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 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.


Full Listing

Empirical assessment of al qaeda, ISIS, and taliban propaganda
2015 Skillicorn, D.B. Article
The jihadist groups AQAP, ISIS, and the Taliban have all produced glossy English magazines designed to influence Western sympathizers. We examine these magazines empirically with respect to models of the intensity of informative, imaginative, deceptive, jihadist, and gamification language. This allows their success to be estimated and their similarities and differences to be exposed. We also develop and validate an empirical model of propaganda; according to this model Dabiq, ISIS's magazine ranks highest of the three.
Packaging Inspiration: Al Qaeda’s Digital Magazine in the Self-Radicalization Process
2013 Sivek, S.C.
Al Qaeda is today a fragmented organization, and its strategic communication efforts now focus largely on recruiting individuals in the West to carry out “individual jihad” in their home countries. One Al Qaeda–affiliated publication, Inspire, represents an unusual use of the digital magazine format and content for recruitment. This study examines the content and design of Inspire to determine how the magazine may advance the self-radicalization that it seeks to induce in its readers. This analysis finds that the magazine weaves together jihadist ideology, a narrow interpretation of Islam, and appropriations of Western popular culture to maximize the publication’s potential for motivating readers toward violence.
Violence and Political Myth: Radicalizing Believers in the Pages of Inspire Magazine
2015 Kirke, X. Journal
Violent Jihadist movements have increasingly produced online English language magazines in order to encourage young Muslims into terrorism. This article argues that sociological approaches to the study of these magazines should engage with theories of political myth, understood as the collective “work” on dramatic and figurative narratives which provide significance to the political conditions of social groups. The utility of this approach is demonstrated through an analysis of al-Qaeda's online magazine, Inspire. Targeted toward an alienated young Western Muslim readership, Inspire stylistically mimics Western magazines by using satirical representations of politicians and making references to popular culture. The authors seek to convince their readership that they are part of a violent conflict with Western “crusaders” and treacherous false Muslims. Through a rhetorical strategy of “legitimization via proximization,” perceived injustices committed by the purported enemies of Islam throughout the world are seen as direct attacks on the reader and all Muslims. The reader must sacrifice his/her livelihood in order to become a “hero” and defend the Umma against its enemies. The article concludes that the mobilizing potential of the work on myth in these magazines necessitates further research.
Dabiq, the Islamic State's Magazine: A Critical Analysis
2016 Kibble, D.G. Journal
The edition of Dabiq, the online magazine of the Islamic State (IS), that followed the horrific Paris attacks (130 dead) glorified the work of what it called the "eight knights" who carried out the killings. It rejoiced, too, in the downing of a Russian airliner (224 dead), picturing the homemade bomb it said caused the crash. together, these constituted what the magazine called "blessed attacks" against "crusader nations". Other "brave knights" who carried out terrorist attacks in Australia, America, Israel and Jordan in the autumn of 2015 are said to have "sacrificed their souls in the noblest of deeds in pursuit of Allah's pleasure".
An analysis of Islamic State’s Dabiq magazine
2016 Ingram, H.J. Journal
This article analyses Dabiq magazine to explore the strategic logic of Islamic State (IS) appeals to English-speaking Muslims. It offers the field a conceptual framework through which to analyse IS’s communications strategy and a top-down empirical study of Dabiq’s contents. This paper argues that Dabiq appeals to its audiences by strategically designing in-group identity, Other, solution and crisis constructs which it leverages via value-, crisis- and dichotomy-reinforcing narratives. By fusing identity- and rational-choice appeals, IS provides its audiences with a powerful ‘competitive system of meaning’ that is designed to shape its readership’s perceptions, polarise their support and drive their radicalisation.
An Analysis of Inspire and Dabiq: Lessons from AQAP and Islamic State's Propaganda War
2017 Ingram, H.J. Journal
This study analyzes how Inspire and Dabiq seek to appeal to and
radicalize English-speaking Muslims. It examines how each magazine
strategically designs ingroup, Other, crisis, and solution constructs and
interplays these via value-, dichotomy-, and crisis-reinforcing
narratives. This analysis also explores how narrative, imagery, and
counternarrative messaging are used to shape readers’ perceptions
and polarize their support. While both magazines are dominated by
narratives designed to empower readers toward action, Inspire relies
heavily on identity-choice appeals while Dabiq tends to balance
identity- and rational-choice messaging. This study concludes by
identifying key lessons for counterterrorism strategic communications
campaign and message design.
What Does Dabiq Do? ISIS Hermeneutics and Organizational Fractures within Dabiq Magazine
2017 Colas, B. Journal
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)'s flagship English-language magazine, Dabiq, is a puzzle. The magazine is not, despite appearances, primarily designed for direct recruiting efforts or inciting violence against the West. In fact, the primary audiences of Dabiq are English-speaking second generation Muslims or converts, Western policymakers, and a third group of current or would-be members of ISIS who are not integrating with the organization itself. The third audience—those members who are failing to function within the organization—is strange to include in an English-language magazine. Why publish organizational weaknesses, in English? One possibility for this puzzle is that the fundamentalist hermeneutics of ISIS is reflected in their own media efforts. One of the assumptions that ISIS holds about their sacred texts is that each text carries a single meaning that reflects the author's original intent. There might be multiple applications of that intent, but each text can only have one intent, and therefore one meaning. Following this logic, a message meant for one person is unlikely to be of utility for another, and so this may be why ISIS exposes their weaknesses as part of the process of correcting their own members.
Explaining the Islamic State’s Online Media Strategy: A Transmedia Approach
2017 Monaci, S. Journal
The Islamic State’s (IS) online propaganda has been analyzed from various perspectives aimed at defining the role of the Internet, the power of social media networks, and the main narratives processed online by terrorist organizations. Nevertheless, very little research has focused on defining IS’s comprehensive media strategy. To date, IS propaganda has been defined as multidimensional or as a mix of techniques related to moviemaking and video games. In consideration of the highly sophisticated IS online dissemination activity and its impact on Western youth who are already familiar with intensive media consumption, this article explores IS propaganda through a Hollywood-style transmedia approach. I analyze, through a qualitative content analysis of the magazine Dabiq narratives, IS propaganda as a comprehensive transmedia strategy centered on three key assets: synergistic storytelling, imaginary world-making, and semantic triggering.
Mapping the thematic landscape of Dabiq magazine
2017 Droogan, J. Journal
This article presents a thematic network analysis of Dabiq—a prominent English-language e-magazine produced by the Islamic State. Through formal qualitative analysis, the article examines the e-magazine’s first 13 issues in order to better understand its structure, evolution and intended audiences. In terms of structure, thematic network analysis provides a comprehensive and holistic understanding of Dabiq’s themes, identifying a range of concerns that are broader and more complex than is often supposed by academic and professional commentators. In terms of evolution, this analysis reveals a thematic landscape that has demonstrated considerable dynamism over four distinct phases throughout the magazine’s publication. In terms of understanding audiences, it is argued that Dabiq has been particularly engaged with the manipulation of group-level identities in an apparent attempt to garner support from global audiences. Themes related to allegiance, the group’s strengths and victories, and territorial expansion all feature consistently and prominently. They seek to create an in-group identity centred on victory, and to frame the Islamic State’s expansion and successes as a group achievement on behalf of Islam itself. Additionally, Dabiq provides the Islamic State with an opportunity to justify its actions and its religious authenticity to a broader Muslim audience, and thus provide the Islamic State with legitimacy beyond its borders. Recognising these thematic dynamics will be important for those engaged in counter-messaging and the development of counternarratives.
Statistical Analysis of Risk Assessment Factors and Metrics to Evaluate Radicalisation in Twitter
2017 Lara-Cabrera, R., Gonzales-Pardo, A., & Camacho, D. Article
Nowadays, Social Networks have become an essential communication tools producing a large amount of information about their users and their interactions, which can be analysed with Data Mining methods. In the last years, Social Networks are being used to radicalise people. In this paper, we study the performance of a set of indicators and their respective metrics, devoted to assess the risk of radicalisation of a precise individual on three different datasets. Keyword-based metrics, even though depending on the written language, performs well when measuring frustration, perception of discrimination as well as declaration of negative and positive ideas about Western society and Jihadism, respectively. However, metrics based on frequent habits such as writing ellipses are not well enough to characterise a user in risk of radicalisation. The paper presents a detailed description of both, the set of indicators used to assess the radicalisation in Social Networks and the set of datasets used to evaluate them. Finally, an experimental study over these datasets are carried out to evaluate the performance of the metrics considered.
Extracting Social Structure from DarkWeb Forums
2015 Phillips, E., Nurse, J.R.C., Goldsmith, M. and Creese, S. Article
This paper explores various Social Network Analysis (SNA) techniques in order to identify a range of potentially ‘important’ members of Islamic Networks within Dark Web Forums. For this experiment, we conducted our investigation on five forums collected in previous work as part of the DarkWeb Forum portal and built upon the tool support created in our previous research in order to visualise and analyse the network. Whilst existing work attempts to identify these structures through state-of-the-art Computational Linguistic techniques, our work relies on the communication metadata alone. Our analysis involved first calculating a range of SNA metrics to better understand the group members, and then apply unsupervised learning in order to create clusters that would help classify the Dark Web Forums users into hierarchical clusters. In order to create our social networks, we investigated the effect of repeated author resolution and various weighting schemes on the ranking of forum members by creating four social networks per forum and evaluating the correlation of the top n users (for n = 10; 20; 30; 40; 50 and 100). Our results identified that varying the weighting schemes created more consistent ranking schemes than varying the repeated author resolution.
Conflict Imagery in a Connective Environment: Audiovisual Content on Twitter Following the 2015/2016 Terror Attacks in Paris and Brussels
2017 Bruns, A. & Hanusch, F. Journal
Acute crisis events ranging from natural disasters to terrorist incidents now tend to generate an almost immediate response from social media users. This is especially pronounced on Twitter, due to that platform’s specific affordances as a particularly open and real-time medium. While analyses of such events have increased over recent years, we still understand relatively little about the way in which audiovisual materials relating to such crises are circulated and what they contribute to processes of witnessing. This is important, however, in an increasingly visual age when audiovisual material tends to be more widely viewed and shared than plain-text updates, and thus has a greater potential to influence viewers’ interpretations of an event. To address this gap in our understanding, this article investigates the distribution dynamics of audiovisual content on Twitter in the immediate aftermath of terror attacks in Paris and Brussels. Results point to the importance of broadening conceptualisations of conflict-related visuals and the ongoing relevance of affective content in such material. Furthermore, this article argues that contexts of time and space are crucial to consider, as is the role that individual actors – both human and non-human – play in disseminating such content.
ISIL's Execution Videos: Audience Segmentation and Terrorist Communication in the Digital Age
2017 Barr, A. & Herfroy-Mischler, A. Journal
This article offers a bottom-up understanding of the media strategy employed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as it relates to the production and dissemination of its hostage execution videos. Through an empirical analysis of sixty-two videos of executions produced by ISIL in the year following its establishment as the “Islamic State” in 2014, this study examines the videos as a major component of ISIL's media strategy. Through these media products, ISIL seeks to spread a political message aimed at both local and global, ingroup and outgroup consumption through audience segmentation, while striving to influence both local and global audiences through the use and production of graphic violence. This article also discusses the strategy governing the production and release of ISIL's execution videos; how it relies on the global media to transmit its intertwined political and religious agenda in the digital media age.
Literature Review: The Impact of Digital Communications Technology on Radicalisation and Recruitment
2017 Meleagrou-Hitchens, A., Alexander, A., and Kaderbhai, N. VOX-Pol Publication
This literature review seeks to reorient the discourse on radicalization to consider the connection between communication technology and violent extremism. By interrogating three central questions vexing policy-makers, law enforcement officials and academics, this review moves away from a monolithic understanding of the internet and showcases the opportunities afforded by different communications technologies within the context of radicalization and recruitment. As this discussion shows, there is a consensus that despite significant exceptions to the rule, the internet alone does not act as a radicalizing agent, but rather serves as a facilitator and catalyst for terrorist organizations and their respective networks. Despite varying analyses produced within the literature, there is agreement that the virtual sphere does not replace the real world in most instances. Above all, a review of the current literature demonstrates that to answer the crucial questions posed in this article, more empirically-based research is required. This article is a revised and updated version of the 2017 VOX-Pol report Research Perspectives on Online Radicalisation: A Literature Review 2006 to 2016.
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.
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