaked Facebook pages that are created to spread political propaganda by cloaking a user profile and imitating the identity of a political opponent in order to spark hateful and aggressive reactions. This inquiry is pursued through a multi-sited online ethnographic case study of Danish Facebook pages disguised as radical Islamist pages, which provoked racist and anti-Muslim reactions as well as negative sentiments towards refugees and immigrants in Denmark in general. Drawing on Jessie Daniels’ critical insights into cloaked websites, this research furthermore analyses the epistemological, methodological and conceptual challenges of online propaganda. It enhances our understanding of disinformation and propaganda in an increasingly interactive social media environment and contributes to a critical inquiry into social media and subversive politics.
A Semantic Graph-Based Approach for Radicalisation Detection on Social Media
2017 Saif, H., Dickinson, T., Kastler, L., Fernandez, M., and Alani, H. Article
From its start, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) has been successfully exploiting social media networks, most notoriously Twitter, to promote its propaganda and recruit new members, resulting in thousands of social media users adopting a pro-ISIS stance every year. Automatic identification of pro-ISIS users on social media has, thus, become the centre of interest for various governmental and research organisations. In this paper we propose a semantic graph-based approach for radicalisation detection on Twitter. Unlike previous works, which mainly rely on the lexical representation of the content published by Twitter users, our approach extracts and makes use of the underlying semantics of words exhibited by these users to identify their pro/anti-ISIS stances. Our results show that classifiers trained from semantic features outperform those trained from lexical, sentiment, topic and network features by 7.8% on average F1-measure.
Hate Messages and Violent Extremism in Digital Environments
2017 FOI Article
This report presents research carried out within the project (Ku2016/01373/D - Uppdrag till Totalförsvarets forskningsinstitut (FOI) att göra kartläggningar och analyser av våldsbejakande extremistisk propaganda) that has been assigned to the Swedish defence research agency by the Swedish Government. The project will continue until March 2019. The report briefly describes the channels of communication that prevail on the Internet, as and the methods used for the analyses. Since computer support makes it possible to analyse large amounts of data and to identify patterns that are difficult for humans to observe, the analyses carried out within the project are mainly computer supported. Using examples, the report provides insight into how proponents of violent extremist ideologies convey their messages online, which we hope can lead to further discussions about propaganda and hate messages. The report also contains some examples of analyses; an analysis of jargon in a webforum, a comparative study of a sample of immigration-critic alternative media, and a machine learning-based study of text written by violent lone offenders.
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