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 email@example.com 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 Alt- Right Twitter Census: Defining and Describing the Audience for Alt-Right Content on Twitter
Social Media and Situation Awareness during Terrorist Attacks: Recommendations for Crisis Communication
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg
Online discontent: comparing Western European far-right groups on Facebook
|2018||Klein, O., Muis, J.||Journal|
|Far-right groups increasingly use social media to interact with other groups and reach their followers. Social media also enable ‘ordinary’ people to participate in online discussions and shape political discourse. This study compares the networks and discourses of Facebook pages of Western European far-right parties, movements and communities. Network analyses of pages indicate that the form of far-right mobilization is shaped by political opportunities. The absence of a strong far-right party offline seems to be reflected in an online network in which non-institutionalized groups are the most prominent actors, rather than political parties. In its turn, the discourse is shaped by the type of actor. Content analyses of comments of followers show that parties address the political establishment more often than immigration and Islam, compared to non-institutionalized groups. Furthermore, parties apply less extreme discursive practices towards ‘the other’ than non-institutionalized groups.|
Taking North American White Supremacist Groups Seriously: The Scope and Challenge of Hate Speech on the Internet
|This article aims to address two questions: how does hate speech manifest on North American white supremacist websites; and is there a connection between online hate speech and hate crime? Firstly, hate speech is defined and the research methodology upon which the article is based is explained. The ways that ‘hate’ groups utilize the Internet and their purposes in doing so are then analysed, with the content and the functions of their websites as well as their agenda examined. Finally, the article explores the connection between hate speech and hate crime. I argue that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that speech can and does inspire crime. The article is based in the main on primary sources: a study of many ‘hate’ websites; and interviews and discussions with experts in the field.|
The Alt- Right Twitter Census: Defining and Describing the Audience for Alt-Right Content on Twitter
|2018||Berger, J.||VOX-Pol Publication|
|The so-called ‘alt-right’ is an amorphous but synchronized collection of far-right people and movements, an umbrella label for a number of loosely affiliated social movements around the world, although its centre of gravity is in the United States. Many factors have contributed to the alt-right’s rise to prominence, but one of the most visible is its online presence. Alt-right views have been promoted online by a small army of trolls and activists staging harassment campaigns, pushing hashtags and posting links to extremist content and conspiracy theories on social media. Since 2016, the alt-right and its allies have held an increasingly prominent place in American and European politics, rallying support behind a variety of causes and candidates.|
This study seeks to evaluate the alt-right’s online presence with robust metrics and an analysis of content shared by adherents. The alt-right has many components online; this report will primarily examine its presence on Twitter, in part because the movement is particularly active on that platform, and in part because Twitter’s data access policies allow for more robust evaluation than is possible on other platforms.
This report will:
• Create a demographic and identity snapshot of a representative
portion of the audience for alt-right supporters on Twitter
• Examine content shared within the dataset
• Describe the methodology used to derive these findings
• Propose avenues for further research based on this
Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube
|This report identifies and names the Alternative Influence Network (AIN): an|
assortment of scholars, media pundits, and internet celebrities who use YouTube to
promote a range of political positions, from mainstream versions of libertarianism
and conservatism, all the way to overt white nationalism. Content creators in the AIN
claim to provide an alternative media source for news and political commentary. They
function as political influencers who adopt the techniques of brand influencers to
build audiences and “sell” them on far-right ideology.
This report presents data from approximately 65 political influencers across 81 channels.
This network is connected through a dense system of guest appearances, mixing content
from a variety of ideologies. This cross-promotion of ideas forms a broader “reactionary”
position: a general opposition to feminism, social justice, or left-wing politics.
Members of the AIN cast themselves as an alternative media system by:
• Establishing an alternative sense of credibility based on relatability,
authenticity, and accountability.
• Cultivating an alternative social identity using the image of a social
underdog, and countercultural appeal.
Members of the AIN use the proven engagement techniques of brand influencers to
spread ideological content:
• Ideological Testimonials
• Political Self-Branding
• Search Engine Optimization
• Strategic Controversy
The AIN as a whole facilitates radicalization through social networking practices:
• Audiences are able to easily move from mainstream to extreme content
through guest appearances and other links.
• Political influencers themselves often shift to more radical positions
following interactions with other influencers or their own audiences.
When viewers engage with this content, it is framed as lighthearted, entertaining,
rebellious, and fun. This fundamentally obscures the impact that issues have on
vulnerable and underrepresented populations—the LGBTQ community, women,
immigrants, and people of color. And in many ways, YouTube is built to incentivize
this behavior. The platform needs to not only assess what channels say in their
content, but also who they host and what their guests say. In a media environment
consisting of networked influencers, YouTube must respond with policies that
account for influence and amplification, as well as social networks.
Ideological Transmission III Political and Religious Organisations
|2018||Lee, B., Knott, K.||Journal|
|This is the third and final research review in the CREST series on ideological transmission (the first was on the family, and the second on peers, education and prisons). It focuses on the process by which religious and political groups – from small cells and organisations to large movements, networks and milieus – pass on ideas, beliefs and values. Academic research on how, where and why these are transmitted, and by whom, is considered. Ideological transmission is interpreted as the passing on of ideology from one person to another, or from|
a group to its internal and external audiences. We treat ideology as a broad concept, encompassing both political and religious ideas, and including beliefs,values, and their related practices.
Two main persuasive orientations were considered in this review: (i) external awareness-raising by groups,and (ii) their internal attempts to influence members
and supporters. Three analytical concepts provided the focus: propaganda, framing and learning.
1. How do ideological groups make potential supporters and other outsiders aware of their views (awareness-raising/persuasion/propaganda)?
2. How is ideological material (beliefs, events, issues etc) framed by groups as they seek to raise awareness, gain recruits and energise followers?
3. How do members and other supporters acquire ideological knowledge within groups (learning/indoctrination)?
These questions are interconnected by the concept of ‘persuasion’, more specifically the active attempts used by external agents to persuade individuals. The review draws on a range of evidence from multiple disciplines and contexts. Extremist groups– violent and non-violent – provide the principal examples, including a case study on the jihadist group, al-Muhajiroun. However, it is clear that an understanding of how such groups communicate internally and externally needs to be set in the broader context of research on why organisations in
general transmit ideas, beliefs and values (e.g. for group survival, recruitment, solidarity or coercion), how they go about doing so (formally or informally, top-down or peer-to-peer), what role ideological transmission plays in their goals, and how effective
it is. In the case of extremist groups, the relationship between ideological transmission and radicalisation, recruitment, mobilisation and the move to violence are also important.
Online-Radicalisation: Myth or Reality?
|The proliferation of extremist, jihadist and violence-inciting websites, blogs and channels|
in social media has long since become a major theme in security policy. Extremists and
terrorists use the new technological tools to communicate with each other, to organise
themselves and to publicise their ideas. Whereas terrorists in the previous millennium
were still dependent on journalists to report their acts and to draw attention to their
group and their ideology, potentially violent groups today are in a position to publish
their story and their intentions unfiltered on the web, and to communicate with each
other swiftly and effectively across national borders. Ever since the case of Australian
teenager Jake Bilardi1
, who travelled to the territories of the so-called Islamic State (IS)
and in 2015, at the age of 19, committed a suicide attack in Ramadi (Iraq), however, it is
not just online communication by extremists that is in focus, but also the phenomenon
of online radicalisation. According to the current state of information, Bilardi converted
to Islam without any direct influences from his immediate environment, radicalised himself
exclusively via online media, and travelled to Syria with the help of online contacts.
His case, and many other cases of Western recruits, raised the question of whether a
process of radicalisation can take place exclusively online or if online propaganda is only
one facilitating factor that promotes and perhaps accelerates radicalization, but is in itself
not sufficient to explain the whole process. Unfortunately, there are still not enough
systematic, empirical studies on this subject area and our knowledge is generally limited
to known perpetrator profiles. Nevertheless, some general statements can be made
regarding online radicalisation.
Contextual Semantics for Radicalisation Detection on Twitter
|2018||Fernandez, M. and Alani, H.||Article|
|Much research aims to detect online radical content mainly using|
radicalisation glossaries, i.e., by looking for terms and expressions associated with
religion, war, offensive language, etc. However, such crude methods are highly
inaccurate towards content that uses radicalisation terminology to simply report on
current events, to share harmless religious rhetoric, or even to counter extremism.
Language is complex and the context in which particular terms are used should not
be disregarded. In this paper, we propose an approach for building a representation
of the semantic context of the terms that are linked to radicalised rhetoric. We
use this approach to analyse over 114K tweets that contain radicalisation-terms
(around 17K posted by pro-ISIS users, and 97k posted by “general” Twitter users).
We report on how the contextual information differs for the same radicalisationterms
in the two datasets, which indicate that contextual semantics can help to
better discriminate radical content from content that only uses radical terminology.
The classifiers we built to test this hypothesis outperform those that disregard
Horizons of Hate
|2018||Pohjonen, M.||VOX-Pol Publication|
|A comparative approach to social media hate speech. This study compares a Finnish anti-refugee and anti-immigration Facebook group criticised for hate speech and links to the extreme right, with a Finnish anti-racist Facebook group that opposed it, alongside a Facebook group aimed at dialogue between the two.|
A critical-comparative analysis of social media hate speech can help us to assess the dangers of this speech, and can provide the necessary conceptual distance needed to come up with new ideas and strategies that can help to prevent violence.
Dar al-Islam: A Quantitative Analysis of ISIS’s French-Language Magazine
|2018||Sparks, C. A.||Journal|
|This study is a content analysis of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)’s French-language magazine Dar al-Islam. The first seven issues of the magazine are quantitatively examined and broken down into the number of articles, images, and terms used as a means of determining how ISIS targets French-speaking individuals. This study find that ISIS focuses on religious terminology and justifications to rationalize its existence and its fight. Also, despite being a French-language magazine, a majority of the focus is on Middle Eastern groups, not Western groups. Overall, the magazine is similar, but not a carbon copy to ISIS’s English-language magazine, Dabiq.|
What Eye Movements and Facial Expressions Tell Us about User-Friendliness: Testing a Tool for Communicators and Journalists
|2018||Lindholm J., Backholm K., and Högväg J.||Book|
|Technical solutions can be important when key communicators take on the task of making sense of social media flows during crises. However, to provide situation awareness during high-stress assignments, usability problems must be identified and corrected. In usability studies, where researchers investigate the user-friendliness of a product, several types of data gathering methods can be combined. Methods may include subjective (surveys and observations) and psychophysiological (e.g. skin conductance and eye tracking) data collection. This chapter mainly focuses on how the latter type can provide detailed clues about user-friendliness. Results from two studies are summarised. The tool tested is intended to help communicators and journalists with monitoring and handling social media content during times of crises. Book Edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backhoem.|
Social Media and Situation Awareness during Terrorist Attacks: Recommendations for Crisis Communication
|2018||Steensen S., Frey E., Hornmoen H., Ottosen R., Konow-Lund T. M.,||Featured|
|This chapter summarises the findings of a case study on social media activity during the 22 July 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway. Based on these findings and on theories and previous research on the role of social media in situation awareness (SA) configuration during crisis situations, the chapter offers seven recommendations for key communicators in official crisis management and response institutions, journalistic institutions, NGOs and others: (1) acknowledge social media as important and master monitoring and management of features across social media; (2) synchronise communication and establish a standard operating procedure (SOP); (3) establish and make known a joint social media emergency account; (4) participate, interact and take the lead; (5) be aware of non-hashtagged content; (6) implement verification tools and practices and (7) engage with and learn from celebrities. Book edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm|
News Workers’ Reflections on Digital Technology and Social Media after a Terror Event
|2018||Konow-Lund T. M.||Book|
|22 July 2011, saw the biggest domestic terror event in Norway since World War II. On this day, a right-wing terrorist placed a bomb in front of the Norwegian government building, where the prime minister had his office at the time. Later, the same perpetrator dressed up as a policeman and tricked his way into a political youth camp, where 69 mostly young people were killed. The present case study involves the leading national online news provider, VG, whose website, VG Nett, was Norway’s most-read online news site at the time of the attack. The study addresses the research gap of how news workers and managers see the potential of the affordances of digital media during crisis events. Furthermore, the study looks at how two different discourses of professionalism, the occupational and the organisational, informed journalists’ use of technological and social media affordances during this terror event, and at how online journalists and management reflect upon and continue to refine these approaches five years later. This study stresses the importance of a clear understanding of the decision-making processes that actually guide the handling of those affordances during a crisis event. Ultimately, this study questions not the perceived tension between the two discourses of professionalism, but their relative impact upon domestic crisis journalism in the technological realm. Book edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm.|
Social Media in Management of the Terror Crisis in Norway: Experiences and Lessons Learned
|2018||Hornmoen H. , Måseide H. P.||Book|
|The chapter addresses the question of how crisis and emergency communicators in the justice (police) and health sector in Norway reflect on their use – or lack of use – of social media during the terror crisis on 22 July 2011. We examine how these communicators in the years following the crisis have developed their use of social media to optimise their and the public’s awareness of similar crises. Our semi-structured interviews with key emergency managers and responders display how the terrorist-induced crisis in 2011 was a wake-up call for communicators in the police and the health sector. They reflect on the significance, strengths and weaknesses of social media in the management of crises such as this one. Book edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm|
Blood and Security during the Norway Attacks: Authorities’ Twitter Activity and Silence
|2018||Ottosen R., Steensen S.||Book|
|This chapter analyses the Norwegian authorities’ presence on Twitter during the 22 July 2011 terrorist attacks. Twitter activity by two official institutions is analysed in particular, namely, the blood bank at Oslo University Hospital and the Norwegian Police Security Services (PST). Our findings show that the Norwegian authorities were almost completely absent on Twitter during the critical hours of the terrorist attack, and that there was no coordination and synchronisation of communication from the authorities. This official silence allowed the diffusion of speculation and misinformation to take place; these were neither corrected nor addressed, as the analysed PST case shows. In contrast, the blood bank used Twitter to mobilise blood donors to address an acute problem: a shortage of blood to treat casualties. The chapter concludes by offering recommendations to the authorities for future major incidents. Book edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm.|
Victims’ Use of Social Media during and after the Utøya Terror Attack: Fear, Resilience, Sorrow and Solidarity
|This chapter examines how those directly affected by the terror attack on Utøya in Norway on 22 July 2011 used social media to cope with the trauma. Through interviews with eight survivors and a study of their Facebook walls during the first month after the shooting, the chapter sets out to answer how they tell and re-tell the trauma on Facebook. In what way does their re-telling of the terror event give it meaning? With Narrative Therapy as its inspiration, this chapter studies different themes and stories on the Facebook walls, what is told about the event, its effects and responses to it. The meaning derived from the trauma is a story of national unity, democratic values and the redefining of Norway as a multicultural society. As for the perpetrator, he is written out of the story.|
Book edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm
Tweeting Terror: An Analysis of the Norwegian Twitter-sphere during and in the Aftermath of the 22 July 2011 Terrorist Attack
|This chapter analyses the Norwegian Twitter-sphere during and in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Norway on 22 July 2011. Based on a collection of 2.2 million tweets representing the Twitter-sphere during the period 20 July–28 August 2011, the chapter seeks answers to how the micro-blogging services aided in creating situation awareness (SA) related to the emergency event, what role hashtags played in that process and who the dominant crisis communicators were. The chapter is framed by theories and previous research on SA and social media use in the context of emergency events. The findings reveal that Twitter was important in establishing SA both during and in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, that hashtags were of limited value in this process during the critical phase, and that unexpected actors became key communicators.|
Book edited by
Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm
Invisible Empire of Hate: Gender Differences in the Ku Klux Klan's Online Justifications for Violence
|2018||Cohen J. S., Holt J. T.,Chermak M.S, and Freilich D. J.||Article|
|This article presents a systematic linguistic approach to mapping gender differences in the formulation and practice of right-wing ideology. We conducted a set of content- and text-analytical analyses on a 52,760 words corpus from a female-only subforum, dubbed LOTIES (Ladies of the Invisible Empire), compared with a matching corpus of 1.793 million words from a male-only subforum of the Ku Klux Klan's primary website. Using a combination of computational and noncomputational linguistic methods, we show that the wholesome and avowedly prosocial discourse of the female forum is a gateway to Klan activity and, ultimately, to the Klan's ideology through a fear-based “all means are necessary” mindset and violent sentiments. The findings also suggest that the female forum's porousness and emphasis on inclusion and homogeneity may have facilitated the spontaneous “mutation” of the traditional KKK ideology into a generic Far-Right ideology that enjoys broad consensus. Rhetorically, this generic right-wing ideology downplays overt racial and violent elements and eschews theological controversies by relating to Christianity instrumentally as a cultural heritage rather than a religion in the metaphysical sense of the word.|
Race, Religion, or Culture? Framing Islam between Racism and Neo-Racism in the Online Network of the French Far Right
|2018||Froio, C.||VOX-Pol Publication|
|When debates about Islam acquire importance in the public sphere, does the far right adhere to traditional racist arguments, risking marginalization, or does it conform to mainstream values to attain legitimacy in the political system? Focusing on the aftermath of the 2015 terrorist attacks in France, I explore the framing of Islam, discussing how the far right’s nativist arguments were reformulated to engage with available discursive opportunities and dominant conceptions of the national identity. By looking at actors in the protest and the electoral arenas, I examine the interplay between the choice of anti-Islam frames and baseline national values.|
I offer a novel mixed-method approach to study political discourses, combining social network analysis of the links between seventy-seven far-right websites with a qualitative frame analysis of online material. It also includes measures of online visibility of these websites to assess their audiences. The results confirm that anti-Islam frames are couched along a spectrum of discursive opportunity, where actors can either opt to justify opposition to Islam based on interpretations of core national values (culture and religion) or mobilize on strictly oppositional values (biological racism). The framing strategy providing most online visibility is based on neo-racist arguments. While this strategy allows distortion of baseline national values of secularity and republicanism, without breaching the social contract, it is also a danger for organizations that made “opposition to the system” their trademark. While the results owe much to the French context, the conclusions draw broader implications as to the far right going mainstream.
LOVING HATE. ANTI-MUSLIM EXTREMISM, RADICAL ISLAMISM AND THE SPIRAL OF POLARIZATION
|2018||Fielitz, M., Ebner, J. and Quent, M.||Report|
|This report focuses on the interactional dynamics between anti-Muslim extremists and radical|
Islamists in Germany and beyond. It reveals ideological underpinnings, approaches to mobilization
and communication patterns, which all prove to be analogous on both sides, and it places
emphasis on the reciprocity of hate that may serve to intensify processes of individual and group
Our study presents the first systematic analysis of the interplay between both forms of extremism
that plays out on different places on the Internet. It provides direct evidence showing that Islamist
and far-right movements converge at different levels and mutually amplify one another. The analysis
focuses on measuring the online interaction between extremist content, individuals and events.
Overall, over 10,000 Islamist and far-right Facebook posts and over one million German anti-Muslim
tweets between 1 January 2013 and 30 November 2017 were analyzed for this study. Additionally,
we conducted three months of ethnographic research into encrypted pro-IS and pro-Al-Qaeda
groups on Telegram as well as into far-right chat groups.
Pulling Back the Curtain: An Inside Look at the Islamic State’s Media Organization
|The CTC is committed to continuing to search out unique sources of data to provide insight into the|
workings of terrorist organizations and, when possible, making them available to the broader research
community, which will undoubtedly add its own insights and continue to enhance our collective understanding.
To further this end, all of the documents (both the original Arabic as well as English
translations) referred to in this report are being released on the CTC’s website at ctc.usma.edu.5 These
13 documents provide interesting and important insights on four main topics regarding the Islamic
State’s media organization.
The first insight is that these documents offer, for the first time, a conclusive link between the Islamic
State’s central media bureau and Amaq News Agency. More specifically, these documents show that
the central media bureau considered Amaq to be on par with other previously recognized central media
entities such as Al-Naba and Al-Bayan. Furthermore, the Islamic State’s Diwan of Central Media
encouraged local media bureaus to send content to Amaq, going so far as to make cooperation with
Amaq a part of each local media bureau’s monthly evaluation.
The second is that these documents show the emphasis the organization placed on producing diferent
types of products in order to convey a broader narrative about the caliphate. Although examining
the group’s propaganda products after they have been released demonstrates this as well, the level of
detail and effort put in by the group to this end, as highlighted by these documents, is more expansive
than previously acknowledged.
Third, these documents show very clearly how the Diwan of Central Media created rules, evaluations,
and internal memos that were designed to strengthen the centralization of the group’s media bureaucracy,
solidifying the central media organization’s control over what and how the local media bureaus
carried on their propaganda work. This finding runs counter to some discussion on decentralization
as one of the main reasons for the success of the group’s media operations.6
There certainly is an element
of decentralization to the group’s online activities, but these documents show there is a limit
to the group’s willingness to decentralize in the media realm. Indeed, in a document titled “General
Guidance and Instructions,” we find the following counsel:
“We also advise the brothers to avoid innovation because it is mostly the main cause of mistakes.”7
Finally, the documents show that the Islamic State’s media organization exercises self-awareness in
terms of its potential vulnerability. Indeed, the documents provide several insights into how the media
side of the organization recognized that its role in promoting the group meant that the media components
of the group would be in possession of information that could result in harm if it were known or otherwise obtained by the enemy. This led the group to focus on the importance of information
security among media operatives.
The Islamic State’s efforts in each of these four areas provide a more detailed understanding not only
of how the group organized and implemented its media strategy, but also how a militant organization
was able to capture the world’s attention using the art of propaganda. This report proceeds by examining
each of these four areas in turn.