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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
The Communication of Horrorism: A Typology of ISIS Online Death Videos
Encrypted Jihad: Investigating the Role of Telegram App in Lone Wolf Attacks in the West
The 60 Days of PVE Campaign: Lessons on Organizing an Online, Peer-to-Peer, Counter-radicalization Program
preventing violent extremism (PVE) programs and social media campaigns. While
hundreds of PVE campaigns have been launched around the world in recent
months and years, very few of these campaigns have actu...
Violent Extremism and Terrorism Online in 2017: The Year in Review
|2018||Conway, M., with Courtney, M.||VOX-Pol Publication|
|The use of the Internet, particularly social media, by violent extremists and terrorists and their supporters received an increasing amount of attention from policymakers, media, Internet companies, and civil society organisations in 2017. In addition to politicians stepping-up their rhetoric regarding the threat posed by consumption of and networking around violent extremist and terrorist online content, prominent and heavily trafficked social media platforms also took a stronger stand on the issue this year, which caused civil liberties organisations considerable disquiet. This report treats developments in the violent extremist and terrorist online scene(s) and responses to them in the 12-month period from 1 December 2016 to 30 November 2017.|
Multimodal Classification of Violent Online Political Extremism Content with Graph Convolutional Networks
|2017||Rudinac, S., Gornishka, I. and Worring, M.||VOX-Pol Publication|
|In this paper we present a multimodal approach to categorizing user posts based on their discussion topic. To integrate heterogeneous information extracted from the posts, i.e. text, visual content and the information about user interactions with the online platform, we deploy graph convolutional networks that were recently proven effective in classification tasks on knowledge graphs. As the case study we use the analysis of violent online political extremism content, a challenging task due to a particularly high semantic level at which extremist ideas are discussed. Here we demonstrate the potential of using neural networks on graphs for classifying multimedia content and, perhaps more importantly, the effectiveness of multimedia analysis techniques in aiding the domain experts performing qualitative data analysis. Our conclusions are supported by extensive experiments on a large collection of extremist posts. This research was produced with the aid of VOX-Pol Research Mobility Programme funding and supervision by VOX-Pol colleagues at Dublin City University.|
Images of Death and Dying in ISIS Media: A Comparison of English and Arabic Print Publications
|2018||Winkler, C., El-Damanhoury, K., Dicker, A., and Lemieux, A.F.||Journal|
|Images of death and dying in the media around the globe have a symbiotic relationship with nation states as they can bolster state control by defining who has the right to take lives in the interests of the community, by identifying enemies of the state, by demonstrating dominance over enemies, and by lending a moral posture to the state’s war efforts. Previously, the growing corpus of research on media’s display of death and about to die images has focused almost exclusively on media outlets that bolster established states on the global stage. By analyzing 1965 death and about to die images displayed in Dabiq, ISIS’s English-language magazine, and al-Naba’, the same group’s Arabic-language newspaper, this study adds an understanding of the messaging strategies deployed by groups striving to challenge, rather than reinforce, existing national boundaries. The findings suggest that while ISIS adopts some standard media practices, it also utilizes unique and audience targeted approaches regarding the frequency of image use, the identify of the corpses, the display of dead bodies, and the presentation of those responsible for the pictured dead bodies in its media campaign.|
Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime
|2017||Müller, K., and Schwarz, C.||Article|
|This paper investigates the link between social media and hate crime using hand-collected data from Facebook and Twitter. We study the case of Germany, where the recently emerged right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has developed a major social media presence. Using a difference-in-differences design, we show that right-wing anti-refugee sentiment on Facebook predicts violent crimes against refugees in otherwise similar municipalities with higher social media usage. Consistent with social media being the driving force, the effect decreases with internet outages; increases with user network interactions; is not driven by the news cycle; and does not hold for posts unrelated to refugees. We find similar evidence for the United States, where President Trump's twitter activity strongly predicts hate crimes against the minorities targeted in his tweets, but not other minorities. We find no effect for the period before Trump's presidential campaign or measures of general anti-minority sentiment.|
The Language of Radicalization: Female Internet Recruitment to Participation in ISIS Activities
|Why do young Muslim women radicalize and undertake high-risk political behaviors, and what factors influence their sociopolitical transformation? The process of radicalization happens because of individual, social, and political dynamics, and is facilitated by the availability of computer-mediated communication. Some young Muslim women keep detailed records of their radicalization process via social media, which we use to understand their sociopolitical transformation. By evaluating their language, we can better understand how their personal, social, and political development unfolds. This paper is a case study examining the words of one young Muslim woman, Aqsa Mahmood, who moved from her home in Scotland to join the ISIS fighters in Syria. Her Tumblr blog provides a linguistic, political, and ideological record of the process of her radicalization. We identify linguistic patterns in her blog posts that can help to develop and reveal a typology of the language of female radicalization.|
The Language of New Terrorism: Differences in Psychological Dimensions of Communication in Dabiq and Inspire
|2018||Vergani, M., and Bliuc, A-M.||Journal|
|We investigate differences in the psychological aspects underpinning Western mobilisation of two terrorist groups by analysing their English-language propaganda. Based on a computerised analysis of the language used in two English-language online magazines circulated by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda (i.e., Dabiq and Inspire), we found significant differences in their language—the ISIS’ language being higher in authoritarianism and its level of religiousness. In a follow-up experimental study, we found that being high in religiousness and authoritarianism predicts more positive attitudes towards the language used by ISIS, but not towards the language used by al-Qaeda. The results suggest that ISIS’ propaganda may be more effective in mobilising individuals who are more authoritarian and more focused on religion than that of al-Qaeda. These findings are consistent with the behaviour observed in recent homegrown terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe.|
The Challenges and Limitations of Online Counter-Narratives in the Fight against ISIS Recruitment in Europe and North America
|The rise of the Islamic State has contributed to both an increased terrorism threat in Western nations and an unprecedented number of citizens joining the group of so-called foreign fighters. IS has used the internet as a way to both disseminate propaganda and radicalize and recruit supporters. This article will begin by analyzing some of the most recent and well-known of such efforts, offering explanations for their successes and failures. The author then assesses limitations to combatting extremist ideas. Not only must the solution involve civil society, but a recalibration of the meaning and aims of counter-messaging is needed.|
An Empirical Study on Collective Online Behaviors of Extremist Supporters
|2017||Kim, J-J., Liu, Y., Lim, W.Y., and Thing, V.L.L.||Journal|
|Online social media platforms such as Twitter have been found to be misused by extremist groups, including Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who attract and recruit social media users. To prevent their influence from expanding in the online social media platforms, it is required to understand the online behaviors of these extremist group users and their followers, for predicting and identifying potential security threats. We present an empirical study about ISIS followers’ online behaviors on Twitter, proposing to classify their tweets in terms of political and subjectivity polarities. We first develop a supervised classification model for the polarity classification, based on natural language processing and clustering methods. We then develop a statistical analysis of term-polarity correlations, which leads us to successfully observe ISIS followers’ online behaviors, which are in line with the reports of experts.|
Violent Radicalisation and Far-Right Extremism in Europe
|2018||Kallis, A., Zeiger, S., and Öztürk, B.||Journal|
|This volume has been made possible by the valuable collaboration
between two esteemed organisations, namely SETA and Hedayah.
Their collaboration was embodied in the form of a research
project that aimed at shedding light on the burning issue of the
violent radicalisation and extremism of individuals and groups that
belong to - or at least are sympathetic to – the non-mainstream right
currents in European countries. In this way, the current volume
draws attention to the non-religious dimension of the phenomena
of radicalisation and violent extremism and contributes to a relatively
small body of works, as opposed to the dominant approach in the
relevant literature which, for the most part, affiliates the phenomena
with religious forces and elements. This approach is important
since overemphasising one aspect of the phenomena runs the risk of
blinding societies and policymakers to the other aspects and, therefore,
making them less effective in terms of fending off the negative
impacts of the phenomena. This work aims to be conducive to the
due recognition of the overlooked aspects of these phenomena and
hopefully serve as the first step towards tackling them.
'Beyond Anything We Have Ever Seen': Beheading Videos and the Visibility of Violence in the War against ISIS.
|This article examines the role of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria's (ISIS's) beheading videos in the United Kingdom and the United States. These videos are highly illustrative demonstrations of the importance of visual imagery and visual media in contemporary warfare. By functioning as evidence in a political discourse constituting ISIS as an imminent, exceptional threat to the West, the videos have played an important role in the re-framing of the conflict in Iraq and Syria from a humanitarian crisis requiring a humanitarian response to a national security issue requiring a military response and intensified counterterrorism efforts. However, this article seeks to problematize the role and status of ISIS's beheadings in American and British security discourses by highlighting the depoliticizing aspects of reducing a complicated conflict to a fragmented visual icon. The article concludes by emphasizing the need for further attention to how the visibility of war, and the constitution of boundaries between which acts of violence are rendered visible and which are not, shape the political terrain in which decisions about war and peace are produced and legitimized.|
Although the (Dis-)Believers Dislike it: a Backgrounder on IS Hostage Videos – August - December 2014
|With the beheading video of U.S. photojournalist James Foley, the Islamic State (IS) initiated a hostage video campaign that received tremendous coverage in the international news media. This backgrounder highlights the most important aspects of IS hostage videos with a particular focus on their media strategic functions, which, in part, stand in sharp contrast with strategic guiding principles voiced by traditional Jihadist ideologue such as Ayman al-Zawahiri – exposing the growing rift between the IS and Al-Qaeda. Providing examples from primary sources and identifying commonalities and differences to earlier hostage footage, the Research Note illustrates that the IS hostage video campaign is rationally calculated, multifaceted, and constantly changing.|
From Isolation to Radicalization: Anti-Muslim Hostility and Support for ISIS in the West
|What explains online radicalization and support for ISIS in the West? Over the past few years, thousands of individuals have radicalized by consuming extremist content online, many of whom eventually traveled overseas to join the Islamic State. This study examines whether anti-Muslim hostility might drive pro-ISIS radicalization in Europe. Using new geo-referenced data on the online behavior of thousands of Islamic State supporters in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Belgium, I study whether the intensity of anti-Muslim hostility at the local (neighborhood/municipality) level is linked to pro-ISIS radicalization on Twitter. Results show that local-level measures of anti-Muslim animosity correlate significantly and substantively with indicators of online radicalization, including posting tweets sympathizing with ISIS, describing life in ISIS-controlled territories, discussing foreign fighters, and expressing anti-West sentiment. High-frequency data surrounding events that stir anti-Muslim hostility -- terrorist attacks and anti-Muslim protests in Europe -- show the same pattern.|
Mobilization and Radicalization Through Persuasion: Manipulative Techniques in ISIS’ Propaganda
|This paper explores the recent findings of some empirical research concerning Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS’) communication and tries to synthesize them under the theoretical frame of propaganda’s concept and practices. Many authors demonstrated how ISIS propaganda campaigns, in particular those deployed on cyberspace, proved to be effective in recruiting new members in both western and Muslim countries. However, while most of the researches focused on ISIS’s communication contents and narratives, few works considered other methods and techniques used for actually delivering them. This is a regrettable missing point given the fact that communication’s and neurosciences’ studies demonstrate that not only what is communicated but also the techniques adopted bear important consequences on the receiver’s perceptions and behavior. Therefore, this article analyzes in particular the findings of researches carried out by communication scholars, social psychologists, and neuro-cognitive scientists on ISIS’ persuasive communication techniques and demonstrates their importance for security studies’ analysis of ISIS’ propaganda. It argues that ISIS’ success in mobilizing people and make them prone to violent action relies on—among other factors—its knowledge and exploitation of sophisticated methods of perceptions’ manipulation and behavior’s influence. This, in turn, demonstrates ISIS’ possession of state-like soft power capabilities effectively deployed in propaganda campaigns and therefore calls for a more complex understanding of its agency.|
'Like Sheep Among Wolves': Characterizing Hateful Users on Twitter
|2018||Ribeiro,M.H., Calais, P.H., Santos, Y.A., Almeida, A.F., and Meira, W. Jr.||Article|
|Hateful speech in Online Social Networks (OSNs) is a key challenge
for companies and governments, as it impacts users and advertisers,
and as several countries have strict legislation against the practice.
This has motivated work on detecting and characterizing the phenomenon
in tweets, social media posts and comments. However,
these approaches face several shortcomings due to the noisiness of
OSN data, the sparsity of the phenomenon, and the subjectivity of
the definition of hate speech. This works presents a user-centric
view of hate speech, paving the way for better detection methods
and understanding. We collect a Twitter dataset of 100, 386 users
along with up to 200 tweets from their timelines with a randomwalk-based
crawler on the retweet graph, and select a subsample
of 4, 972 to be manually annotated as hateful or not through crowdsourcing.
We examine the difference between user activity patterns,
the content disseminated between hateful and normal users, and
network centrality measurements in the sampled graph. Our results
show that hateful users have more recent account creation dates,
and more statuses, and followees per day. Additionally, they favorite
more tweets, tweet in shorter intervals and are more central in the
retweet network, contradicting the “lone wolf” stereotype often associated
with such behavior. Hateful users are more negative, more
profane, and use less words associated with topics such as hate,
terrorism, violence and anger. We also identify similarities between
hateful/normal users and their 1-neighborhood, suggesting strong
Arguing with ISIS: Web 2.0, Open Source Journalism, and Narrative Disruption
|This paper considers American strategies for countering ISIS social media, focusing on notions of narrative and rational debate in the Web 2.0 era. In addition to chronicling an evolution in American governmental ideas about the online public sphere, the paper looks specifically at the work of Al-Tamimi, an open source journalist who verifies and catalogues original ISIS documentation. Using both textual analyses and long-form interviews with Al-Tamimi as evidence, the paper argues that Al-Tamimi’s archival work serves to disrupt emotionally driven, logically questionable narratives about ISIS, whether they emerge from the group itself or its Western opponents.|
Apocalypse, Later: A Longitudinal Study of the Islamic State Brand
|This article compares two universes of official Islamic State media that were compiled 18 months apart. It explores the nuances of the group’s worldview and illustrates the extent to which external and internal situational exigencies impacted the Islamic State’s brand during its formative years as caliphate. It finds that the organization’s media infrastructure was about half as productive in early 2017 as it had been in mid-2015. The data also show that, even though the group had internationalized its theater of terrorist operations during the time period in question, the brand itself actually contracted to become markedly less globalized in 2016. Finally, the data indicate a substantial thematic rearrangement in the organization’s propaganda, one that saw its story shifting away from the millenarian “utopia” towards military denialism. In sum, the data indicate that the Islamic State propagandists were far less productive by January 2017, and that their aggregate product was less international and less utopian but more militant and more defiant, a shift that suggested a new phase in their political marketing operations, one focused on framing the caliphate as an embattled but still defiant pseudo-state struggling to maintain past momentum.|
The Viral Mediation of Terror: ISIS, Image, Implosion
|Operations involving the capture, processing, and transmission of terrorist events, campaigns, or images produce effects well beyond the representational/informational functions of media. This article examines several unspoken effects involved in the mediation of terrorism. We analyze the extent to which several mechanisms and operations of western media may be complicit in, if not fundamental to, the global production and administration of terror, particularly at the level of its image and what we call virality. We theorize the ways in which media not only “mediate” terror, but also function to regulate and/or administer it and, in particular, to exacerbate, amplify, and proliferate images and activities of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) across global networks of digital exchange. We argue that key to understanding the strategies and circulating effects of ISIS’s media involvement is the tendency of viral media operations to overproduce, overextend, and oversaturate. The condition of oversaturation denotes a hyperactive global media circuitry that is collapsing under its own weight. This condition reflects a strategic tendency of terror, which underlies all mediatic processing of images deployed by ISIS. It also reveals a vulnerability for terrorist strategy to exacerbate and exhaust the hyperactivity of media, and thus to accelerate the implosive collapse of the globally networked system. We theorize how implicit and unintended effects or outputs of the mediatic processing of terrorist meanings, images, and discourses may work to overstimulate the global system to the point of its reversal, exhaustion, or implosion.|
One Apostate Run Over, Hundreds Repented: Excess, Unthinkability, and Infographics from the War with I.S.I.S.
|Compared to the more spectacular elements of its media repertoire—the slick recruitment campaigns on social media, the artfully composed battlefield footage, the grisly executions—I.S.I.S.’s infographics may seem dull, even trivial. Indeed, these data visualizations have gone largely unremarked, eliciting more bemusement than serious consideration. Against the tendency to discount these images, however, I argue that when I.S.I.S. turns toward charts and diagrams to represent its operations, it launches a stealthy but substantial epistemological challenge to media outlets that depict it as backward and irrational and rely on command of information as an index of Western power. Comparing infographics produced about I.S.I.S. and those produced by the group, I demonstrate that, despite their obvious differences, both types of infographics evince common preoccupations. Like Western news sources, I.S.I.S. creates infographics to map attacks, plot territorial gains, tally and categorize casualties, and track the types of weapons deployed. News media and I.S.I.S. infographics diverge primarily in their affective resonance, as similar information signifies in radically different ways. Ultimately, by producing and circulating these infographics, I.S.I.S. renders simultaneously renders itself more and less intelligible to outsiders: encapsulating its story while confounding prevailing representations as it weaponizes information.|
The Communication of Horrorism: A Typology of ISIS Online Death Videos
|In this article, the authors theorize the communicative logic of ISIS online death videos—from the burning and shooting of individual hostages to mass battleground executions. Drawing on Adriana Cavarero’s reflections on contemporary violence, they demonstrate how ISIS’ digital spectacles of the annihilated body confront Western viewers with horror— or rather with different “regimes of horrorism” (grotesque, abject and sublime horror). These spectacles of horror, the authors argue, mix Western with Islamic aesthetic practices and secular with religious moral claims so as to challenge dominant hierarchies of grievability (who is worthy of our grief) and norms of subjectivity. In so doing, the authors conclude, ISIS introduces into global spaces of publicity a “spectacular thanatopolitics”—a novel form of thanatopolitics that brings the spectacle of the savaged body, banished from display since the 19th century, back to the public stage, thereby turning the pursuit of death into the new norm of heroic subjectivity.|
Islam on Youtube: Online Debates, Protests, and Extremism
|This book offers empirical insight into the way Muslims reacted online towards various controversial issues related to Islam. The book examines four cases studies: The Muhammed’s cartoons, the burning of the Quran controversies, Fitna and the Innocence of Muslims’ films. The issues of online religion, social movements and extremism are discussed, as many of the cases in question created both uproar and unity among many YouTubers. These case studies – in some instances – led to the expression of extremist views by some users, and the volume argues that they helped contribute to the growth of extremism due to the utilization of these events by some terrorist groups in order to recruit new members. In the concluding chapter, social network and sentiment analyses are presented in order to investigate all the collected comments and videos, while a critical discussion of freedom of expression and hate speech is offered, with special regards to the growing online influence of far right groups and their role in on-going YouTube debates.|