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.

Featured

Full Listing

TitleYearAuthorTypeLinks
Mapping the online presence and activities of the Islamic State’s unofficial propaganda cell: Ahlut-Tawhid Publications
2020 Lakomy, M. Article
This paper, which takes the form of a case study, aims to contribute to the debate on activities of the Islamic State’s unofficial media bureaus. Based on tools of open source intelligence, as well as a limited content analysis, it maps the online presence and activities of Ahlut-Tawhid Publications (AHP). Its means of distributing pro-Daesh content in the surface web as well as its general impact are discussed. It also deliberates on the interconnectedness of AHP with other online propaganda cells supporting the self-proclaimed “Caliphate.” This paper argues that this group was part of the ongoing online campaign of the Islamic State in the World Wide Web in 2018 and 2019. It maintained quite an impressive and long-lasting online presence, combining the potential of the most popular microblogs, hosting services and social media with the flexibility of standalone websites. In contrast to the most recognized propaganda cells of Daesh, such as al-Hayat Media Centre or Amaq News Agency whose productions have been quickly detected and removed from the mainstream webpages for years, AHP kept a low profile for the most part of 2018. In effect, it benefited from its relative anonymity and for months operated a network of pro-IS distribution channels throughout Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 environments. This ceased to be the case in 2019, when most of them were incapacitated (banned) by law enforcement or abandoned. It is clear that the attention given to proliferating propaganda through the surface web decreased at this time, probably in favor of the Telegram communication software, as the discovered statistics suggest. The only active (still updated) locations—partially related to Ahlut-Tawhid Publications—belonged to the Bengali Ansar network. It has to be stressed, however, that AHP failed to spark increased attention of Internet users.
Framing war: visual propaganda, the Islamic State, and the battle for east Mosul
2020 Winter, C. Article
This article explores how propaganda can be used to construct counter-factual visual narratives at times of war. Specifically, it examines how the Islamic State communicated its way through the 100-day-long battle for east Mosul, which was launched by the coalition and its allies in October 2016. Drawing on Jacques Ellul’s 1962 theory of propaganda, it uses qualitative content analysis to decipher the 1,261 media products published online by the group during the first phase of its defence of the city. The author contends that, even though it was resoundingly defeated there by January, the global legacy of this battle, which was used as a testing ground for a series of potent innovations in insurgent strategic communication, will endure long into the future.
Togetherness after terror: The more or less digital commemorative public atmospheres of the Manchester Arena bombing’s first anniversary
2020 Merrill, S., Sumartojo, S., Closs Stephens, A. and Coward, M. Article
This article examines the forms and feelings of togetherness evident in both Manchester city centre and on social media during the first anniversary of the 22 May 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. To do this, we introduce a conceptual framework that conceives commemorative public atmospheres as composed of a combination of ‘more or less digital’ elements. We also present a methodological approach that combines the computational collection and analysis of Twitter content with short-term team autoethnography. First, the article addresses the concept of public atmospheres before introducing the case study and outlining our methodology. We then analyse the shifting moods of togetherness created by the official programme of commemorative events known as Manchester Together and their digital mediatisation through Twitter. We then explore a grassroots initiative, #LoveMCRBees, and how it relied on the materialisation of social media logics to connect people. Overall, we demonstrate how public atmospheres, as constituted in more and less digital ways, provide a framework for conceptualising commemorative events, and how togetherness is reworked by social media, especially in the context of responses to terrorism.
Understanding the Incel Community on YouTube
2020 Papadamou, K., Zannettou, S., Blackburn, J., De Cristofaro, E., Stringhini, G. and Sirivianos, M. Article
YouTube is by far the largest host of user-generated video content worldwide. Alas, the platform also hosts inappropriate, toxic, and/or hateful content. One community that has come into the spotlight for sharing and publishing hateful content are the so-called Involuntary Celibates (Incels), a loosely defined movement ostensibly focusing on men's issues, who have often been linked to misogynistic views. In this paper, we set out to analyze the Incel community on YouTube. We collect videos shared on Incel-related communities within Reddit, and perform a data-driven characterization of the content posted on YouTube along several axes. Among other things, we find that the Incel community on YouTube is growing rapidly, that they post a substantial number of negative comments, and that they discuss a broad range of topics ranging from ideology, e.g., around the Men Going Their Own Way movement, to discussions filled with racism and/or misogyny. Finally, we quantify the probability that a user will encounter an Incel-related video by virtue of YouTube's recommendation algorithm. Within five hops when starting from a non-Incel-related video, this probability is 1 in 5, which is alarmingly high given the toxicity of said content.
Weaponizing white thymos: flows of rage in the online audiences of the alt-right
2020 Ganesh, B. Article
The alt-right is a growing radical right-wing network that is particularly effective at mobilizing emotion through digital communications. Introducing ‘white thymos’ as a framework to theorize the role of rage, anger, and indignation in alt-right communications, this study argues that emotive communication connects alt-right users and mobilizes white thymos to the benefit of populist radical right politics. By combining linguistic, computational, and interpretive techniques on data collected from Twitter, this study demonstrates that the alt-right weaponizes white thymos in three ways: visual documentation of white victimization, processes of legitimization of racialized pride, and reinforcement of the rectitude of rage and indignation. The weaponization of white thymos is then shown to be central to the culture of the alt-right and its connectivity with populist radical right politics.
Raiders of the Lost Kek: 3.5 Years of Augmented 4chan Posts from the Politically Incorrect Board
2020 Papasavva, A., Zannettou, S., De Cristofaro, E., Stringhini, G. and Blackburn, J. Article
This paper presents a dataset with over 3.3M threads and 134.5M posts from the Politically Incorrect board (/pol/) of the imageboard forum 4chan, posted over a period of almost 3.5 years (June 2016-November 2019). To the best of our knowledge, this represents the largest publicly available 4chan dataset, providing the community with an archive of posts that have been permanently deleted from 4chan and are otherwise inaccessible. We augment the data with a few set of additional labels, including toxicity scores and the named entities mentioned in each post. We also present a statistical analysis of the dataset, providing an overview of what researchers interested in using it can expect, as well as a simple content analysis, shedding light on the most prominent discussion topics, the most popular entities mentioned, and the level of toxicity in each post. Overall, we are confident that our work will further motivate and assist researchers in studying and understanding 4chan as well as its role on the greater Web. For instance, we hope this dataset may be used for cross-platform studies of social media, as well as being useful for other types of research like natural language processing. Finally, our dataset can assist qualitative work focusing on in-depth case studies of specific narratives, events, or social theories.
Echo Chambers Exist! (But They're Full of Opposing Views)
2020 Bright, J., Marchal, N., Ganesh, B. and Rudinac, S. Article
The theory of echo chambers, which suggests that online political discussions take place in conditions of ideological homogeneity, has recently gained popularity as an explanation for patterns of political polarization and radicalization observed in many democratic countries. However, while micro-level experimental work has shown evidence that individuals may gravitate towards information that supports their beliefs, recent macro-level studies have cast doubt on whether this tendency generates echo chambers in practice, instead suggesting that cross-cutting exposures are a common feature of digital life. In this article, we offer an explanation for these diverging results. Building on cognitive dissonance theory, and making use of observational trace data taken from an online white nationalist website, we explore how individuals in an ideological 'echo chamber' engage with opposing viewpoints. We show that this type of exposure, far from being detrimental to radical online discussions, is actually a core feature of such spaces that encourages people to stay engaged. The most common 'echoes' in this echo chamber are in fact the sound of opposing viewpoints being undermined and marginalized. Hence echo chambers exist not only in spite of but thanks to the unifying presence of oppositional viewpoints. We conclude with reflections on policy implications of our study for those seeking to promote a more moderate political internet.
An Approach for Radicalization Detection Based on Emotion Signals and Semantic Similarity
2020 Araque, O. and Iglesias, C.A. Article
The Internet has become an important tool for modern terrorist groups as a means of spreading their propaganda messages and recruitment purposes. Previous studies have shown that the analysis of social signs can help in the analysis, detection, and prediction of radical users. In this work, we focus on the analysis of affect signs in social media and social networks, which has not been yet previously addressed. The article contributions are: (i) a novel dataset to be used in radicalization detection works, (ii) a method for utilizing an emotion lexicon for radicalization detection, and (iii) an application to the radical detection domain of an embedding-based semantic similarity model. Results show that emotion can be a reliable indicator of radicalization, as well as that the proposed feature extraction methods can yield high-performance scores.
Interactive Search and Exploration in Discussion Forums Using Multimodal Embeddings
2020 Gornishka, I., Rudinac, S. and Worring, M. Article
In this paper we present a novel interactive multimodal learning system, which facilitates search and exploration in large networks of social multimedia users. It allows the analyst to identify and select users of interest, and to find similar users in an interactive learning setting. Our approach is based on novel multimodal representations of users, words and concepts, which we simultaneously learn by deploying a general-purpose neural embedding model. The usefulness of the approach is evaluated using artificial actors, which simulate user behavior in a relevance feedback scenario. Multiple experiments were conducted in order to evaluate the quality of our multimodal representations and compare different embedding strategies. We demonstrate the capabilities of the proposed approach on a multimedia collection originating from the violent online extremism forum Stormfront, which is particularly interesting due to the high semantic level of the discussions it features.
Digital Extremisms: Readings in Violence, Radicalisation and Extremism in the Online Space
2020 Littler, M. and Lee, B. (Eds.) Book
This book explores the use of the internet by (non-Islamic) extremist groups, drawing together research by scholars across the social sciences and humanities. It offers a broad overview of the best of research in this area, including research contributions that address far-right, (non-Islamic) religious, animal rights, and nationalist violence online, as well as a discussion of the policy and research challenges posed by these unique and disparate groups. It offers an academically rigorous, introductory text that addresses extremism online, making it a valuable resource for students, practitioners and academics seeking to understand the unique characteristics such risks present.
Extreme Digital Speech: Contexts, Responses and Solutions
2020 Ganesh, B. and Bright, J. (Eds.) VOX-Pol Publication
Extreme digital speech (EDS) is an emerging challenge that requires co-ordination between governments, civil society and the private sector. In this report, a range of experts on countering extremism consider the challenges that EDS presents to these stakeholders, the impact that EDS has and the responses taken by these actors to counter it. By focusing on EDS, consideration of the topic is limited to the forms of extreme speech that take place online, often on social media platforms and multimedia messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Furthermore, by focusing on EDS rather than explicitly violent forms of extreme speech online, the report departs from a focus on violence and incorporates a broader range of issues such as hateful and dehumanising speech and the complex cultures and politics that have formed around EDS.
From Inspire to Rumiyah: does instructional content in online jihadist magazines lead to attacks?
2020 Zekulin, M. Article
Considerable time has been spent examining how groups like AQAP and ISIS used their online magazines to reach and radicalize individuals in Western democratic states. This paper continues this investigation but shifts its analysis to focus on the ‘how-to’ or instructional content of these publications, an understudied part of the literature. One of the stated goals of these magazines was to provide tactical know-how and assist supporters conducting terror plots in their home states. The question: did the tactics outlined in the magazines materialize in actual plots/attacks and how quickly were they put into practice? The paper examines this question by creating an overview of the tactics which appear in these publications and cross referencing them with a dataset of 166 Islamist-inspired homegrown terror plots/attacks in 14 Western democratic states to determine if, and when, they first appeared in relation to their publication date. It concluded that while some of the suggested strategies did appear following their publication, often it occurred after considerable time had elapsed. This suggests the instructional content did not resonate with readers in real time.
Many Faced Hate: A Cross Platform Study of Content Framing and Information Sharing by Online Hate Groups
2020 Phadke, S, and Mitra, T. Article
Hate groups are increasingly using multiple social media platforms to promote extremist ideologies. Yet we know little about their communication practices across platforms. How do hate groups (or “in-groups”), frame their hateful agenda against the targeted group or the “out-group?” How do they share information? Utilizing “framing” theory from social movement research and analyzing domains in the shared links, we juxtapose the Facebook and Twitter communication of 72 Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designated hate groups spanning five hate ideologies. Our findings show that hate groups use Twitter for educating the audience about problems with the out-group, maintaining positive self-image by emphasizing in-group’s high social status, and for demanding policy changes to negatively affect the out-group. On Facebook, they use fear appeals, call for active participation in group events (membership requests), all while portraying themselves as being oppressed by the out-group and failed by the system. Our study unravels the ecosystem of cross-platform communication by hate groups, suggesting that they use Facebook for group radicalization and recruitment, while Twitter for reaching a diverse follower base.
Reviewing the Role of the Internet in Radicalization Processes
2019 Odağa, Ö., Leiserb, A. and Boehnkec, K. Article
This review presents the existing research on the role of the Internet in radicalization processes. Using a systematic literature search strategy, our paper yields 88 studies on the role of the Internet in a) right-wing extremism and b) radical jihadism. Available studies display a predominant interest in the characteristics of radical websites and a remarkable absence of a user-centred perspective. They show that extremist groups make use of the Internet to spread right wing or jihadist ideologies, connect like-minded others in echo chambers and cloaked websites, and address particularly marginalized individuals of a society, with specific strategies for recruitment. Existing studies have thus far not sufficiently examined the users of available sites, nor have they studied the causal mechanisms that unfold at the intersection between the Internet and its users. The present review suggests avenues for future research, drawing on media and violence research and research on social identity and deindividuation effects in computer-mediated communication.
A Critical Analysis of the Jihadi Discourse through Online Magazines with Special Reference to ‘Wyeth’ Magazine
2019 Neelamalar, M. and Mangala Vadivu, V. Article
‘Jihadism’ (also known as the jihadi movement) is a popular term that signifies the Islamic terror movement which thrives on extremist ideologies and violence. In addition to the conventional practices, the online medium is currently being employed for disseminating these extremist ideologies across the globe. Radicalisation and recruitment of geographically dispersed individuals as ‘jihadists’ for supporting Islamic terror activities tend to be the primary intent for using the digital platforms as the medium of communication in this context. One such initiative by the Lashkar-e-Taiba of Jammu and Kashmir was the release of the ‘Wyeth: The Resistance in Flow’, an e-magazine which was launched on April 2018. The first issue which was posted with an open access option was primarily designed to influence the Indian youth population through the radical interpretations of Islam. Hence, it is crucial to analyse and understand the jihadi discourse of the Wyeth magazine in order to curb and counter-attack such initiatives at its initial phase. For this purpose, the present study aims to examine the content of the Wyeth magazine and analyse the basic traits of the jihadi propaganda and its potential to aid in the self-radicalisation process.
Islamic State’s Online Activity and Responses
2019 Conway, M. and Macdonald, S. Book
'Islamic State’s Online Activity and Responses' provides a unique examination of Islamic State’s online activity at the peak of its "golden age" between 2014 and 2017 and evaluates some of the principal responses to this phenomenon.

Featuring contributions from experts across a range of disciplines, the volume examines a variety of aspects of IS’s online activity, including their strategic objectives, the content and nature of their magazines and videos, and their online targeting of females and depiction of children. It also details and analyses responses to IS’s online activity – from content moderation and account suspensions to informal counter-messaging and disrupting terrorist financing – and explores the possible impact of technological developments, such as decentralised and peer-to-peer networks, going forward. Platforms discussed include dedicated jihadi forums, major social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and newer services, including Twister.

'Islamic State’s Online Activity and Responses' is essential reading for researchers, students, policymakers, and all those interested in the contemporary challenges posed by online terrorist propaganda and radicalisation. The chapters were originally published as a special issue of Studies in Conflict & Terrorism.
The Roles of ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Media Tools and Technologies in the Facilitation of Violent Extremism and Terrorism
2019 Scrivens, R. and Conway, M. Chapter
Alfred Nobel’s invention of dynamite in 1867 was the technological breakthrough that ushered in the era of modern terrorism; the economy of means it afforded ensured that terrorist bombings proliferated. High levels of illiteracy in 19th-century Europe imposed serious limitations on conventional text-based propaganda. Conversely, ‘propaganda by deed’ could show, said the French anarchist Paul Brousse at the time, “the weary and inert masses . . . that which they were unable to read, teach them socialism in practice, make it visible, tangible, concrete” (as quoted in Townshend, 2002, p. 55). When the anarchist Albert Parsons was arraigned for his alleged involvement in Chicago’s 1886 Haymarket bombing, he proclaimed in court that dynamite “made all men equal and therefore free” (as quoted in Townshend, 2002, p. 5). However, although terrorist attacks may themselves draw attention and by their target choices and other aspects send some kind of message, successful terrorist campaigns must generally also employ speech, text, and visuals in order to seek to legitimize, rationalize, and, ultimately, advertise terrorists’ actions. In other words, as Rapoport (1984) reminded us over 30 years ago: “To be noticed is one thing, to be understood is another” (p. 665). ‘The media’ qua the traditional mass media has certainly been employed as a tool by terrorists for these purposes (e.g. 1972 Munich Olympics attack; 1975 Vienna Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC] siege). That is not what is at issue in this chapter, however; instead, this chapter spotlights the use of media tools directly by terrorists and not ‘the media,’ in the guise of journalists, as intermediaries. The focus is therefore on the establishment of newspapers and radio and television stations
by violent extremist and terrorist organizations rather than press, radio, and television coverage of terrorist attacks. The definition of ‘media tools’ utilized in the chapter is wider than these, however, encompassing not just ‘old’ but also ‘new’ media tools, particularly the Internet, but also incorporating less obvious media tools, such as wall murals and photocopying machines. Underlined in the chapter is that in order to understand new media trends, we must first examine violent extremist and terrorists’ ‘old’ or traditional media forbearers that supply crucial context for contemporary violent extremists and terrorists’ online activity, including particularly, the latter’s take-up of any and all ready means of
communication in whatever era. In terms of what constitutes ‘violent extremism,’ we are guided by Berger’s (2018) characterization of it as “the belief that an in-group’s success or survival can never be separated from the need for violent action against an out-group,” which violence may be characterized by the aggressors as “defensive, offensive, or preemptive” (p. 46). Terrorism, on the other hand, may be conceived as “violence – or, equally important, the threat of violence – used and directed in pursuit of, or in service of, a political aim” (Hoffmann, 2006, pp. 2–3). Together, violent extremism and terrorism account for a range of political violence activity by a diversity of actors subscribing to an array of radical beliefs. The media and communication strategies of two particular ideologies are focused on herein: right-wing extremists and violent jihadis – albeit an array of others is referred to also (e.g. nationalist-separatists such as the Irish Republican Army
[IRA] and violent Islamists such as Hezbollah). Violent jihadists are inspired by Sunni Islamist-Salafism and seek to establish an Islamist society governed by their version of Islamic or Sharia law imposed by violence (Moghadam, 2008). Right-wing extremists may also subscribe to some radical interpretation of religion, but unlike those inspired by radical Islam, many extreme right adherents are not inspired by religious beliefs per se. Instead, what binds these actors is a racially, ethnically, and sexually defined nationalism, which is typically framed in terms of white power and grounded in xenophobic and exclusionary understandings of the perceived threats posed by such groups as non-whites, Jews,
Muslims, immigrants, homosexuals, and feminists. Here the state is perceived as an illegitimate power serving the interests of all but the white man and, as such, right-wing extremists are willing to assume both an offensive and defensive stance in the interests of “preserving” their heritage and their “homeland” (Perry & Scrivens, 2016). With regard to the chapter’s structuring, the following sections are ordered chronologically, treating, in turn, early low-tech communication methods or what we term ‘pre-media,’ followed by other relatively low-tech tools, such as print and photocopying. The high-tech tools reviewed
are film, radio, and television, followed by the Internet, especially social media.
Too Dark To See Explaining Adolescents Contact With Online Extremism And Their Ability To Recognize It
2019 Nienierza, A., Reinemann, C., Fawzi, N., Riesmeyer, C. and Neumann, K. Article
Adolescents are considered especially vulnerable to extremists’ online activities because they are ‘always online’ and because they are still in the process of identity formation. However, so far, we know little about (a) how often adolescents encounter extremist content in different online media and (b) how well they are able to recognize extremist messages. In addition, we do not know (c) how individual-level factors derived from radicalization research and (d) media and civic literacy affect extremist encounters and recognition abilities. We address these questions based on a representative face-to-face survey among German adolescents (n = 1,061) and qualitative interviews using a think-aloud method (n = 68). Results show that a large proportion of adolescents encounter extremist messages frequently, but that many others have trouble even identifying extremist content. In addition, factors known from radicalization research (e.g., deprivation, discrimination, specific attitudes) as well as extremism-related media and civic literacy influence the frequency of extremist encounters and recognition abilities.
“Yes, I can”: what is the role of perceived self-efficacy in violent online-radicalisation processes of “homegrown” terrorists?
2019 Schlegel, L. Article
Radicalisation is influenced by a multitude of factors such as situational, social and psychological factors, including social-cognitive processes. This article explores how homegrown extremists are influenced by their perceived agency and how the beliefs of their own abilities to change their situation are directly shaped by the online-propaganda they consume using ISIS propaganda as a case study. The article serves
as an exploratory analysis of the potential explanatory qualities of Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy. This preliminary theoretical work explores how online-propaganda seeks to increase perceived personal self-efficacy to inspire action. The findings indicate that an increased focus on agency beliefs may facilitate a more holistic understanding of the psycho-social processes influencing radicalization and factors driving certain individuals to perpetrate violence while others do not. More research needs to be conducted, but this work is a first exploratory step in advancing our understanding of self-efficacy beliefs in the radicalization of homegrown extremists.
Intersections of ISIS media leader loss and media campaign strategy A visual framing analysis
2019 Winkler, C., El-Damanhoury, K., Saleh, Z., Hendry, J. and El-Karhili, N. Article
The decision to target leaders of groups like ISIS to hamper their effectiveness has served as a longstanding principle of counterterrorism efforts. Yet, previous research suggests that any results may simply be temporary. Using insights from confiscated ISIS documents from Afghanistan to define the media leader roles that qualified for each level of the cascade, CTC (Combating Terrorism Center) records to identify media leaders who died, and a content analysis of all ISIS images displayed in the group’s Arabic weekly newsletter to identify the group’s visual framing strategies, this study assesses whether and how leader loss helps explain changes in the level and nature of the group’s visual output over time. ISIS’s quantity of output and visual framing strategies displayed significant changes before, during, and after media leader losses. The level of the killed leader within the group’s organizational hierarchy also corresponded to different changes in ISIS’s media framing
1 2 3 50