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
A Snapshot of the Syrian Jihadi Online Ecology: Differential Disruption, Community Strength, and Preferred Other Platforms
2021 Conway, M., Khawaja, M., Lakhani, S. and Reffin, J. Article
This article contributes to the growing literature on extremist and terrorist online ecologies and approaches to snapshotting these. It opens by measuring Twitter’s differential disruption of so-called “Islamic State” versus other jihadi parties to the Syria conflict, showing that while Twitter became increasingly inhospitable to IS in 2017 and 2018, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham retained strong communities on the platform during the same period. An analysis of the same groups’ Twitter out-linking activity has the twofold purpose of determining the reach of groups’ content by quantifying the number of platforms it was available on and analyzing the nature and functionalities of the online spaces out-linked to.
The online behaviors of Islamic state terrorists in the United States
2021 Whittaker, J. Article
This study offers an empirical insight into terrorists’ use of the Internet. Although criminology has previously been quiet on this topic, behavior‐based studies can aid in understanding the interactions between terrorists and their environments. Using a database of 231 US‐based Islamic State terrorists, four important findings are offered: (1) This cohort utilized the Internet heavily for the purposes of both networking with co‐ideologues and learning about their intended activity. (2) There is little reason to believe that these online interactions are replacing offline ones, as has previously been suggested. Rather, terrorists tend to operate in both domains. (3) Online activity seems to be similar across the sample, regardless of the number of co‐offenders or the sophistication of attack. (4) There is reason to believe that using the Internet may be an impediment to terrorists’ success.
Uncovering the Far-Right Online Ecosystem: An Analytical Framework and Research Agenda
2020 Baele, S.J., Brace, L. and Coan, T.G. Article
Recent years have seen a substantial increase in far-right inspired attacks. In this context, the present article offers an analytical framework for the study of right-wing extremists’ multifaceted and fast-growing activity on the Internet. Specifically, we conceptualize the far-right online presence as a dynamic ecosystem, teasing out four major components that correspond to the different levels of analysis available to future research. We illustrate the benefits of this framework with key illustrative examples from the English-, French-, and German- speaking far-right, revealing the worrying size and breadth – but also heterogeneity – of today’s far-right online ecosystem.
Unity Starts with U: A Case Study of a Counter-Hate Campaign Through the Use of Social Media Platforms
2020 Leung, C. and Frank, R. Article
Hate has been a growing concern with hate-groups and individuals using the Internet, or more specifically, social media platforms, to globalize hate. Since these social media platforms can connect users around the world, hate-organizations are using these connections as opportunities to recruit candidates and spread their propaganda. Without opposing views, these extreme viewpoints can establish themselves as legitimate and then be used to incite hate in individuals. Thus, these extreme viewpoints must be countered by similar messages to discourage this online hate, and one such way is to use the same platforms through grassroots movements. This paper presents a case study which was conducted on a class of Criminology students who implemented a grassroots community-based campaign called Unity Starts with U (USwithU) to counter-hate in a community by using social media platforms to spread messages of inclusion and share experiences. The results from the campaign showed improvements on people’s attitude towards hate at the local community level. Based on literature and this campaign, policy recommendations are suggested for policymakers to consider when creating or making improvements on counter-narrative programs.
Jihadist, Far-right And Far-left Terrorism In Cyberspace – Same Threat And Same Countermeasures?
2020 Ingelevič-Citak, M. and Przyszlak, Z. Article
This paper investigates whether the counter-terrorism measures developed and implemented within the European Union have a universal character and are equally effective in the context of various types of terrorism. The authors focus on the strategies applicable to the terrorist activities online, since information and communication technology is perceived as the fastest growing and continually changing field of the terrorist threat. So far, most of the counteractions and security strategies have been subordinated to the jihadism combating. However, in recent years, the significant growth of threats coming from far-right and far-left terrorist activities has been observed. It raises questions about the capability of instruments to prevent and combat other types of terrorism as well as jihadism. The research was conducted in particular, on the basis of international organizations' reports, the authors' observations, and practitioners' remarks. As follows from its results, there are significant differences in the phenomenon, current trends, and modus operandi of the perpetrators in the jihadi, far-right, and far-left terrorism. Consequently, it is possible to conclude that the effectiveness of chosen countermeasures, subordinated - as a rule – to the fighting of the jihadi extremists, is doubtful in preventing and combating far-right and far-left terrorism.
The ‘tarrant effect’: what impact did far-right attacks have on the 8chan forum?
2020 Baele, S.J., Brace, L. and Coan, T.G. Article
This paper analyses the impact of a series of mass shootings committed in 2018–2019 by right-wing extremists on 8chan/pol, a prominent far-right online forum. Using computational methods, it offers a detailed examination of how attacks trigger shifts in both forum activity and content. We find that while each shooting is discussed by forum participants, their respective impact varies considerably. We highlight, in particular, a ‘Tarrant effect’: the considerable effect Brenton Tarrant’s attack of two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, had on the forum. Considering the rise in far-right terrorism and the growing and diversifying online far-right ecosystem, such interactive offline-online effects warrant the attention of scholars and security professionals.
Global Jihad and International Media Use
2020 Sirgy, M.J., Estes, R.J. and Rahtz, D.R. Chapter
Globalization and international media are potent contributors to the rise of the Islamist global jihad. Widespread digital communication technologies that connect people all over the world are a substantial component of globalization. Over the past three decades, “virtual jihad” has emerged as a potent disseminator of radical religious-political ideologies, instilling fear and fostering instability worldwide. Western and global media, while often misrepresenting Islam and Muslims, have played a significant role in disseminating jihadist ideologies. The involvement of global jihadists (mujāhidīn) across myriad media outlets and platforms has allowed them to promote their agenda around the world. Using the Internet and media outlets, global jihadists are able to attract and recruit people to their ranks in an accelerated manner. Jihadists have engaged in media activities that have empowered and expanded the global jihad movement, even in the face of increased mitigation efforts.
Crisis and Loss of Control: German-Language Digital Extremism in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic
2020 Guhl, J. and Gerster, L. Report
This report analyses the networks and narratives of German-speaking far-right, far-left and Islamist extremist actors on mainstream and alternative social media platforms and extremist websites in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our results show: Extremists from Germany, Austria and Switzerland have been able to increase their reach since the introduction of the lockdown measures.
The Anti-Hate Brigade: How a Group of Thousands Responds Collectively to Online Vitriol
2020 Buerger, C. Report
#jagärhar is by far the largest and best-organized collective effort to respond directly to hatred online, anywhere in the world, as far as we know. It is also one of only two civil society efforts against hatred online to have been replicated in numerous other countries. In this detailed account of its efforts– the first qualitative study of such a group – Cathy Buerger shares her findings on how and why #jagärhär members do what they do, how working collectively influences members’ ability and willingness to respond to hatred, and how the group’s strategy is carefully designed to take advantage of Facebook’s algorithms and influence ideas and discourse norms among the general public – not necessarily the ones writing the hateful comments.
Indonesia: Social Grievances and Violent Extremism
2020 Moonshot CVE Report
Extremist groups’ online recruitment mechanisms frequently exploit the wide range of grievances and vulnerabilities experienced by individuals at-risk of radicalisation. While it is widely accepted that mental health and wellbeing play a vital role in resilience to violent extremism, most approaches tend to focus on preventing violent extremism through purely ideological means and are not sufficiently tailored to the individual at-risk.

In an effort to understand this audience further and, more importantly, the most effective means of preventing violent extremism, Moonshot conducted an experiment to assess the propensity among at-risk users in Indonesia to engage with ideological counter-content compared to psychosocial support content. The data gathered during this pilot indicate that psychosocial support is an area of unmet need among some of the individuals most vulnerable to violent jihadist recruitment online in Indonesia, and that this population is open to engaging with online support.
Facebook Redirect Programme: Moonshot Evaluation
2020 Moonshot CVE Report
The Facebook Redirect Programme (FRP) is designed to combat violent extremism and dangerous organisations by redirecting users who have entered hate or violence-related search queries towards educational resources and outreach groups. A pilot of the programme was launched with delivery partners Life After Hate in May 2019 and Exit Australia in September 2019. It was specifically designed to ensure that individuals searching for white supremacist and/or neo-Nazi communities on Facebook would be offered authentic, meaningful and impactful support off-platform. The purpose of this pilot was to test the programme design and inform future deployments targeting both new geographies and other hate-based communities. Moonshot was contracted by Facebook to evaluate the pilot period of programme performance and make recommendations for future deployments. This report evaluates the pilot programme by examining:
-Facebook’s use of keywords and the safety module as a method of redirecting people off-platform;
-The full user journey from Facebook to delivery partner landing pages;
-The extent to which the pilot can be considered a proof of concept for future deployments.
Shades of hatred online: 4chan duplicate circulation surge during hybrid media events
2020 Zelenkauskaite, A., Toivanen, P., Huhtamäki, J. and Valaskivi, K. Article
The 4chan /pol/ platform is a controversial online space on which a surge in hate speech has been observed. While recent research indicates that events may lead to more hate speech, empirical evidence on the phenomenon remains limited. This study analyzes 4chan /pol/ user activity during the mass shootings in Christchurch and Pittsburgh and compares the frequency and nature of user activity prior to these events. We find not only a surge in the use of hate speech and anti-Semitism but also increased circulation of duplicate messages, links, and images and an overall increase in messages from users who self-identify as “white supremacist” or “fascist” primarily voiced from English-speaking IP-based locations: the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Great Britain. Finally, we show how these hybrid media events share the arena with other prominent events involving different agendas, such as the U.S. midterm elections. The significant increase in duplicates during the hybrid media events in this study is interpreted beyond their memetic logic. This increase can be interpreted through what we refer to as activism of hate. Our findings indicate that there is either a group of dedicated users who are compelled to support the causes for which shooting took place and/or that users use automated means to achieve duplication.
Upvoting Extremism: Collective Identity Formation and the Extreme Right on Reddit
2020 Gaudette, T., Scrivens, R., Davies, G. and Frank, R. Article
Since the advent of the Internet, right-wing extremists and those who subscribe to extreme right views have exploited online platforms to build a collective identity among the like-minded. Research in this area has largely focused on extremists’ use of websites, forums, and mainstream social media sites, but overlooked in this research has been an exploration of the popular social news aggregation site Reddit. The current study explores the role of Reddit’s unique voting algorithm in facilitating “othering” discourse and, by extension, collective identity formation among members of a notoriously hateful subreddit community, r/The_Donald. The results of the thematic analysis indicate that those who post extreme-right content on r/The_Donald use Reddit’s voting algorithm as a tool to mobilize like-minded members by promoting extreme discourses against two prominent out-groups: Muslims and the Left. Overall, r/The_Donald’s “sense of community” facilitates identity work among its members by creating an environment wherein extreme right views are continuously validated.
The “Great Meme War:” the Alt-Right and its Multifarious Enemies
2020 Dafaure, M. Article
In this essay, I discuss how the alt-right has brought back into fashion traditional tenets of the reactionary, xenophobic, and often racist far-right, as demonstrated by George Hawley, and how it has managed to make these tenets appear as novel, provocative, and updated to the 21st century U.S. society and digital environment. I argue that to do so, alt-righters relied heavily on the creation, and sometimes reappropriation, of enemy images, with the ultimate goals of provoking outrage, instilling fear and/or hatred towards specific groups, reinforcing a sense of belonging within their own community, or more broadly manipulating collective perceptions and representations, first online then in real life. Indeed, the election of Donald Trump was hailed by the online alt-right as one of their major successes. With the help of irony, subversion, and often carefully engineered propaganda-like messages and images, the alt-right, it boasts, “meme’d into office” the Republican candidate. This paper consequently leads to an analysis of real-life repercussions of such adversarial rhetoric, notably through examples of recent far-right domestic terrorism in the US, and to a reflection on their place in an age of post-truth, fake news, and alternative facts. This contribution focuses on several enemy images. The first is that of the civilizational enemy from the outside, which uses the traditional process of othering. This theme is linked to Trump’s campaign and to his attacks against two major “enemies” of the U.S., namely Hispanics and Muslims. With the alt-right, refugees for example become “rapefugees,” which easily appeals to rampant islamophobia. The second enemy image created by the alt-right consists in its ideological opponents. Here, the function of the enemy image is to discredit opponents and their views (“cuckservative,” “feminazi,” or the sarcastic “Social Justice Warrior”). The third enemy image establishes a link between the first two. It depicts what I would call the “enemy within,” a common thread (or threat) in far-right ideologies. Indeed, cultural Marxism, a widespread conspiracy theory among the alt-right, is what its proponents believe to be the hidden reason for the perceived decline of the Western civilization. According to this worldview, the ideological opponents push a conspiracy against the West and its values. The recurring claims of a liberal bias among the media and academia also belong to this conspiracy theory. It also embraces elements of anti-Semitism, as well as traditional aspects of anti-communism, reminiscent of the historical Red Scares. Such a theory thus provides its believers with a broader narrative, as well as with a common enemy to rally against, and therefore builds a form of intersectionality among various online fringe groups.
Trans-Atlantic Journeys of Far-Right Narratives Through Online-Media Ecosystems
2020 Institute for Strategic Dialogue Report
This research briefing explores if and how far-right narratives from the United States (US), France and Germany gain traction in domestic mainstream media, or move across borders between the US on the one hand, and France and Germany on the other. It tests what will be referred to as the mainstreaming hypothesis (far-right ideas start out in far-right alternative media but eventually move to the mainstream) and the transnationalisation hypothesis (far-right ideas spread between national media ecosystems).
The Interplay Between Australia’s Political Fringes on the Right and Left: Online Messaging on Facebook
2020 Guerin, C., Davey, J., Peucker, M. and Fisher, T.J. Report
This research briefing outlines findings from an analysis of the far-right and far-left Facebook ecosystem in Australia in the first seven months of 2020. It analyses how the far-right and far-left discuss each other on Facebook and how narratives about the other side of the political spectrum shape the online activity of these groups. It also seeks to understand how central discussion about the ‘other side’ is to the far-right and far-left and how it fits within the broader online activities of these movements.
The Online Regulation Series | Insights from Academia II
2020 Tech Against Terrorism Report
To follow-up on our previous blogpost on academic analysis of the state of global online regulation, we take here a future oriented approach and provide an overview of academics and experts’ suggestions and analysis of what the future of online regulation might bring.
Birds of a Feather Get Recommended Together: Algorithmic Homophily in YouTube’s Channel Recommendations in the United States and Germany
2020 Kaiser, J. and Rauchfleisch, A. Article
Algorithms and especially recommendation algorithms play an important role online, most notably on YouTube. Yet, little is known about the network communities that these algorithms form. We analyzed the channel recommendations on YouTube to map the communities that the social network is creating through its algorithms and to test the network for homophily, that is, the connectedness between communities. We find that YouTube’s channel recommendation algorithm fosters the creation of highly homophilous communities in the United States (n = 13,529 channels) and in Germany (n = 8,000 channels). Factors that seem to drive YouTube’s recommendations are topics, language, and location. We highlight the issue of homophilous communities in the context of politics where YouTube’s algorithms create far-right communities in both countries.
Evaluating the scale, growth, and origins of right-wing echo chambers on YouTube
2020 Hosseinmardi, H., Ghasemian, A., Clauset, A., Rothschild, D.M., Mobius, M. and Watts, D.J. Article
Although it is understudied relative to other social media platforms, YouTube is arguably the largest and most engaging online media consumption platform in the world. Recently, YouTube's outsize influence has sparked concerns that its recommendation algorithm systematically directs users to radical right-wing content. Here we investigate these concerns with large scale longitudinal data of individuals' browsing behavior spanning January 2016 through December 2019. Consistent with previous work, we find that political news content accounts for a relatively small fraction (11%) of consumption on YouTube, and is dominated by mainstream and largely centrist sources. However, we also find evidence for a small but growing "echo chamber" of far-right content consumption. Users in this community show higher engagement and greater "stickiness" than users who consume any other category of content. Moreover, YouTube accounts for an increasing fraction of these users' overall online news consumption. Finally, while the size, intensity, and growth of this echo chamber present real concerns, we find no evidence that they are caused by YouTube recommendations. Rather, consumption of radical content on YouTube appears to reflect broader patterns of news consumption across the web. Our results emphasize the importance of measuring consumption directly rather than inferring it from recommendations.
The Online Regulation Series | Insights from Academia I
2020 Tech Against Terrorism Report
In this post, we look at academic analysis of global efforts to regulate online content and speech.
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