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 Comparative Analysis Of Right-wing Radical And Islamist Communities' Strategies For Survival In Social Networks - Evidence From Teh Russian Social Network Vkontakte
2019Myagkov, M., Shchekotin, E. V., Chudinov, S. I. and Goiko, Y. L.
This article presents a comparative analysis of online communities of right-wing radicals and Islamists, who are considered to be numerous and dangerous extremist groups in Russian society. The online communities were selected based on the content posted on the largest Russian social networking site VKontakte. The goal of this article is to determine the strategy and tactics employed by extremist online communities for survival on social networking sites. The authors discovered that both right-wing radical and Islamist groups employ similar behavioural techniques, with the mimicry of ideologically neutral content as the most common. In addition, every extremist community also applies some unique methods. For example, if there is a risk of being blocked, right-wing radicals tend to shift their activity and communication to the other Internet-based platforms that are not under state control; however, Islamists prefer to suddenly change the content of their communities (i.e. by using secondary mimicry).
Social Media Mechanisms For Right Wing Political Violence In The 21st Century Discursive Opportunities Group Dynamics And Co Ordination
2019Wahlstrom, M. & Tornberg, A.Article
This article maps mechanisms by which online social media activities may contribute to right-wing political violence. High-impact studies on the wave of right-wing and racist violence in the 1990s and early 2000s established that mass media discourse on immigrants and previous violent incidents had a significant influence on the prevalence of radical right violence. This link was captured by Koopmans's and Olzak’s notion of discursive opportunities. However, this was before the dominance of online social networks and social media, which changed the media landscape radically. We argue for broadening and refining the operationalization of the concept of discursive opportunities in social movement studies as well as including in our theoretical models new mechanisms brought about by the new online media. In relation to radical right and anti-immigrant mobilizations in Sweden in the 2010s, we elaborate and exemplify three mechanisms through which activities on social media may affect the incidence of violence: a) having an increasingly co-produced discursive opportunity structure, b) making inter-group dynamics in movement groups and networks trans-local, and c) sharing (rare) practical information and co-ordinating activities.
Do Internet Searches for Islamist Propaganda Precede or Follow Islamist Terrorist Attacks?
2019Enomoto, C. E. and Douglas, K.Article
Using a Vector-Autoregressive (VAR) model, this paper analyzes the relationship between Islamist terrorist attacks and Internet searches for the phrases such as "join Jihad" or "join ISIS." It was found that Internet searches for "join Jihad" and "taghut" (Arabic word meaning "to rebel") preceded the Islamist terrorist attacks by three weeks over the period January 2014 to December 2016. Internet searches for "kufar" (the derogatory Arabic word for non-Muslims) preceded the attacks that resulted in deaths from the Islamist terrorist groups. Casualties, including those injured and killed by the Islamist groups, were also found to precede Internet searches for "join Jihad" and "ISIS websites." Countermeasures to the usage of social media for terrorist activity are also discussed. As an example, if Internet searches for specific terms can be identified that precede a terrorist attack, authorities can be on alert to possibly stop an impending attack. Chat rooms and online discussion groups can also be used to disseminate information to argue against terrorist propaganda that is being released.
Halting Boko Haram Islamic State's West Africa Province Propaganda In Cyberspace With Cybersecurity Technologies
2019Ogunlana, S. O.Article
Terrorists use cyberspace and social media technology to create fear and spread violent ideologies, which pose a significant threat to public security. Researchers have documented the importance of the application of law and regulation in dealing with the criminal activities in cyberspace. Using routine activity theory, this article assessed the effectiveness of technological approaches to mitigating the expansion and organization of terrorism in cyberspace. Data collection included open-source documents, government threat
assessments, legislation, policy papers, and peer-reviewed academic literature and semistructured interviews with fifteen security experts in Nigeria. The key findings were that the new generation of terrorists who are more technological savvy are growing, cybersecurity
technologies are effective, and bilateral/multilateral cooperation is essential to combat the expansion of terrorism in cyberspace. The data provided may be useful to stakeholders responsible for national security, counterterrorism, law enforcement on the choice of cybersecurity technologies to confront terrorist expansion in cyberspace
Platform Surveillance
2019Murakami Wood, D. and Monahan, T.Journal
This special responsive issue on “Platform Surveillance” critically assesses the surveillance dimensions and politics of large-scale digital platforms. The issue includes an editorial introduction to the topic and its implications, dozens of articles on specific platforms or platform trends, three book reviews of Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, and an interview with Zuboff about her work.
ISIS at Its Apogee: The Arabic Discourse on Twitter and What We Can Learn From That About ISIS Support and Foreign Fighters
2019Ceron, A., Curini, L. and Iacus, S. M.Article
We analyze 26.2 million comments published in Arabic language on Twitter, from July 2014 to January 2015, when Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)’s strength reached its peak and the group was prominently expanding the territorial area under its control. By doing that, we are able to measure the share of support and aversion toward the Islamic State within the online Arab communities. We then investigate two specific topics. First, by exploiting the time granularity of the tweets, we link the opinions with daily events to understand the main determinants of the changing trend in support toward ISIS. Second, by taking advantage of the geographical locations of tweets, we explore the relationship between online opinions across countries and the number of foreign fighters joining ISIS.
Feature extraction and selection for automatic hate speech detection on Twitter
2019Routar de Sousa, J. G.MA Thesis
In recent decades, information technology went through an explosive evolution, revolutionizing the way communication takes place, on the one hand enabling the rapid, easy and almost costless digital interaction, but, on the other, easing the adoption of more aggressive communication styles. It is crucial to regulate and attenuate these behaviors, especially in the digital context, where these emerge at a fast and uncontrollable pace and often cause severe damage to the targets. Social networks and other entities tend to channel their efforts into minimizing hate speech, but the way each one handles the issue varies. Thus, in this thesis, we investigate the problem of hate speech detection in social networks, focusing directly on Twitter. Our first goal was to conduct a systematic literature review of the topic, targeting mostly theoretical and practical approaches. We exhaustively collected and critically summarized mostly recent literature addressing the topic, highlighting popular definitions of hate, common targets and different manifestations of such behaviors. Most perspectives tackle the problem by adopting machine learning approaches, focusing mostly on text mining and natural language processing techniques, on Twitter. Other authors present novel features addressing the users themselves. Although most recent approaches target Twitter, we noticed there were few tools available that would address this social network platform or tweets in particular, considering their informal and specific syntax. Thus, our second goal was to develop a tokenizer able to split tweets into their corresponding tokens, taking into account all their particularities. We performed two binary hate identification experiments, having achieved the best f-score in one of them using our tokenizer. We used our tool in the experiments conducted in the following chapters. As our third goal, we proposed to assess which text-based features and preprocessing techniques would produce the best results in hate speech detection. During our literature review, we collected the most common preprocessing, sentiment and vectorization features and extracted the ones we found suitable for Twitter in particular. We concluded that preprocessing the data is crucial to reduce its dimensionality, which is often a problem in small datasets. Additionally, the f-score also improved. Furthermore, analyzing the tweets’ semantics and extracting their character n-grams were the tested features that better improved the detection of hate, enhancing the f-score by 1.5% and the hate recall by almost 5% on unseen testing data. On the other hand, analyzing the tweets’ sentiment didn’t prove to be helpful. Our final goal derived from a lack of user-based features in the literature. Thus, we investigated a set of features based on profiling Twitter users, focusing on several aspects, such as the gender of authors and mentioned users, their tendency towards hateful behaviors and other characteristics related to their accounts (e.g. number of friends and followers). For each user, we also generated an ego network, and computed graph-related statistics (e.g. centrality, homophily), achieving significant improvements - f-score and hate recall increased by 5.7% and 7%, respectively.
Techniques for analyzing digital environments from a security perspective
2019Shrestha, A.PhD Thesis
The development of the Internet and social media has exploded in the last couple of years. Digital environments such as social media and discussion forums provide an effective method of communication and are used by various groups in our societies.  For example, violent extremist groups use social media platforms for recruiting, training, and communicating with their followers, supporters, and donors. Analyzing social media is an important task for law enforcement agencies in order to detect activity and individuals that might pose a threat towards the security of the society.

In this thesis, a set of different technologies that can be used to analyze digital environments from a security perspective are presented. Due to the nature of the problems that are studied, the research is interdisciplinary, and knowledge from terrorism research, psychology, and computer science are required. The research is divided into three different themes. Each theme summarizes the research that has been done in a specific area.

The first theme focuses on analyzing digital environments and phenomena. The theme consists of three different studies. The first study is about the possibilities to detect propaganda from the Islamic State on Twitter.  The second study focuses on identifying references to a narrative containing xenophobic and conspiratorial stereotypes in alternative immigration critic media. In the third study, we have defined a set of linguistic features that we view as markers of a radicalization.

A group consists of a set of individuals, and in some cases, individuals might be a threat towards the security of the society.  The second theme focuses on the risk assessment of individuals based on their written communication. We use different technologies including machine learning to experiment the possibilities to detect potential lone offenders.  Our risk assessment approach is implemented in the tool PRAT (Profile Risk Assessment Tool).

Internet users have the ability to use different aliases when they communicate since it offers a degree of anonymity. In the third theme, we present a set of techniques that can be used to identify users with multiple aliases. Our research focuses on solving two different problems: author identification and alias matching. The technologies that we use are based on the idea that each author has a fairly unique writing style and that we can construct a writeprint that represents the author. In a similar manner,  we also use information about when a user communicates to create a timeprint. By combining the writeprint and the timeprint, we can obtain a set of powerful features that can be used to identify users with multiple aliases.

To ensure that the technologies can be used in real scenarios, we have implemented and tested the techniques on data from social media. Several of the results are promising, but more studies are needed to determine how well they work in reality.
Detection Of Jihadism In Social Networks Using Big Data
2019Rebollo, C. S., Puente, C., Palacios, R., Piriz, C., Fuentes, J. P. and Jarauta, J.Article
Social networks are being used by terrorist organizations to distribute messages with the intention of influencing people and recruiting new members. The research presented in this paper focuses on the analysis of Twitter messages to detect the leaders orchestrating terrorist networks and their followers. A big data architecture is proposed to analyze messages in real time in order to classify users according to diferent parameters like level of activity, the ability to infuence other users, and the contents of their messages. Graphs have been used to analyze how the messages propagate through the network, and this involves a study of the followers based on retweets and general impact on other users. Ten, fuzzy clustering techniques were used to classify users in profiles, with the advantage over other classifcations techniques of providing a probability for each profile instead of a binary categorization. Algorithms were tested using public database from Kaggle and other Twitter extraction techniques. The resulting profiles detected automatically by the system were manually analyzed, and the parameters that describe each profile correspond to the type of information that any expert may expect. Future applications are not limited to detecting terrorist activism. Human resources departments can apply the power of profle identification to automatically classify candidates, security teams can detect undesirable clients in the financial or insurance sectors, and immigration officers can extract additional insights with these
techniques.
Cyberhate: A review and content analysis of intervention strategies
2019Blaya, C.Article
This paper presents a review of intervention programmes against cyberhate. Over the last decade, the preoccupation over the use of electronic means of communication as a tool to convey hate, racist and xenophobic contents rose tremendously. NGOs, legal professionals, private companies, and civil society have developed interventions but little is known about their impact. For this review we followed the method and protocol from the guidelines from the Cochrane Collaboration Handbook for Systematic Reviews and the Campbell Collaboration Crime and Justice guidelines. The review identified three key intervention areas: law, technology and education through the empowerment of the individuals under the form of counter-speech. No specific intervention towards aggressors was found and most projects focus on prevention or victims through confidence building and skills learning to speak out, report and potentially react in an appropriate way. We did not find any rigorously assessed interventions, which highlights a gap in research and stresses the need for this type of studies. The evaluation of effectiveness of interventions needs to be included in the near future research agenda. Up to now, although intentions are good, we have no evidence that the steps that are undertaken are effective in preventing and reducing cyberhate.
Addressing the New Landscape of Terrorism: Towards Formulating Actionable Response
2019Andre, V.Report
This report presents the key findings from the second international conference “Addressing the New Landscape of Terrorism: Towards Formulating Actionable Response” which was held in Bangkok, Thailand on 24-28 July 2017. Sixty-five delegates presented at the conference. Uniquely, for such a conference, the speakers were academics, front line practitioners, social and community actors, government officials and youth drawn from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sweden, Thailand, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Other attendees included representatives from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission of Thailand, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Security Council of Thailand, the Royal Thai Police, the Thai Ministry of Defense and various security agencies in Thailand, the UNODC, the Delegation of the European Union to Thailand, the Australian Embassy in Thailand, the United States of America Embassy in Thailand, the French Embassy in Thailand and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium. This report provides summaries of each of the presentations that were delivered at the conference, before drawing out the key themes, which emerged and policy recommendations.
Media Persuasian in the Islamic State
2019Krishan Aggarwal, N.Book
Since the declaration of the War on Terror in 2001, militant groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have used the internet to disseminate their message and persuade people to commit violence. While many books have studied their operational strategies and battlefield tactics, Media Persuasion in the Islamic State is the first to analyze the culture and psychology of militant persuasion.

Drawing upon decades of research in cultural psychiatry, cultural psychology, and psychiatric anthropology, Neil Krishan Aggarwal investigates how the Islamic State has convinced people to engage in violence since its founding in 2003. Through analysis of hundreds of articles, speeches, videos, songs, and bureaucratic documents in English and Arabic, the book traces how the jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi created a new culture and psychology, one that would pit Sunni Muslims against all others after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Aggarwal tracks how Osama bin Laden and al-Zarqawi disagreed over the goal of militancy in jihad before reaching a détente in 2004 and how al-Qaeda in Iraq merged with five other groups to diffuse its militant cultural identity in 2006 before taking advantage of the Syrian civil war to emerge as the Islamic State. Aggarwal offers a definitive analysis of how culture is created, debated, and disseminated within militant organizations like the Islamic State. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and area-studies experts will find a comprehensive, systematic method for analyzing culture and psychology so they can partner with political scientists, policy makers, and counterterrorism experts in crafting counter-messaging strategies against militants.
Dealing with the dark side: The effects of right-wing extremist and Islamist extremist propaganda from a social identity perspective
2019Rieger, D., Frischlich, L. and Bente, G.Article
Right-wing extremists and Islamist extremists try to recruit new followers by addressing their national (for instance, German) or religious (Muslim) social identity via online propaganda videos. Two studies examined whether capitalizing on a shared group-membership affects the emotional and cognitive response towards extremist propaganda. In both studies, Germans/non-migrants, Muslim migrants and control participants (N = 235) were confronted with right-wing extremist and Islamist extremist videos. Emotional and cognitive effects of students (Study 1) and apprentices (Study 2) were assessed. Results showed a general negative evaluation of extremist videos. More relevant, in-group propaganda led to more emotional costs in both studies. Yet, the responses varied depending on educational level: students reported more negative emotions and cognitions after in-group directed videos, while apprentices reported more positive emotions and cognitions after in-group directed propaganda. Results are discussed considering negative social identities.
Violent Extremism and Terrorism Online in 2018: The Year in Review
2019Conway, M.VOX-Pol Publication
This report treats developments in the violent extremist and terrorist online scene(s) in the 12-month period from 1 December 2017 to 30 November 2018.1 It is divided into three parts: Part I focuses on the online activities of violent jihadis, particularly the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (hereafter IS); Part II supplies information on contemporary extreme right online activity; and Part III identifies issues in the violent extremism and terrorism online realm that bear watching in 2019.

In terms of overarching trends, the focus of policymakers, internet companies, media, and thus also publics has, since 2014, been almost exclusively on IS’s online activity. A growing concern with extreme right activity, both its online and offline variants, began to be apparent in 2017 however, especially in the wake of events in Charlottesville. This solidified in 2018 due to a number of factors, including a decrease in IS terrorist attacks in the West and an uptick in extreme right and hate attacks and terrorist events, a number of the latter of which appeared to have significant online components. Having said this, IS is still active on the ground in numerous locales globally and continues to produce and widely disseminate online content, as do a large number of other groups that share core tenets of its ideology. IS may be down therefore, but it is certainly not out.
Organised and Ambient Digital Racism: Multidirectional Flows in the Irish Digital Sphere
2019Siapera, E.Article
This article is concerned with the distinction between acceptable race talk in social media and organised, extreme or ‘frozen’ racism which is considered hate speech and removed. While in the literature this distinction is used to point to different variants, styles and mutations of racism, in social media platforms and in European regulatory frameworks it becomes policy. The empirical part of the article considers this distinction drawing upon a series of posts following a stabbing incident in a small Irish town, which organised Twitter accounts sought to connect to terrorism. The empirical analysis examines the tweets of those accounts and the comments left on the Facebook page and website of one of the main Irish online news outlets. The analysis shows few if any differences between the two, concluding that there is a blending of supremacist and everyday, ambient racist discourses. This blending indicates the operation of a transnational contagion, given the shared vocabularies and discourses. It further problematises the distinction between ‘illegal hate speech’ and ‘acceptable race talk’, and throws into question the principle underlying both the policies of social media as well as the European efforts to de-toxify the digital public sphere.
Public–Private Collaboration to Counter the Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes: What Can be Learnt from Efforts on Terrorist Financing?
2019Keen, F.Article
Notwithstanding inherent differences between the counterterrorist financing regime and the regulatory regime governing communication service providers, there are clear benefits in taking lessons learnt from longstanding efforts on terrorist financing into account when developing a response to the online terrorist threat.

Policy Recommendations



  • Lawmakers developing a regulatory regime for communication service providers (CSPs) should engage with their counterparts involved in the response to terrorist financing to understand potential unintended consequences of this regime, including counterproductive incentives, risk displacement and other factors identified in this paper.

  • Regulations should be developed with input from the CSP sector, to avoid counterproductive measures such as over-reporting, a tick-box approach to compliance, and discrimination against smaller entities that may have fewer resources to commit to regulatory compliance.

  • As a complement to regulations, policymakers and CSPs should identify all areas in which public–private collaboration could strengthen the response to the terrorist use of online communication services (including but not limited to the removal of terrorist content).

  • The various areas for collaboration should be articulated in a comprehensive strategy clarifying their role relative to overarching counterterrorism objectives and distinguishing between different threat actors.

  • When developing and implementing collaborative models (including existing partnerships), public and private partners should consider the following factors: (1) legal and practical gateways for sharing information; (2) flexible membership; (3) transparency and accountability; (4) voluntary nature; (5) clear relationship with regulatory framework.

  • Information sharing should initially focus on the sharing of common and emerging trends, best practices and redacted case studies, as opposed to sharing operational information. This will allow members from multiple jurisdictions to participate while ensuring that legal barriers to information sharing are not breached.

Immigrant, Nationalist And Proud A Twitter Analysis Of Indian Diaspora Supporters For Brexit And Trump
2019Leidig, E. C.Article
The Brexit referendum to leave the EU and Trump’s success in the US general election in 2016 sparked new waves of discussion on nativism, nationalism, and the far right. Within these analyses, however, very little attention has been devoted towards exploring the transnational ideological circulation of Islamophobia and anti-establishment sentiment, especially amongst diaspora and migrant networks. This article thus explores the role of the Indian diaspora as mediators in populist radical right discourse in the West. During the Brexit referendum and Trump’s election and presidency, a number of Indian diaspora voices took to Twitter to express pro-Brexit and pro-Trump views. This article presents a year-long qualitative study of these users. It highlights how these diasporic Indians interact and engage on Twitter in order to signal belonging on multiple levels: as individuals, as an imaginary collective non-Muslim diaspora, and as members of (populist radical right) Twitter society. By analysing these users’ social media performativity, we obtain insight into how social media spaces may help construct ethnic and (trans)national identities according to boundaries of inclusion/exclusion. This article demonstrates how some Indian diaspora individuals are embedded into exclusivist national political agendas of the populist radical right in Western societies.
Flashback as a Rhetorical Online Battleground: Debating the (Dis)guise of the Nordic Resistance Movement
2019Blomberg, H.Article
The right-wing Swedish Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) is increasingly active on social media. Using discursive psychology, this text explores the rhetorical organization of text and rhetorical resources used on the Swedish online forum Flashback. The aim is to reveal and problematize truth claims about NRM made by antagonists and protagonists. Questions are (1) how and what do NRM antagonists and protagonists convey in Flashback posts about NRM, and its ideology and members? (2) how do NRM antagonists and protagonists make truth claims about NRM in Flashback posts? The empirical material consisting of 1546 Flashback posts analyzed to identify typical discussions on “NMR’s true nature”; accomplished social actions stemming from the posts. Findings show that the Flashback thread can be understood as being a rhetorical battle that concerns the “truth” about NRM, where a variety of rhetorical resources are used to render statements credibility and those involved legitimacy.
Making Sense of Jihadi Stratcom: The Case of the Islamic State
2019Winter, C.Article
This article explores why jihadis make propaganda. Through the analytical lens of Bockstette’s 2008 framework for jihadi communication strategies, it assesses two of the Islamic State’s most important doctrinal texts on media jihad—the first, a little-known speech by Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir that was published posthumously in 2010, and the second, a field-guide prepared by the Islamic State’s official publishing house, the Himmah Library, in 2015. After drawing out the core insights, similarities and presuppositions of each text, it discusses the enduring salience of Bockstette’s model on the one hand and these two texts on the other, noting that, while it is imprudent to make policy predictions based on them alone, so too would it be remiss to ignore the strategic insights they contain.
Online Radicalization Of White Women To Organized White Supremacy
2019Badalich, S.MA Thesis
Since its early mainstream adoption in the 1990s, the Internet has been leveraged by white supremacist groups to recruit and radicalize individuals. Twenty years later, social media platforms, like YouTube, reddit, and Twitter, continue to further this practice. The attention of researchers has been primarily centered on white supremacist men, and this focus on white men erases white women’s roles as active agents in the spread of white supremacy, skewing our understanding of white supremacy as a whole. This study used digital ethnography and interviews to examine the ways white women are radicalized to organized white supremacy through popular social media platforms YouTube, reddit, and Twitter. The study found white women were radicalized by engaging with posts and joining communities focusing on beauty, anti-feminism or “The Red Pill,” traditionalist gender values or #TradLives, and alt-right politics. White supremacist recruiters leveraged gendered topics and weaponized platform features – likes, sharing, comments, recommendation algorithms, etc. – to cultivate a sense of community. Through involvement with these communities, women were introduced to racialized perspectives on each topic, usually after a catalytic pop culture or newsworthy event, and slowly radicalized to organized white supremacy.
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