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
New Media and Terrorism: Role of the Social Media to Countering Cyber Terrorism and Cyber Extremism for Effective Response
2016 Deri Laksamana Putra, M. Article
Discourse of terrorism and social media are often discussed the last few years, discussions related to the issue of terrorism is often associated with social media is considered to be one of the tools used to spread the ideology of terrorist networks even recruiting members. Terrorist networks utilizing social media to conduct ideological campaign covertly or overtly and massive. The definition of terrorism employed here is the selective use of fear, subjugation, and Intimidation to disrupt the normal operations of a society. All social system seek ethical and legal norms that satisfy the conditions for continued human survival without giving offence to the major ideological premises on which these respective societies have come to rest. Consequently, while different social systems react differently to terror in accordance with their vision of self interest, no surviving society can be indifferent to the problems raised by terrorism. Terrorist activities have been aiming for and take advantage of ideology and religion for the world community in favor of the claim that their struggle. Genealogy religious radicalism emerged for several reasons. As the pressure of the political regime in power and the failures of the secular ideology of the regime, so the presence of radicalism considered as an alternative ideological only in the fight against oppression and adversity caused by the secular regime so that a group of radicalism assumed that it had no other option but to commit acts of terrorism to counter secular regime. The polarization of political behavior and the fragmentation of political belief are well illustrated in the current rhetoric concerning. Attitudes toward the uses of terror and the functions of terrorist range from a gratuitous belief in terror as the only possible means to bring about social changes to a view of terror and terrorist. The range of views extends from terrorists as the only authentic heroes in notably unheroic age to their demotion as petty criminals who coat their venal act with an ideological gloss.
Quantifying Salient Concepts Discussed in Social Media Content: A Case Study using Twitter Content Written by Radicalized Youth
2016 Ghajar-Khosravi, S., Kwantes, P., Derbentseva, N. and Huey, L. Article
Social Media has become an important source for information about people and real-world events. Its importance is driven largely by the enormous number of people generating and updating content in Social Media platforms. In this report, we measure the extent to which we can accurately measure the salience of topics/concepts that might be of interest to an analyst, and evaluate whether concepts like positive and negative sentiment can be meaningfully extracted from Social Media content. As a test case, we examined Twitter content generated by female users who are sympathetic to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The basic technique proposed here can be developed further to create a more fine-grained exanimation of Social Media content.
Resurgent Insurgents: Quantitative Research Into Jihadists Who Get Suspended but Return on Twitter
2016 Wright, S., Denney, D., Pinkerton, A., Jansen, V. and Bryden, J. Article
Jihadists are very active on Twitter but their accounts frequently get suspended. A substantial debate over the effectiveness of suspension has arisen; an important factor is that Jihadists quickly create new accounts, resurging back like a game of whack-a-mole. This causes biases for terrorism and intelligence analysts. Whilst widely acknowledged, little research addresses the problem. In this study we identify resurging Jihadist accounts with novel methods, and provide detailed analysis going beyond previous case-studies. We show that suspension is less disruptive to terrorists than previously thought, whilst the bias and disruption caused to terrorism research has been underestimated.
#IS_Fangirl: Exploring a New Role for Women in Terrorism
2016 Huey, L. and Witmer, E. Article
In this paper we present initial results from an ongoing study of women affiliated with pro-IS networks on Twitter and other social media. Our particular focus is on 20 accounts belonging to individual identified as ‘fan girls.’ Drawing on an analysis of Twitter posts from these 20 accounts, we identify key characteristics of the fan girl in an attempt to bring conceptual clarity to this role and enhance our understanding of who these girls are and their potential for radicalization.
Domestic Terrorism, Cyber-Radicalization, and American College Students
2016 Wright, M. Article
Since 9/11, there has been an increase in domestic terrorism inspired by the Global Salafi Jihad ideology. Some of the individuals who undergo radicalization are U.S. college and university students. Radicalization is promoted on the Internet in ways that appeal to the young and impact those who are searching for their identities, their places in life. Radicalization is complemented by the open environment of higher education, where college- and university-based organizations can become forums for the presentation of radical messages in a way that connects with students. This article describes the four-stage radicalization process, explains why students are particularly vulnerable, and offers suggestions for implementing an effective response.
The Enduring Influence of Anwar Al-Awlaki in the age of the Islamic State
2016 Shane, S. Article
Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the leading English-language propagandist for al-Qa`ida, was killed in an American drone strike in 2011. But his influence has lived on into the Islamic State era, enhanced by his status as a martyr for Islam in the eyes of his admirers. His massive internet presence has turned up as a factor in several attacks since his death, including most recently the San Bernardino shootings and the Orlando nightclub attack as well as a significant number of terrorism cases on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite his long association with al-Qa`ida and that network’s rivalry with the upstart Islamic State, al-Awlaki has been embraced by the Islamic State and its followers, and he continues to inspire terrorism from beyond the grave.
Topic-Specific YouTube Crawling to Detect Online Radicalization
2015 Agarwal, S. and Sureka, A. Article
Online video sharing platforms such as YouTube contains several videos and users promoting hate and extremism. Due to low barrier to publication and anonymity, YouTube is misused as a platform by some users and communities to post negative videos disseminating hatred against a particular religion, country or person. We formulate the problem of identification of such malicious videos as a search problem and present a focused-crawler based approach consisting of various components performing several tasks: search strategy or algorithm, node similarity computation metric, learning from exemplary profiles serving as training data, stopping criterion, node classifier and queue manager. We implement two versions of the focused crawler: best-first search and shark search. We conduct a series of experiments by varying the seed, number of n-grams in the language model based comparer, similarity threshold for the classifier and present the results of the experiments using standard Information Retrieval metrics such as precision, recall and F-measure. The accuracy of the proposed solution on the sample dataset is 69% and 74% for the best-first and shark search respectively. We perform characterization study (by manual and visual inspection) of the anti-India hate and extremism promoting videos retrieved by the focused crawler based on terms present in the title of the videos, YouTube category, average length of videos, content focus and target audience. We present the result of applying Social Network Analysis based measures to extract communities and identify core and influential users.
Tracking Online Radicalization Using Investigative Data Mining
2013 Wadhwa, P. and Bhatia, M.P.S. Article
The increasing complexity and emergence of Web 2.0 applications have paved way for threats arising out of the use of social networks by cyber extremists (Radical groups). Radicalization (also called cyber extremism and cyber hate propaganda) is a growing concern to the society and also of great pertinence to governments & law enforcement agencies all across the world. Further, the dynamism of these groups adds another level of complexity in the domain, as with time, one may witness a change in members of the group and hence has motivated many researchers towards this field. This proposal presents an investigative data mining approach for detecting the dynamic behavior of these radical groups in online social networks by textual analysis of the messages posted by the members of these groups along with the application of techniques used in social network analysis. Some of the preliminary results obtained through partial implementation of the approach are also discussed.
ISIS and the Institution of Online Terrorist Recruitment
2015 Torok, R. Article
The rise of ISIS and associated jihadi violence taking place in Syria and Iraq has reverberated widely. The effects can be felt not just in the horrific attacks that took place in Paris in January 2015, but across the Asia-Pacific region as well, including Australia. Public officials and analysts are struggling to understand and devise countermeasures to the recruitment mechanisms employed by ISIS and other violent extremist groups. This essay explores the role that social media has played in ISIS’s efforts to attract adherents.
Anders Behring Breivik’s use of the Internet and social media
2013 Aasland Ravndal, J. Article
Did the Internet play a decisive role in Anders Behring Breivik’s violent radicalization? It has proven difficult to understand if and how the Internet influences radicalization processes leading to political violence (Conway 2012). The Internet constitutes only one out of a wide range of factors with a potential influence on radical and violent behavior. We also lack detailed empirical data about the online lives of modern terrorists.

The case of the Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik offers unique insights into the online activities of a terrorist who used the Internet and social media in almost every thinkable way. Not only did Breivik compile his 1516-pages long compendium based exclusively on Internet sources. Before the attacks, he was also an active discussant on a number of mainstream and extremist Internet forums, and a highly dedicated online gaming enthusiast.

This article reviews new sources on Breivik’s Internet adventures and road to militancy. It is primarily based on Breivik’s original posts and comments on various Internet discussion forums between 2002 and 2011.[1] In addition, Breivik’s trial hearings introduced a wealth of new information regarding his use of the Internet.[2] Finally, the article draws on a collection of Breivik’s private e-mails which was forwarded by Norwegian hackers to a Norwegian journalist six days after the terrorist attacks. A synthesis of the more than 7000 e-mails was later published as a book (Stormark 2012).

A key finding in this study is that Breivik likely never discussed his terrorist plans with anyone online. Moreover, his comments on various Internet forums do not stand out as particularly when compared to typical far-right online discourse. In other words, Norwegian security authorities would likely not react to his online postings even if he was being monitored.

Breivik’s online posts also indicate that his critical views on Islam and socialism had been established long before the so-called counterjihad blogs were created. This means that these blogs may have played a less decisive role for Breivik’s early radicalization than assumed by many. Later on, however, these blogs certainly strengthened Breivik’s radical thinking, although they come across as far less radical than his own ideological statements after 22 July.[3]

Breivik’s e-mail correspondence shows that he first and foremost wanted to become a professional author and publisher. He proposed to establish a so-called cultural conservative paper journal together with Norwegian bloggers he admired, who were also critical of Islam and multiculturalism. He also tried to impress the Norwegian blogger Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen, better known as Fjordman, with his book project, but was given a cold shoulder. The fact that he was rejected by several of the people he looked up to may have had a decisive influence on his violent radicalization.

Breivik gathered all the necessary information to build his bomb online. He also financed the terrorist attacks through an online company, and used the Internet, in particular e-Bay, to buy materials such as body armor, weapons components and bomb ingredients. Breivik also systematically used social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for propaganda purposes.

Finally, Breivik was an extremely dedicated online gaming enthusiast. Playing online games dominated his daily life during the years leading up to the attacks. One cannot dismiss theories that the extreme amount of time spent on playing online games while being isolated from friends and relatives may have had an impact on his disposition to engage in extreme violence.

In the following sections, this article article describes Breivik’s use of the Internet and social media along four dimensions: (1) online radicalization, (2) online gaming, (3) online attack preparations, and (4) online propaganda.
Women's Connectivity in Extreme Networks
2016 Manritque, P., Cao, Z., Gabriel, A., Horgan, J., Gill, P., Qi, H., Restrepo, E.M., Johnson, D., Wuchty, S., Song, C. and Johnson, N. Article
A popular stereotype is that women will play more minor roles than men as environments become more dangerous and aggressive. Our analysis of new longitudinal data sets from offline and online operational networks [for example, ISIS (Islamic State)] shows that although men dominate numerically, women emerge with superior network connectivity that can benefit the underlying system’s robustness and survival. Our observations suggest new female-centric approaches that could be used to affect such networks. They also raise questions about how individual contributions in high-pressure systems are evaluated.
Literature Review: The Impact of Digital Communications Technology on Radicalisation and Recruitment
2017 Meleagrou-Hitchens, A., Alexander, A., and Kaderbhai, N. Article
This literature review seeks to reorient the discourse on radicalization to consider the connection between communication technology and violent extremism. By interrogating three central questions vexing policy-makers, law enforcement officials and academics, this review moves away from a monolithic understanding of the internet and showcases the opportunities afforded by different communications technologies within the context of radicalization and recruitment. As this discussion shows, there is a consensus that despite significant exceptions to the rule, the internet alone does not act as a radicalizing agent, but rather serves as a facilitator and catalyst for terrorist organizations and their respective networks. Despite varying analyses produced within the literature, there is agreement that the virtual sphere does not replace the real world in most instances. Above all, a review of the current literature demonstrates that to answer the crucial questions posed in this article, more empirically-based research is required. This article is a revised and updated version of the 2017 VOX-Pol report Research Perspectives on Online Radicalisation: A Literature Review 2006 to 2016.
Isis and the Internet
2016 MSNBC Article
Documentary: Isis and The Internet premieres Friday April 1st at 10pm ET on MSNBC.
Online Social Media in the Syria Conflict: Encompassing the Extremes and the In-Betweens
2014 O’Callaghan, D., Prucha, N., Greene, D., Conway, M., Carthy, J. and Cunningham, P. Article
The Syria conflict has been described as the most socially mediated in history, with online social media playing a particularly important role. At the same time, the everchanging landscape of the conflict leads to difficulties in applying analytical approaches taken by other studies of online political activism. Therefore, in this paper, we use an approach that does not require strong prior assumptions or the proposal of an advance hypothesis to analyze Twitter and YouTube activity of a range of protagonists to the conflict, in an attempt to reveal additional insights into the relationships between them. By means of a network representation that combines multiple data views, we uncover communities of accounts falling into four categories that broadly reflect the situation on the ground in Syria. A detailed analysis of selected communities within the antiregime categories is provided, focusing on their central actors, preferred online platforms, and activity surrounding “real world” events. Our findings indicate that social media activity in Syria is considerably more convoluted than reported in many other studies of online political activism, suggesting that alternative analytical approaches can play an important role in this type of scenario.
Social media and counterterrorism strategy
2016 Alstrope, T. Article
With the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the issue of domestic radicalisation has taken on renewed significance for Western democracies. In particular, attention has been drawn to the potency of ISIS engagement on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Several governments have emphasised the importance of online programs aimed at undermining ISIS recruitment, including the use of state-run accounts on a variety of social media platforms to respond directly to ISIS messaging. This article assesses the viability of online counter radicalisation by examining the effectiveness of similar programs at the US State Department over the last decade. The article argues that
governments attempting to counter online radicalisation of their domestic populations must take seriously the significant shortcomings of these State Department programs. The most relevant issue in this regard is the recurring problem of credibility, when the authenticity of government information is undercut by the realities of foreign policy practice, and existing perceptions of hypocrisy and duplicity are reinforced in target audiences.
Radical Reddits: into the Minds of Online Radicalised Communities.
2016 Verhaar, P. Article
The online domain potentially provides research with a vast body of data. The big quest within contemporary research is to make sense of all this data. A possibility to handle such data is by combining methods from the fields of new media and linguistics. Several studies have sought to understand how radicalism online comes to exist and grows. To date, however, none of these studies have fruitfully analysed language patterns within online communities that move beyond keyword analysis. In this thesis, I demonstrate a proof of concept for a classifier analysing and predicting salient language features within online radical discourse from the social media platform Reddit. Data consist of two datasets, radical and non-radical in nature, both containing 1 millions lines of text per dataset. The radical dataset is known for its radical nature, promoting radicalism in a variety of beliefs such as anti-feminism or white supremacy. Using software libraries as NLTK and SciKit within Python, I submitted that data to keyword and collocation frequency count, lexical diversity, a part-of-speech tagger and ultimately as features for a document classifier. Results showed that the radical discourse used in this thesis contains salient language features and show a clear sense of a virtual community. Finally, I discuss the implications of this thesis and provide directions for further research. Data was provided by TNO The Hague as part of the VOX-Pol project.
Countering Insurgency in Kashmir: The Cyber Dimension
2017 Karua, V. Article
Countering the militancy in Kashmir has become a highly challenging task due to the exploitation of new information and communication technology by insurgent groups. The battlefield is now a multidimensional one, encompassing both physical territory and cyberspace. The overall capabilities of insurgents have been enhanced by tools in cyberspace that are inexpensive, ever more sophisticated, rapidly proliferating, and easy to use. Militants are systematically exploiting the Internet to generate moral support, recruit personnel, and transmit propaganda, leading to the further militarisation of the Kashmiri youth. This paper examines the potentially disastrous consequences of the use of cyberspace by an already strong insurgency in Kashmir. The objective is to understand the most effective means to counter the cyber dimension of the Kashmir insurgency.
The Spirit of Terrorism in Islamic State Media
2016 Richards, I. Article
In June 2014 the organisation known as ‘Islamic State’ (IS) announced the establishment of a 680km Syrian and Iraqi Caliphate. Since this time, it has exercised large scale massacres of Middle Eastern civilians, executed foreign prisoners, and forced dissenters into sexual and economic slavery (Lister, 2014: 17). To sustain its operational strength and acquisition of territory, the organisation replenishes its expendable armed forces by attracting foreign fighters using propaganda via online communications. Around 22,000 foreign fighters are currently estimated to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for IS (Stern, 2015: 68), and this is number likely to increase in the immediate future. It is also increasingly noted that through online media, IS encourages returned foreign fighters and ‘homegrown’ sympathisers in countries outside of Iraq and Syria to execute attacks on civilian populations. The internationalisation of the threat posed by IS became starkly apparent in 2015 following IS-inspired and in some cases IS-directed attacks on countries including Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, France and Indonesia.
New Online Ecology of Adversarial Aggregates: ISIS and Beyond
2016 Johnson, N. F., Zheng, M., Vorobyeva, Y., Gabriel, A., Qi, H., Velasquez, N., Manrique, P., Johnson, D., Restrepo, E., Song, C. and Wuchty, S. Article
Support for an extremist entity such as Islamic State (ISIS) somehow manages to survive globally online despite considerable external pressure and may ultimately inspire acts by individuals having no history of extremism, membership in a terrorist faction, or direct links to leadership. Examining longitudinal records of online activity, we uncovered an ecology evolving on a daily time scale that drives online support, and we provide a mathematical theory that describes it. The ecology features self-organized aggregates (ad hoc groups formed via linkage to a Facebook page or analog) that proliferate preceding the onset of recent real-world campaigns and adopt novel adaptive mechanisms to enhance their survival. One of the predictions is that development of large, potentially potent pro-ISIS aggregates can be thwarted by targeting smaller ones.
Skinhead Super Mario Brothers: An Examination of Racist and Violent Games on White Supremacist Web Sites
2010 Selepak, A. Article
This study uses qualitative interpretive textual analysis of video games found on hate and extremist Web sites to explore the proliferation of these games on the Internet and the extent they advocate violence and conflict or portray hate groups in a positive way to existing and potential members. In particular, this study examines the “enemies” targeted in these games and the level of violence directed toward these enemies. Results indicate the majority of games examined promoted extreme violence and conflict toward blacks and Jewish people. The games analyzed in this study required the player to violently kill, wound, and maim minorities in order to advance and were often modified versions of classic video games in which the original enemies were replaced with religious, racial and ethnic minorities. This study suggests that video games found on hate and extremist sites are intended to indoctrinate players with white supremacist ideology and allow individuals who already hold racist ideologies to practice aggressive scripts toward minorities which may later influence real world interactions.