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.
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We will continue to add more material as it becomes available with the aim of making it the most comprehensive online Library in this field.
If you have any material you think belongs in the Library—whether your own or another authors—please contact us at email@example.com and we will consider adding it to the Library. It is also our aim to make the Library a truly inclusive multilingual facility and we thus welcome contributions in all languages.
Addressing the New Landscape of Terrorism: Towards Formulating Actionable Response
Visual Jihad: Constructing the “Good Muslim” in Online Jihadist Magazines
Expressing and Challenging Racist Discourse on Facebook: How Social Media Weaken the “Spiral of Silence” Theory
Social Media Mechanisms for Right-Wing Political Violence in the 21st Century: Discursive Opportunities, Group Dynamics, and Co-Ordination
|2019||Wahlstrom, 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.|
|2019||Murakami Wood, D. and Monahan, T.||Article|
|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
|2019||Ceron, 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
|2019||Routar 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.|
Detection Of Jihadism In Social Networks Using Big Data
|2019||Rebollo, 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|
Cyberhate: A review and content analysis of intervention strategies
|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
|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
|2019||Krishan 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
|2019||Rieger, 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
|2019||Conway, 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
|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?
|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.|
Immigrant, Nationalist And Proud A Twitter Analysis Of Indian Diaspora Supporters For Brexit And Trump
|2019||Leidig, 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.|
Making Sense of Jihadi Stratcom: The Case of the Islamic State
|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.|
From Directorate of Intelligence to Directorate of Everything: The Islamic State’s Emergent Amni-Media Nexus
|2019||Almohammad, A. and Winter, C.||Article|
|This article, which is based on original interview data gathered from eastern Syria between January and October 2018, examines the emergent dominance of the Islamic State’s Directorate of General Security (DGS). We track how this institution, which is currently operating through a network of diwan-specific security offices grouped under the Unified Security Center (USC), has come to oversee and manage an increasingly wide array of the group’s insurgent activities—including intelligence and military operations and religious and managerial affairs. Focusing in particular on its role in the context of media production—which comprises anything from facilitation and security to monitoring, distribution and evaluation—we illustrate the critical importance of this most elusive directorate, positing that, in its current form, it could stand to facilitate the survival of the Islamic State for months—if not years—to come.|
The Alt-Right and Global Information Warfare
|2019||Bevensee, E. and Reid Ross, A.||Article|
|The Alt-Right is a neo-fascist white supremacist movement that is involved in violent extremism and shows signs of engagement in extensive disinformation campaigns. Using social media data mining, this study develops a deeper understanding of such targeted disinformation campaigns and the ways they spread. It also adds to the available literature on the endogenous and exogenous influences within the US far right, as well as motivating factors that drive disinformation campaigns, such as geopolitical strategy. This study is to be taken as a preliminary analysis to indicate future methods and follow-on research that will help develop an integrated approach to understanding the strategies and associations of the modern fascist movement.|
Visual Jihad: Constructing the “Good Muslim” in Online Jihadist Magazines
|2019||MacDonald, S. and Lorenzo-Dus, Nuria||Article|
|Images are known to have important effects on human perception and persuasion. Jihadist groups are also known to make strategic use of emotive imagery and symbolism for persuasive ends. Yet until recently studies of the online magazines published by violent jihadist groups largely focused on their textual, not their image, content and, while the image content of these magazines is now the subject of a burgeoning number of studies, few of these compare the images used by different groups. This article accordingly offers a cross-group comparison, examining the image content of a total of thirty-nine issues of five online magazines published by four different jihadist groups. Starting with a content analysis, it shows that the images’ most common focus is non-leader jihadis. Using a news values analysis, it then shows how these images of non-leader jihadis are used to visually construct the identity of a “good Muslim.” This construct is characterized by three traits, each corresponding to a different news value: fulfilled (personalization); active (consonance); and respected (prominence). Moreover, these traits are intertwined: fulfillment comes from responding actively to the call to violent jihad, which in turn promises respect. The article concludes by highlighting some subtle differences between how the news values of personalization, consonance, and prominence are realized in the different magazines, and by discussing the implications of the “good Muslim” construct for efforts to develop countermessages.|
Expressing and Challenging Racist Discourse on Facebook: How Social Media Weaken the “Spiral of Silence” Theory
|2019||Chaudhry, I. and Gruzd, A.||Article|
|This article examines the discursive practices of Facebook users who use the platform to express racist views. We analyzed 51,991 public comments posted to 119 news stories about race, racism, or ethnicity on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Facebook page. We examined whether users who hold racist viewpoints (the vocal minority) are less likely to express views that go against the majority view for fear of social isolation. According to the “spiral of silence” theory, the vocal minority would presumably fear this isolation effect. However, our analysis shows that on Facebook, a predominantly nonanonymous and moderated platform, the vocal minority are comfortable expressing unpopular views, questioning the explanatory power of this popular theory in the online context. Based on automated analysis of 8,636 comments, we found 64 percent mentioned race or ethnicity, and 18 percent exhibited some form of othering. A manual coding of 1,161 comments showed that 18 percent exhibited some form of othering, and 25 percent countered the racist discourse. In sum, while Facebook provides space to express racist discourse, users also turn to this platform to counter the hateful narratives.|
Trends of Anashid Usage in Da‘esh Video Messaging and Implications for Identifying Terrorist Audio and Video
|2019||Pieslak, J., Pieslak, B. and Lemieux, A. F.||Article|
|This article examines how Da‘esh utilizes anashid (“Islamic songs” or “recitation”) as soundtrack elements within its video messaging, focusing primarily on a sample set of 755 videos released in 2015. The authors also present the development of an automatic content recognition (ACR) tool that enabled them to engage this large data set. The article then explores the possibilities of ACR for the identification of terrorist audio and video, utilizing the conclusions drawn from the trends of audio usage in Da‘esh video messaging to support the validity and promise of such an approach.|
Media and Mass Atrocity: The Rwanda Genocide and Beyond
|2019||Thompson, E., Dallaire, R. (foreword)||Book|
|It will have been 25 years since the Rwanda genocide in spring 2019. As more information about the Rwanda genocide becomes available and as the narrative of those events continues to evolve, there is still much to learn from the case study of Rwanda about the role of media in stimulating and responding to mass atrocities. In an era of social media saturation, near-ubiquitous mobile device penetration and dramatic shifts in traditional news media, it is more important than ever to examine the nexus between media and mass atrocity. Advances in information and communications technology have reshaped the media landscape, rendering mass atrocities in distant countries more immediate and harder to ignore. And yet, a cohesive international response to mass atrocities has been elusive. Social media tools can be used to inform and engage, but — in an echo of hate radio in Rwanda — can also be used to demonize opponents and mobilize extremism. With enhanced and relatively inexpensive communications technologies, ordinary citizens around the globe can capture live footage of human rights abuses before journalists have the chance, making social media itself a global actor, affecting the responses of national governments and international organizations to threats against peace and security and human rights. And yet, despite the extended reach that technological advances have afforded traditional news media and social media, the media impact in mass atrocity events is still a complex subject. Specifically, we are left with many troubling questions, still unresolved despite the passage of time since Rwanda. What role do media play in alerting the international community to looming mass atrocity? Could more informed and comprehensive coverage of mass atrocities mitigate or even halt the killing by sparking an international outcry? How do we assess the impact of hate media reporting in a killing spree? What is the role of the media in trying to encourage amelioration of the conflict or post-conflict reconciliation? What do the lessons of Rwanda mean now, in an age of communications so dramatically influenced by social media? Media and Mass Atrocity: The Rwanda Genocide and Beyond grapples with these questions.|