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
Motivational Imbalance in Jihadi Online Recruitment
2021 Weimann, G. Chapter
The Internet and online platforms have become a useful instrument for modern terrorists’ recruitment. Numerous studies explored the online recruitment of Jihadi groups and especially of the Islamic State (ISIS) that managed to recruit over 40,000 fighters from as many as 90 countries. Yet, these studies, focusing mainly on the online platforms and the appeals used, lacked a theoretical framework that can serve the search for the factors explaining process and its success. In this chapter we suggest that the notion of motivational imbalance as a key persuasive appeal in terrorist online recruitment can provide the needed psychological theoretical concept to explain their recruitment strategy. To do so, we examine terrorist online recruitment and its features (stages, type of messages, content of the messages, characteristics of the targets) and relate it to the notion of motivational imbalance. Then we explore the trend of ‘narrowcasting’ (focusing persuasive communication on selected target audiences) and how well it combines with motivational imbalance in the process of recruitment by terrorist groups. Finally, we demonstrate how motivational imbalance has been used in recent Jihadi recruitment campaigns. The evidence presented comes from the contents of recruitment campaigns as well as from the testimonies of recruits.
September 11 Conspiracies: 20 Years Later
2021 The Simon Wiesenthal Center Report
This report will outline some of the ways social media continues to be exploited 20 years on to promote misinformation, as well as conspiracies that advance bigoted and prejudiced beliefs and ideologies, especially anti-Semitism.
Facebook's policies against extremism: Ten years of struggle for more transparency
2021 Bouko, C., Van Ostaeyen, P. and Voué, P. Article
For years, social media, including Facebook, have been criticized for lacking transparency in their community standards, especially in terms of extremist content. Yet, moderation is not an easy task, especially when extreme-right actors use content strategies that shift the Overton window (i.e., the range of ideas acceptable in public discourse) rightward. In a self-proclaimed search of more transparency, Facebook created its Transparency Center in May 2021. It also has regularly updated its community standards, and Facebook Oversight Board has reviewed these standards based on concrete cases, published since January 2021. In this paper, we highlight how some longstanding issues regarding Facebook’s lack of transparency still remain unaddressed in Facebook’s 2021 community standards, mainly in terms of the visual ‘representation’ of and endorsement from dangerous organizations and individuals. Furthermore, we also reveal how the Board’s no-access to Facebook’s in-house rules exemplifies how the longstanding discrepancy between the public and the confidential levels of Facebook policies remains a current issue that might turn the Board’s work into a mere PR effort. In seeming to take as many steps toward shielding some information as it has toward exposing others to the sunshine, Facebook’s efforts might turn out to be transparency theater.
Gaming and Extremism: The Extreme Right on Twitch
2021 O’Connor, C. Report
This briefing is part of ISD’s Gaming and Extremism Series exploring the role online gaming plays in the strategy of far-right extremists in the UK and globally. This is part of a broader programme on the ‘Future of Extremism’ being delivered by ISD in the second half of 2021, charting the transformational shifts in the extremist threat landscape two decades on from 9/11, and the policy strategies required to counter the next generation of extremist threats. It provides a snapshot overview of the extreme right’s use of Twitch.
Selling terror: a multidimensional analysis of the Islamic State’s recruitment propaganda
2021 N. Johnston Article
The Islamic State (ISIS) early became infamous for its broadcasts of extreme violence. However, within months, the group’s initially dominant images of combat and executions had been subsumed into a broader propaganda platform more focused on state-building and community engagement. Drawing on a close reading of Abu Bakr Naji’s Management of Savagery, this article conceptualises three dominant themes within ISIS’ recruitment propaganda—violence, state and caliphate—and analyses their development and presentation over time. Employing a recruitment model adapted from Prochaska and DiClemente’s theory of behavioural change, it finds that ISIS developed a multidimensional propaganda platform, undergoing both broad thematic and structural evolution, which democratised the appeal of its jihad to cohorts who would otherwise be uninspired by extremist violence. ‘Technological coding’—the selective publication of thematic content by broadcast format—is proposed as a means by which ISIS was able to sustain binary violent and non-violent identities, and its function in the group’s propaganda machine is explored in depth. In the wake of ISIS’ territorial defeat, understanding the logic and effectiveness of its recruitment methodology is essential in preventing its resurgence or the rise of a newer organisation seeking to take its place.
Gaming and Extremism: The Extreme Right on DLive
2021 Thomas, E. Report
This briefing is part of ISD’s Gaming and Extremism Series exploring the role online gaming plays in the strategy of far-right extremists in the UK and globally. This is part of a broader programme on the ‘Future of Extremism’ being delivered by ISD in the second half of 2021, charting the transformational shifts in the extremist threat landscape two decades on from 9/11, and the policy strategies required to counter the next generation of extremist threats. This section focuses on providing a snapshot overview of the extreme right’s use of DLive.
Hatescape: An In-Depth Analysis of Extremism and Hate Speech on TikTok
2021 O’Connor, C. Report
This report aims to provide an in-depth analysis on the state of extremism and hate on TikTok. It is the culmination of three months of research on a sample of 1,030 videos, equivalent to just over eight hours of content, posted on the social media platform. These videos were used to promote hatred, as well as glorify extremism and terrorism.

ISD set out to examine the state of hate and extremism on TikTok in two ways. The first objective involved analysing how individuals or groups promote hateful ideologies and target people on the platform based on numerous protected attributes such as ethnicity, religion, gender or others. Second, using the same framework, ISD investigated how features on TikTok like profiles, hashtags, share functions, video effects and music are used to spread hate.

This report seeks to start a conversation around how platforms like TikTok can improve their own practices to protect users from harm. Additionally, it underscores the clear need for independent oversight of such platforms, which currently leave users and the wider public open to significant risks to their health, security and rights.
Gaming and Extremism: The Extreme Right on Discord
2021 Gallagher, A., O’Connor, C., Vaux, P., Thomas, E. and Davey, J. Report
This briefing is part of ISD’s Gaming and Extremism Series exploring the role online gaming plays in the strategy of far-right extremists in the UK and globally. This is part of a broader programme on the ‘Future of Extremism’ being delivered by ISD in the second half of 2021, charting the transformational shifts in the extremist threat landscape two decades on from 9/11, and the policy strategies required to counter the next generation of extremist threats. It provides a snapshot overview of the extreme right’s use of Discord.
A Computational Approach to Explore Extremist Ideologies in Daesh Discourse
2021 Khafaga, A.F. Article
This paper uses a computer-based frequency analysis to present an ideological discourse analysis of extremist ideologies in Daesh discourse. More specifically, by using a computer-assisted text analysis, the paper attempts to investigate the hidden extremist ideologies beyond the discourse of the first issue of Rumiyah, one of the main digital publications of Daesh. The paper’s main objectives are to expose hidden ideologies beyond the mere linguistic form of discourse, to offer better linguistic understanding of the manipulative use of language in religious discourse, and to highlight the relevance of using a computer-based frequency analysis to discourse studies and corpus linguistics. The paper also employs van Dijk's ideological discourse analysis, by adopting his positive self-presentation and negative other-presentation strategies. Findings reveal that Daesh discourse in Rumiyah is rhetorically structured to hide the manipulative ideologies of its users, which in turn functions to reformulate the social, political and religious attitudes of its readers.
Online Jihadist Propaganda: 2020 in Review
2021 Europol Report
The third edition of Europol’s annual report on Online Jihadist Propaganda provides a comprehensive analysis of the major trends and developments in online propaganda of the most prominent jihadist organisations for the year 2020.
The personality and propaganda puzzle: Exploring the effect of personality on exposure to extremist content online
2021 Shortland, N. and McGarry, P. Article
Objective: This paper applies Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory to explain the role of exposure to violent extremist content online in the wider psychological process of “radicalization.” Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory is a suitable theory to apply to this domain given that (a) the motivation to engage in violent extremism is widely discussed, yet motivational theories are rarely applied and (b) current risk factors for engagement in violent extremist behavior show a high degree of overlap with core Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory variables (e.g., impulsivity and social dominance). Method: This study uses an experimental design in which 479 participants from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk were randomly assigned one of two short vignettes (violent extremist/violent nonextremist) to frame the content of a social media-based behavioral task. The effect of exposure to violent extremist content online on intentions for political mobilization was measured via the Activism and Radicalism Intentions Scale. Results: While exposure to online violent extremist content did not increase tendencies for political mobilization, Behavioral Activation System traits were positively associated with the willingness to engage with violent extremist content online and with intentions for political mobilization. Conclusions: Behavioral Activation System traits provide a possible avenue to explain individual differences in the process of radicalization and the potential relevance of Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory for theories of radicalization provides further evidence that new knowledge that can be gleaned by applying established psychological theories to the study of radicalization.
Gaming and Extremism: The Extreme Right on Steam
2021 Vaux, P., Gallagher, A. and Davey, J. Report
This briefing is part of ISD’s Gaming and Extremism Series exploring the role online gaming plays in the strategy of far-right extremists in the UK and globally. This is part of a broader programme on the “Future of Extremism” being delivered by ISD in the second half of 2021, charting the transformational shifts in the extremist threat landscape two decades on from 9/11, and the policy strategies required to counter the next generation of extremist threats. It provides a snapshot overview of the extreme right’s use of Steam.
Gamers Who Hate: An Introduction to ISD’s Gaming and Extremism Series
2021 Davey, J. Report
This briefing is the first in ISD’s Gaming and Extremism Series exploring the role online gaming plays in the strategy of far-right extremists in the UK and around the world. This is part of a broader programme on the “Future of Extremism” being delivered by ISD in the second half of 2021, charting the transformational shifts in the extremist threat landscape two decades since 9/11, and the policy strategies required to counter the next generation of extremist threats. The series will include reports exploring extremist activity on four gaming-related platforms: Steam, Discord, DLive and Twitch.
Topologies and Tribulations of Gettr
2021 Thiel, D. and McCain, M. Report
On July 1, 2021, a new social network modeled after Twitter was launched by former Trump spokesman Jason Miller, with assistance and promotion by exiled Chinese businessman Miles Guo, form Trump strategist Steve Bannon, and others. Today, the Stanford Internet Observatory is releasing the first comprehensive analysis of the new platform. We chart the growth of Gettr over its first month, examining the user community, content, structure and dynamics. We also highlight some of the perils of launching such a network without trust and safety measures in place: the proliferation of gratuitous adult content, spam and, unfortunately, child exploitation imagery, all of which could be caught by cursory automated scanning systems.
Social media corporations as actors of counter-terrorism
2021 Borelli, M. Article
This article discusses the role of giant social media corporations Facebook, Google (YouTube), and Twitter in counter-terrorism and countering violent extremisms (CT/CVEs). Based on a qualitative investigation mobilizing corporate communications as well as a collection of interviews with European stakeholders, it argues that these firms have become actors in this policy area of what is traditionally considered high politics, through their fundamental role in establishing and enforcing the nascent global governance regime on terrorist communications. Since the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the studied firms have displayed agency and creativity in their appropriation of this new responsibility, effectively going beyond what was legally required of them. After contextualizing and questioning their involvement, motivated by terrorist exploitation of their services, reputational pressure and the threat of legislation, the article provides an analysis of the firms’ self-regulated commitment to CT/CVE through policymaking, content moderation, human resources, and private multilateralism.
The Online Intersection among Islamophobia, Populism, and Hate Speech: An Italian Perspective
2021 Vitullo, A. Article
Online radical Islam is a topic widely studied by scholars and notoriously discussed among non- experts as well (; ; ). Because of its intrinsic characteristics (i.e. accessibility, anonymity, or users’ identity dissimulation), the internet has always been a useful tool for propagandists of Islamic fundamentalism (; ; ). However, in the last decade, studies have questioned the real importance and magnitude of Islamic radicalization online (). In fact, while scholars were focused on observing digital Islamic radicalization, a galaxy of new forms of extremism was growing online (; ) that no longer made Islam an exceptional case study. Today, Muslim people are one of the groups most aggressively targeted by extremist, intolerant, violent, and radical discourses (; Amnesty International, ). Anti-Muslim hate speech has spread online throughout Europe and the United States, reinforced by the propaganda and political discourse of populist right-wing parties (; ). This paper introduces some large-scale action-research projects developed in Europe and Italy in the last three years (2016–2019) and aims to reconstruct the most updated Islamophobia state of the art in terms of numbers, characteristics, and phenomenology from the offline to the online context.
Salafist Third Spaces and Hybridic Purity on YouTube
2021 Stadlbauer, S. Article
This case study applies aspects of third space theory (; ) to investigate the activism on the YouTube channel Salafimedia UK (smuk) and their claim to be the self-proscribed “truest” and “purest” Islamic sect. This chapter introduces the somewhat paradoxical concept of “hybridic purity” – an emerging ideology that seeks to encompass pre-modern Islamic practices of the salaf (“predecessors” or first generations of Muslims) as the purest form of Islam (see also ); modern values of individuality and reliance on the “self”; the affordances of the YouTube channel; and resistance to present-day Western cultural and political values, especially those of the United Kingdom (UK), as well as to the UK government’s censorship and bans of Salafist movements. This hybridic purity becomes authoritative as it compels YouTube audience members to take responsibility for their own growth and activism as pious Salafists.
Online Group Dynamics Reveal New Gel Science
2021 Manrique PD, Oud SE, Johnson NF. Article
A better understanding of how support evolves online for undesirable behaviors such as extremism and hate, could help mitigate future harms. Here we show how the highly irregular growth curves of groups supporting two high-profile extremism movements, can be accurately described if we generalize existing gelation models to account for the facts that the number of potential recruits is timedependent and humans are heterogeneous. This leads to a novel generalized Burgers equation that describes these groups’ temporal evolution, and predicts a critical influx rate for potential recruits beyond which such groups will not form. Our findings offer a new approach to managing undesirable groups online – and more broadly, managing the sudden appearance and growth of large macroscopic aggregates in a complex system – by manipulating their onset and engineering their growth curves.
Examining the interactive effects of the filter bubble and the echo chamber on radicalization
2021 Wolfowicz, M., Weisburd, D. and Hasisi, B. Article
Objectives
Despite popular notions of “filter bubbles” and “echo chambers” contributing to radicalization, little evidence exists to support these hypotheses. However, social structure social learning theory would suggest a hereto untested interaction effect.
Methodology
An RCT of new Twitter users in which participants were randomly assigned to a treatment of “filter bubble” (personalization algorithm) suppression. Ego-centric network and survey data were combined to test the effects on justification for suicide bombings.
Findings
Statistically significant interaction effects were found for two proxies of the echo chamber, the E-I index and modularity. For the treatment group, higher scores on both factors decreased the likelihood for radicalization, with opposing trends in the control group.
Conclusions
The echo chamber effect may be dependent on the filter bubble. More research is needed on online network structures in radicalization. While personalization algorithms can potentially be harmful, they may also be leveraged to facilitate interventions.
The Fission of the Forbidden: The Popularity of Video Content in an Online Right-Wing Extremist Environment
2021 Waldek, L. Article
Video platforms such as YouTube provide an environment where the blurred duality between content dissemination and creation facilitates the generation of social networks. Research into online violent extremist environments has often noted the prominence of video-sharing platforms as a means of distributing propaganda and cultivating social networks for purposes of recruitment. This paper draws from the study of emotion to examine three videos and associated comments that had high engagement, understood as the frequency of interactions, likes/upvotes and reposts in a given social network, in a right-wing extremist online milieu. This analysis highlights the important role emotions play in generating social connectedness and ultimately engagement and recruitment into online right-wing extremist milieus. Understanding the significance of emotions in online violent extremist video content can help to identify opportunities for moderation and/or the construction of alternative narratives.
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