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
ISIS-chan – the Meanings of the Manga Girl in Image Warfare Against the Islamic State
2017 Johansson, A. Journal
This article explores gendered meanings of ISIS-chan, an Internet meme in the form of a manga girl, produced and used to disrupt the messages from the Islamic State. Moreover, it investigates the performative power of ISIS-chan, and how it is used/interpreted as it circulates on the Internet. The ISIS-chan campaign is seen as an example of how the girl figure is mobilised in the political context of the War on Terror. Characterised by girlish playfulness, humour and creativity, I suggest that ISIS-chan challenges the stereotypical representations of femininity in the War on Terror, and may be perceived as a trickster.
Confronting Online Extremism: The Effect of Self-Help, Collective Efficacy, and Guardianship on Being a Target for Hate Speech
2016 Costello, M., Hawdon, J., Ratliff, T. Journal
Who is likely to be a target of online hate and extremism? To answer this question, we use an online survey (N = 963) of youth and young adults recruited from a demographically balanced sample of Americans. Adapting routine activity theory, we distinguish between actor-initiated social control (i.e., self-help), other-initiated social control (i.e., collective efficacy), and guardianship and show how self-help is positively related to the likelihood of being targeted by hate. Our findings highlight how online exposure to hate materials, target suitability, and enacting social control online all influence being the target of hate. Using social networking sites and encountering hate material online have a particularly strong relationship with being targeted with victim suitability (e.g., discussing private matters online, participating in hate online) and confronting hate also influencing the likelihood of being the target of hate speech.
Understanding Psycho-Sociological Vulnerability of ISIS Patronizers in Twitter
2017 Reganti, A., Maheshwari, T., Das, A., Chakraborty, T., and Kumaraguru, P. Article
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a Salafi jihadist militant group that has made extensive use of online social media platforms to promulgate its ideologies and evoke many individuals to support the organization. The psycho- sociological background of an individual plays a crucial role in determining his/her vulnerability of being lured into joining the organisation and indulge in terrorist activities, since his/her behavior largely depends on the society s/he was brought up in. Here, we analyse five sociological aspects – personality, values & ethics, optimism/pessimism, age and gender to understand the psycho-sociological vulnerability of individuals over Twitter. Experimental results suggest that psycho-sociological aspects indeed act as foundation to discover and differentiate between prominent and unobtrusive users in Twitter.
Social Network Analysis in the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence
2010 Perliger, A. and Pedazhur, A. Article
The academic community studying terrorism has changed dramatically in the past decade. From a research area which was investigated by a small number of political scientists and sociologists, employing mainly descriptive and qualitative studies that resulted in limited theoretical progress as noted by Schmid and Jongman (1988) as well as Crenshaw (2000), it has in a short time become one of the more vibrant and rapidly developing academic realms as scholars from different branches of the social sciences have engaged in an effort to unravel this phenomenon, introducing new theoretical outlooks, conceptualizations and methods.

The descriptive and explanatory potentials of Social Network Analysis (SNA) in the study of violent political groups attracted some of the new students of terrorism shortly after the September 11th attacks (Van Meter 2001, Carly et al. 2002, Krebs 2002). Yet, even though their studies showed strong potential as they provided significant insights about the structures and internal processes of terrorists groups, the use of SNA in the study of political violence has remained quite limited, and still amounts to only a small fraction of the research in the field. Our experience in presenting SNA of violent groups in various platforms and events has led us to conclude that this is a result of two factors, which sustain each other. The majority of political violence students have very limited acquaintance with the rationale, and the main concepts and methodological tools of SNA; hence, many of them are still reluctant to exercise SNA in their studies and consequently tend to express doubt regarding its efficiency and relevance for the study of complex social phenomena.

This essay is not methodological per se in the sense that our goal is not to provide a methodological introduction to SNA. We do strive however to provide a clear presentation of the advantages of this realm for the study of terrorism and related fields, as well as the main relevant methodological tools and concepts, by utilizing pertinent and intelligible examples. These illustrate how network analysis complements conventional approaches to the study of political violence and how it can provide important information about the characteristics of the group structure (and how it influences members motives, behaviors and the outcome of their actions), recruitment processes, evolution, and of the division of political and social power among its members. We hope this will encourage more scholars to incorporate SNA into their studies, and consequently will further our understanding of the processes, causes and implications of political violence.
Gangs of Detroit: OSINT and Indictment Documents
2015 Seitz, J. Article
VICE News ran a story about a gang in Detroit, Michigan that was nabbed partly due to their use of social media. This of course caught my attention so I clicked the link to the indictment papers and began to have a read. I find court documents completely fascinating. It’s a weird hobby I will admit. However, I am always one of those people that likes to read more into a story, dig for background, and understand more of the peripheral players, locations and other details. Indictment papers are one of those documents that can help you do all of this. Aside from learning far more about news stories that interest you, this can be exceedingly useful if you are in law enforcement or you’re a journalist and a particular story pops up that interests you. Sometimes digging through a completely different case than one you’re currently working on can give you ideas, or help to hone some of your search skills. As well, a lot of folks taking OSINT training have a tough time finding something to apply their skills to, they can only creep on their own accounts or friends for so long before it becomes boring and repetitive.

There are cases where you can write code to kick off the whole process (such as what I did with Bin Ladin’s Bookshelf) but there are other times that you are going to want to spend some time figuring out where to target your automation. This requires a bit of critical reading, and an eye for extracting relevant pieces of information. Let’s use these indictment papers and do some quick Twitter investigating to see if we can locate other interesting people potentially associated to the folks that are locked up.
One to One Online Interventions: A Pilot CVE Methodology
2015 Frenett, R. and Dow, M. Report
The internet permeates all aspects of modern life and violent extremism is no exception. Although the level of importance is sometimes disputed, few would deny the role that online communication has in driving people towards violent extremist groups. While there are various perspectives on the exact nature of this process, it is increasingly agreed upon that it is rare for individuals to radicalise entirely in absence of any outside communication. Radicalisation remains a social phenomenon and the fact that some of these social interactions have migrated online does not change this. Extremists do not simply produce and disseminate propaganda and then move straight to offline recruitment, they utilise peer to peer messaging applications contained within social media platforms to engage in direct personal contact with potential recruits to their cause. Sometimes these online conversations completely displace offline recruitment.

Extremist propaganda is often removed and there are examples of nascent efforts to counter this throught the creation of counter-narrative campaigns. Counter-narratives, and offline counter-recruitment programmes such as EXIT and Channel, counter efforts of extremists to promote propaganda online and recruit in the offline world. This highlights the fact that there is a crucial piece missing in our efforts to counter recruitment to extremist groups; the proactive utilisation of peer to peer messaging systems online to engage with those expressing extremist sympathies.

Over the course of ISD’s management of the AVE network we encountered a number of isolated attempts to engage directly with extremists online, from former extremists infiltrating extremist forums to Twitter conversations between activists and extremist sympathisers. However none of these efforts had been attempted at scale none had had testing and success
metrics built in from the start. As such, any evidence gained as to their effectiveness was anecdotal at best.
Online as the New Frontline: Affect, Gender, and ISIS-Take-Down on Social Media in Conflict & Terrorism
2017 Pearson, E. VOX-Pol Publication
Using a dataset of more than 80 accounts during 2015, this article explores the gendered ways in which self-proclaiming Twitter Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) supporters construct community around “suspension.” The article argues that suspension is an integral event in the online lives of ISIS supporters, which is reproduced in online identities. The highly gendered roles of ISIS males and females frame responses to suspension, enforcing norms that benefit the group: the shaming of men into battle and policing of women into modesty. Both male and female members of “Wilayat Twitter” regard online as a frontline, with suspension an act of war against the “baqiya family.” The findings have implications for broader repressive measures against ISIS online.

This research was produced with the aid of VOX-Pol Researcher Mobility Programme funding and supervision by VOX-Pol colleagues at Dublin City University.
Determining The Role Of The Internet In Violent Extremism And Terrorism Six Suggestions For Progressing Research
2016 Conway, M. VOX-Pol Publication
Some scholars and others are sceptical of a significant role for the Internet in processes of violent radicalisation. There is increasing concern on the part of other scholars, and increasingly also policymakers and publics, that easy availability of violent extremist content online may have violent radicalising effects. This article identifies a number of core questions regarding the interaction of violent extremism and terrorism and the Internet, particularly social media, that have yet to be adequately addressed and supplies a series of six follow-up suggestions, flowing from these questions, for progressing research in this area. These suggestions relate to (1) widening the range of types of violent online extremism being studied beyond violent jihadis; (2) engaging in more comparative research, not just across ideologies, but also groups, countries, languages, and social media platforms; (3) deepening our analyses to include interviewing and virtual ethnographic approaches; (4) up-scaling or improving our capacity to undertake “big data” collection and analysis; (5) outreaching beyond terrorism studies to become acquainted with, for example, the Internet Studies literature and engaging in interdisciplinary research with, for example, computer scientists; and (6) paying more attention to gender as a factor in violent online extremism. This research was produced with the aid of VOX-Pol Researcher Mobility Programme funding and supervision by VOX-Pol colleagues at Dublin City University.
Enhancing the Understanding of the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Phenomenon in Syria
2017 United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism Report
During the fourth biennial review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy held in September 2014, Member States expressed concern at the growing phenomenon of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) in Syria. As a result, the Secretary-General announced that the United Nations Centre for Counter-Terrorism (UNCCT) would, in cooperation with those Member States that wished to participate, gather information on the motivation of FTFs through direct interviews of returnees. By analysis of the results, the Secretary-General aimed to provide Member States with a stronger knowledge base from which to understand the phenomenon of FTFs, assess the risks they posed, and develop effective responses.

Accordingly, in November 2014, the Executive Chairman of UNCCT and Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs invited all Member States to facilitate United Nations access to FTFs within their jurisdictions. Despite limited cooperation,1 UNCCT interviewed 43 individuals between August 2015 and November 2016, representing 12 nationalities. Thirty three (77 per cent) of the interviewees reached Syria but subsequently decided to leave, while the remaining ten (23 per cent) began the journey but were stopped en route, either on their own or in a transit country. Two interviewees are of Syrian origin, though they were not living in Syria when they were interviewed, while the rest fulfil the definition of foreign terrorist fighters included in Security Council resolution 2178 (2014).

The responses of the interviewees provide important insights into the motivations of individuals to leave their countries of residence or nationality to join armed groups in Syria. It is important to note that more often than not, individuals do not necessarily select the group they finally join. Rather, once they reach Syrian territory, some seem to join the group that operates closest to their point of arrival. Fighters also seem to be switching groups. The aim of this report is to expand understanding of the FTF phenomenon in Syria by examining why the interviewees chose to act in the way they did. The report records the reasons individual FTFs have given to explain their decision to leave their countries of residence or nationality to join armed groups. It also records their reasons for leaving these groups and returning to their countries of residence or nationality before achieving the goals and objectives they had set themselves. Finally, the report seeks to draw conclusions as to the threat that returning FTFs may pose in the future.
Contagion dynamics of extremist propaganda in social networks
2017 Ferrara, E. Journal
Recent terrorist attacks carried out on behalf of ISIS on American and European soil by lone wolf attackers or sleeper cells remind us of the importance of understanding the dynamics of radicalization mediated by social media communication channels. In this paper, we shed light on the social media activity of a group of twenty-five thousand users whose association with ISIS online radical propaganda has been manually verified. By using a computational tool known as dynamic activity-connectivity maps, based on network and temporal activity patterns, we investigate the dynamics of social influence within ISIS supporters. We finally quantify the effectiveness of ISIS propaganda by determining the adoption of extremist content in the general population and draw a parallel between radical propaganda and epidemics spreading, highlighting that information broadcasters and influential ISIS supporters generate highly-infectious cascades of information contagion. Our findings will help generate effective countermeasures to combat the group and other forms of online extremism.
Palestinian Social Media and Lone-Wolf Attacks: Subculture, Legitimization, and Epidemic
2017 Chorev, H. Journal
This article examines the impact of social media on the wave of Palestinian lone-wolf attacks against Israelis from October 2015 through September 2016. My principal argument is that social media played an important role in shaping the identity, perceptions, and behavioral patterns of dozens of assailants, and was key in creating the dynamic that ultimately characterized both the spreading of the idea of lone-wolf attacks and its execution. Social media reflected reality on the ground while simultaneously nourishing, amplifying, and escalating the situation by providing a platform for the emergence of new sources of authority, including an online subculture with distinct codes and pseudo-ritual patterns to support assailants. Social media also contributed substantially to shaping the contagious character of the attacks, and their capacity to persist without direct organizational guidance, following a typical epidemiological dynamic of spread, containment, and preservation.
The Internet and Its Potentials for Networking and Identity Seeking: A Study on ISIS
2017 Sardarnia, K. Journal
With the accelerating process of globalization and the development of its technological dimension, more and more opportunities and channels are available to the terrorist groups in the world to mobilize resources and advocates. “Islamic State of Iraq and Sham” (ISIS), as the most modern terrorist-excommunicative group (Takfiry), has been able to utilize the Internet and social networks highly adeptly. While ignoring the function of long-term structural and essential factors underlying the formation of ISIS, and also combining the networked society theory and triple forms of identities proposed by Manuel Castells with theoretical discussions on identity making, networking, and mobilization of media, the current article seeks to analyze the role of cyberspace and social networks as accelerating and opportunistic agents in mobilizing resources and disseminating ISIS. Using an explanatory analytical research method, the current article mainly intends to find a reply to the question: What has been the role of online social networks in connection with ISIS as an excommunicative and terrorist group? According to the research hypothesis, due to ISIS’s subtle, prevocational-emotional and targeted utilization of online social networks, the networks have played the role of an accelerator and opportunity maker in some areas including network building, guidance of public opinion, identity making, and the promotion of project identity of this terrorist group. The general conclusion obtained from the article is that ISIS, as the most terrifying and the most modern group equipped with cyber media, has been able to attract many forces out of fanatical religious groups, unemployed people, criminals, etc., worldwide. Additionally, with the recruitment of fanatics, ISIS has been able to accomplish identity making and network building. As a result, regional security and even security in Western countries is also highly endangered.
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.
Terrorist Use of the Internet by the Numbers: Quantifying Behaviors, Patterns, and Processes
2017 Gill, P., Corner, E., Conway, M., Thornton, A., Bloom, M. and Horgan, J. VOX-Pol Publication
Public interest and policy debates surrounding the role of the Internet in terrorist activities is increasing. Criminology has said very little on the matter. By using a unique data set of 223 convicted United Kingdom–based terrorists, this article focuses on how they used the Internet in the commission of their crimes. As most samples of terrorist offenders vary in terms of capabilities (lone-actor vs. group offenders) and criminal sophistication (improvised explosive devices vs. stabbings), we tested whether the affordances they sought from the Internet significantly differed. The results suggest that extreme-right-wing individuals, those who planned an attack (as opposed to merely providing material support), conducted a lethal attack, committed an improvised explosive device (IED) attack, committed an armed assault, acted within a cell, attempted to recruit others, and engaged in non-virtual network activities and non-virtual place interactions were significantly more likely to learn online compared with those who did not engage in these behaviours. Those undertaking unarmed assaults were significantly less likely to display online learning. The results also suggested that extreme-right-wing individuals who perpetrated an IED attack, associated with a wider network, attempted to recruit others, and engaged in non-virtual network activities and non-virtual place interactions were significantly more likely to communicate online with co-ideologues.

This article is a revised and updated version of the 2015 VOX-Pol report 'What are the Roles of the Internet In Terrorism? Measuring Online Behaviors of Convicted UK Terrorists.'
Neue technologische Mittel des neuen Terrorismus
2017 Goertz, S. Article
Seit Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts besteht innerhalb der sozialwissenschaftlichen Forschung der Konsens, dass die technologischen Möglichkeiten des Internets von vitaler Bedeutung für den islamistischen Terrorismus sind (Corman 2011; Cornish& Lindley-French&Yorke 2011; Fink&Barclay 2013). Verschiedene Studien bewerten die Existenz des Internets gar als Voraussetzung dafür, dass eine terroristische Organisation wie Al Qaida bereits länger als 20 Jahre existiert, während empirisch betrachtet terroristische Gruppen durchschnittlich weniger als ein Jahr lang bestehen (Archetti 2015; Theohary&Rollins 2011). Ebenso unbestritten ist, dass der „Islamische Staat“ (IS) ohne die Existenz des Internets und der sozialen Medien nicht solch dramatisch viele europäische und westliche Anhänger für seinen Jihad in Syrien und im Irak und für terroristische Anschläge in westlichen Staaten hätte gewinnen können (Goertz 2016; Brooking 2015).
Beyond Online Radicalisation: Exploring Transnationalism of Jihad
2017 Mahlouly, D. Journal
Dounia Mahlouly puts to task online radicalisation by understanding it as a goal to create transnational audiences, using a comparative approach to discuss the cases of europe, the mena region and Southeast asia.
A Blueprint for Bypassing Extremism
The Redirect Method Policy
The Redirect Method​ uses Adwords targeting tools and curated YouTube videos uploaded by people all around the world to confront online radicalization. It focuses on the slice of ISIS’ audience that is most susceptible to its messaging, and redirects them towards curated YouTube videos debunking ISIS recruiting themes. This open methodology was developed from interviews with ISIS defectors, respects users’ privacy and can be deployed to tackle other types of violent recruiting discourses online.
Countering and Understanding Terrorism, Extremism, and Radicalisation in a Big Data Age
2016 Bunnik, A. Journal
Anno Bunnik explores the ramifications of Big Data for countering terrorism, extremism, and radicalisation. With the recent rise of jihadists and other extremists groups in the Middle East and Europe, how do state agencies respond through the use of Big Data? This chapter critically engages with questions such as the extent to which Big Data can inform us about and help prevent radicalisation. It deals with the role of non-governmental organisations and the private sector in this regard. Bunnik makes the argument that whilst it is inevitable that Big Data will take centre stage in counter-terrorism, its potential should also be utilised to better understand radicalisation and extremism.
Read Online Empowering ISIS Opponents on Twitter
2017 Helmus, T. and Bodine-Barone, E. Article
This Perspective presents options for operationalizing recent RAND Corporation findings about ISIS opponents and supporters on Twitter. This paper formulates a countermessaging approach for two main communication pathways. First, we articulate an approach for working with influential Twitter users in the Arab world to promote bottom-up and authentic counter-ISIS messaging. Second, we highlight ways that U.S. and partner governments and nongovernmental organizations can use our analysis to more effectively implement top-down messaging to directly counter ISIS support on Twitter. Our original study found that there are six times the number of ISIS opponents than there are supporters on Twitter. We argue that it is critical to empower these influencers by drawing on lessons from the commercial marketing industry. We consequently highlight approaches to identify influencers on social media and empower them with both training and influential content.
Radicalization, the Internet and Cybersecurity: Opportunities and Challenges for HCI
2017 Hinds, J. and Joinson, A. Article
The idea that the internet may enable an individual to become radicalized has been of increasing concern over the last two decades. Indeed, the internet provides individuals with an opportunity to access vast amounts of information and to connect to new people and new groups. Together, these prospects may create a compelling argument that radicalization via the internet is plausible. So, is this really the case? Can viewing ‘radicalizing’ material and interacting with others online actually cause someone to subsequently commit violent and/or extremist acts? In this article, we discuss the potential role of the internet in radicalization and relate to how cybersecurity and certain HCI ‘affordances’ may support it. We focus on how the design of systems provides opportunities for extremist messages to spread and gain credence, and how an application of HCI and user-centered understanding of online behavior and cybersecurity might be used to counter extremist messages. By drawing upon existing research that may be used to further understand and address internet radicalization, we discuss some future research directions and associated challenges.
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