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
Participant Recruitment through Social Media: Lessons Learned from a Qualitative Radicalization Study Using Facebook
2016 Sikkens, E., van San, M., Sieckelinck, S., Boeije, H., and Winter, M. Article
Social media are useful facilitators when recruiting hidden populations for research. In our research on youth and radicalization, we were able to find and contact young people with extreme ideals through Facebook. In this article, we discuss our experiences using Facebook as a tool for finding respondents who do not trust researchers. Facebook helped us recruit youths with extreme Islamic and extreme left-wing ideals. We conclude by discussing the benefits and limitations of using Facebook when searching for and approaching populations who are difficult to reach.
Cyberspace, Terrorism and International Law
2016 Fidler, D.P. Article
Governments have long worried about terrorists using the Internet to launch cyberattacks, spread propaganda, recruit and radicalise individuals and raise funds. However, the Islamic State’s exploitation of social media has caused a crisis and generated questions about international law’s role in addressing terrorism in cyberspace. This article analyzes international law in connection with potential terrorist cyberattacks and terrorist use of cyber technologies for other purposes. International law is not well positioned to support responses to terrorist cyberattacks, but the lack of such attacks to date undermines incentives for states to develop international law against this threat. In terms of terrorists using the Internet and social media for propaganda, radicalisation, recruiting and fundraising, the crisis caused by the Islamic State’s online activities has not created consensus strong enough to support a prominent role for international law in countering cyber-facilitated terrorism.
A Longitudinal Measurement Study of 4chan’s Politically Incorrect Forum and its Effect on the Web
2016 Hine, G.E., Onaolapo, J., De Cristofaro, E., Kourtellis, N., Leontadis, I., Samaras, R., Stringhini, G. and Blackburn, J. Article
Although it has been a part of the dark underbelly of the Internet since its inception, recent events have brought the discussion board site 4chan to the forefront of the world’s collective mind. In particular, /pol/, 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” board has become a central figure in the outlandish 2016 Presidential election. Even though 4chan has long been viewed as the “final boss of the Internet,” it remains relatively unstudied in the academic literature. In this paper we analyze /pol/ along several axes using a dataset of over 8M posts. We first perform a general characterization that reveals how active posters are, as well as how some unique features of 4chan affect the flow of discussion. We then analyze the content posted to /pol/ with a focus on determining topics of interest and types of media shared, as well as the usage of hate speech and differences in poster demographics. We additionally provide quantitative evidence of /pol/’s collective attacks on other social media platforms. We perform a quantitative case study of /pol/’s attempt to poison anti-trolling machine learning technology by altering the
language of hate on social media. Then, via analysis of comments from the 10s of thousands of YouTube videos linked on /pol/, we provide a mechanism for detecting attacks from /pol/ threads on 3rd party social media services.
Where are All the Cyber Terrorists? From Waiting for Cyber Attack to Understanding Audiences
2016 Droogan, J. and Waldek, L. Article
This paper presents a review of recent academic scholarship and debates on cyber terrorism, and more broadly of what is known about terrorist's direct use of the Internet as weapon and, less directly, as a communication device. It presents an overview of a field of discourse that has, since its inception, provided a number of foreboding and even doomsday warnings about the future of cyber terrorism, which in the main have failed to come to realization. First, it surveys why these gloomy warnings regarding future proliferation of cyber terrorism have not been born out in practice, and explains that rather than looking for instances of the Internet being used directly as a weapon by terrorists, current debates in academic and policy circles have shifted to trying to measure and ascertain the role that the Internet plays in spreading and supporting extremist discourse to ever wider audiences. It continues by posing a series of questions regarding online audiences that are in need of future research if we are to better understand the role of the Internet in spreading and supporting violent extremist discourse and cultivating terrorism, most importantly the role of audiences as autonomous agents in navigating, reacting and responding to online violent extremist materials.
Counter-Radicalization via the Internet
2016 Greenberg, K.J. Article
ISIS and other international terrorist organizations rely on the Internet to disseminate their extremist rhetoric and to recruit people to their cause, particularly through popular online social media applications. Any meaningful counterterrorism strategy must, therefore, account for the ways in which terrorist organizations use the Internet to prey on young, manipulable minds who are drawn to radical ideas and propaganda and to the desire to serve a cause larger than themselves. This article outlines the ways in which extremist organizations use the Internet to ensnare new recruits, analyzes the implications of cyber-recruitment on existing counterterrorism techniques, and suggests ways in which the U.S. government can work with Internet service providers and other major cyber corporations to better address this growing threat.
Measuring Online Affects in a White Supremacy Forum
2016 Figea, L., Kaati, L,. and Scrivens, R. Article
Since the inception of the World Wide Web, security agencies, researchers, and analysts have focused much of their attention on the sentiment found on hate-inspired web-forums. Here, one of their goals has been to detect and measure users' affects that are expressed in the forums as well as identify how users' affects change over time. Manual inspection has been one way to do this; however, as the number of discussion posts and sub-forums increase, there has been a growing need for an automated system that can assist humans in their analysis. The aim of this paper, then, is to detect and measure a number of affects expressed in written text on Stormfront.org, the most visited hate forum on the Web. To do this, we used a machine learning approach where we trained a model to recognize affects on three sub-forums: Ideology and Philosophy, For Stormfront Ladies Only, and Stormfront Ireland. The training data consisted of manual annotated data and the affects we focused on were racism, aggression, and worries. Results indicate that even though measuring affects is a subjective process, machine learning is a promising way forward to analyze and measure the presence of different affects on hate forums.
Identity, Activism and Hatred: Hate Speech against Migrants on Facebook in the Czech Republic in 2015
2016 Hrdina, M. Article
The increased influx of refugees and migrants to the EU in 2015 has been followed by a noticeable presence of online hate speech against migrants in many countries across Europe. The article presents the results of a study of hate speech proliferation on Facebook in the Czech Republic during the summer of 2015. Its goal is to identify the producers of hate speech and determine their social background, explore the main channels of hate speech proliferation, determine the specific groups of migrants targeted by hate speech, put the hate speech in the context of online political communication, and discuss the role of media and politicians in the process of hate speech proliferation. With regard to the works of Castells, Skocpol or Bennett and Segerberg, online hate speech can be perceived as an extreme variety of new, rapidly evolving modes of political communication as such. Social and political activism has been shifting from membership-based organizations and parties towards flexible movements and initiatives with strong emphasis on the logic of identity politics. People may or may not engage in hate speech production as lone independent actors, but they still perceive their actions as part of larger collective efforts. When we focus on hate speech as a form of civic activism or networking, new interesting patterns can emerge.
“You Need to Be Sorted Out With a Knife”: The Attempted Online Silencing of Women and People of Muslim Faith Within Academia
2016 Barlow, C., Awan, I. Article
Academics are increasingly expected to use social media to disseminate their work and knowledge to public audiences. Although this has various advantages, particularly for alternative forms of dissemination, the web can also be an unsafe space for typically oppressed or subordinated groups. This article presents two auto-ethnographic accounts of the abuse and hate academics researching oppressed groups, namely, women and people of Muslim faith, experienced online. In doing so, this article falls into four parts. The first section provides an overview of existing literature, particularly focusing on work which explores the violence and abuse of women and people of Muslim faith online. The second section considers the auto-ethnographic methodological approach adopted in this article. The third section provides the auto-ethnographic accounts of the author’s experiences of hate and abuse online. The final section locates these experiences within broader theoretical concepts, such as silencing, and considers possible implications of such online hate in both an academic context and beyond.
Far-Right Terrorism: The Christchurch Attack and Potential Implications on the Asia Pacific Landscape
2019 Hutchinson, J. Article
The terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand is a landmark in far-right terrorist behaviour within the Asia Pacific (APAC) region. The Australian far-right terrorist held both domestic and transitional connections to other far-right extremist groups and travelled extensively before committing the attack in New Zealand. The assailant’s proficiency with weaponry and technology is considerable, as is his relationship with the online far-right community. However, little discussion is made about this incident as an evolutionary step for far-right terrorism and how it could impact the region. Accordingly, this article examines the Christchurch far-right terrorist attack, how this attack may impact the future of far-right terrorism and what are the responses to the attack by politicians and tech companies. The article finds the assailant’s behaviour significant for far-right terrorist behaviour in the APAC region with the potential for mimetic instances in the region.
Connecting the (Far-)Right Dots: A Topic Modeling and Hyperlink Analysis of (Far-)Right Media Coverage during the US Elections 2016
2019 Kaiser, J., Rauchfleisch, A. and Bourassa, N. Article
The 2016 US election and the victory of Donald Trump are closely connected to a perceived rise of the far-right in the United States. We build upon public sphere and alternative media theory to discuss the relevance of alternative media for the US (far-)right and whether the election period and the candidate Trump allowed far-right alternative media to establish themselves in the (far-) right networked public sphere. We investigate whether it has come to a convergence of topics between the right and the extreme far-right. We analyze the topics nine right-wing outlets, ranging from Fox News to the Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, covered in 2015/2016 during the US presidential election. We show through topic modeling of 21,919 articles how Breitbart established itself as a media outlet between the extreme far-right and mainstream right by both covering more extreme and more classic conservative topics. We show through time series clustering how Breitbart and Fox News converged in their coverage of Islam and immigration. Finally, we show through hyperlink analysis that the connection between the far-right and the mainstream right is mostly one-sided; while the alternative outlets link to more established ones, the established outlets mostly ignore the outlets from the far-right.
“On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Dog”: The Online Risk Assessment of Violent Extremists
2016 Shortland, N. Article
Online behaviour can provide a unique window from which we can glean intent. From an intelligence standpoint it provides an important source of open-source information. However, making inference of intent from online activity is inherently difficult. Yet elsewhere progress is being made in incorporating information online into decisions regarding risk and offender prioritisation. This chapter synthesises lessons learnt from studies of risk assessment of violent extremists, risk assessment online, and the form and function of extremist materials online in order to begin to approach the issue of online risk assessment of violent extremism. In doing so it highlights issues associated with the diversity of online extremist behaviour, the diversity of offline extremist behaviour and the general lack of understanding related to the interaction of online and offline experiences, and how this contributes to the wider psychological process of ‘radicalisation'. Implications for practitioners are discussed.
Information Laundering and Counter-Publics: The News Sources of Islamophobic Groups on Twitter
2016 Puschmann, C., Ausserhofer, J., Maan, N., and Hametner, M. Article
Which news sources do supporters of populist islamophobic groups and their opponents rely on, and how are these sources related to each other? We explore these questions by studying the websites referenced in discussions surrounding Pegida, a right-wing populist movement based in Germany that is opposed to what its supporters regard as islamization, cultural marginalization and political correctness. We draw on a manual content analysis of the news sources and the stances of Twitter users, to then calculate the overlap of sources across audiences. Finally, we perform a cluster analysis of the resulting user groups, based on shared sources. Preferences by language, nationality, region and politics emerge, showing the distinction between different groups among the users. Our tentative findings have implications both for the study of mass media audiences through the lens of social media, and for research on the public sphere and its possible fragmentation in online discourse. This contribution, which is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between communication scholars in Germany and journalists in Austria, is part of a larger ongoing effort to understand forms of online extremism through the analysis of social media data
Data-Driven System Identification of the Social Network Dynamics in Online Postings of an Extremist Group
2016 Diaz, A.R., Choi J. Article
Terrorism research has begun to focus on the issue of radicalization, or the acceptance of ideological belief systems that lead toward violence. There has been particular attention paid to the role of the Internet in the exposure to and promotion of radical ideas. There is, however, minimal work that attempts to model the ways that messages are spread or how individual participation in radical on-line communities operates. In this paper, we present a stochastic linear system to represent the evolution of contribution to a sample of 126 threads in an on-line forum where individuals discuss radical belief systems. To estimate or predict the time-varying contributions of agents for given onlineforum data, each agent’s contribution has been modeled as a state variable. We then use the expectation-maximization (EM) algorithm to identify the model parameters including the adjacency matrix of the graph constructed among participating agents along with measurement and system uncertainty levels in online-postings. Our approach reveals the identified dynamical influences among agents in the time-varying shaping of the contribution in a datadriven fashion. We use the real-world data from online-postings to demonstrate the usefulness of our approach, and its application toward on-line radicalization.
The Charlie Hebdo Attacks on Twitter: A Comparative Analysis of a Political Controversy in English and French
2017 Smyrnaios, N., Ratinaud, P. Article
In this article, we propose an original method combining large-scale network and lexicometric analysis to link identifiable communities of Twitter users with the main discursive themes they used in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, France in 2015. We used this method to compare tweets and user networks in French and in English. We observed that the majority of the users who tweeted about Charlie Hebdo were people without any particular affiliation, who were shocked by the attacks and immediately expressed themselves through emotionally charged messages. But rather quickly their proportion decreased and they participated less in politically polarizing discussions. On the other hand, we found that smaller, highly politicized, and polarized groups had similar attitudes toward the events: they were less engaged immediately after the attacks in emotional expression of sympathy and shock, but they participated vividly in the following days in polemical discussions or engaged themes. Other findings include the central position of mainstream media and the existence of groups of users that aggregated on the basis of nationality. More generally, our results show clearly that even the most dramatic events such as a terrorist attack with innocent victims do not produce homogeneous reactions online. Rather, political engagement and cultural dispositions are keys to understand different attitudes on Twitter.
Extremism on the Internet; The Fight Against Online Radicalisation Starts Offline
2015 Gemmerli Article
Counter-narratives are often claimed to be the ingenuous solution for the prevention of extremism and radicalisation. They are intended to dismantle extremism’s propaganda or create positive alternatives to its communities. But the effect is dubious and may, at worst, lead to the opposite result. Therefore, education and critical thinking are the best form of prevention.
Avoid the Pitfalls of Counter-Narratives
2016 Gemmerli, T. Article
Counter-narratives and campaigns promoting normality, are often highlighted as universal means against online propaganda from militant movements. However, such campaigns are driven by a number of unfortunate assumptions and are difficult to apply in practice.
The Threat to the United States from the Islamic State’s Virtual Entrepreneurs
2017 Hughes, S., and Meleagrou-Hitchens, A. Article
Among the most recent evolutions of jihadi terrorist tactics in the West has been the rise of the virtual entrepreneur. The increased use of social media, often paired with applications that ofer the option of encrypted messaging, has enabled members of groups like the Islamic State to make direct and lasting contact with radicalized Americans. In some cases, these individuals direct terror plots, and in others, they provide encouragement and motivation for attacks. In the United States, there are 14 known cases of terrorist-related activity involving 19 U.S.-based individuals where the involvement of an Islamic State virtual entrepreneur has been documented. This outsourcing of terrorism has been a game changer in Islamic State eforts to attack the West.
A Semantic Graph-Based Approach for Radicalisation Detection on Social Media
2017 Saif, H., Dickinson, T., Kastler, L., Fernandez, M., and Alani, H. Article
From its start, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) has been successfully exploiting social media networks, most notoriously Twitter, to promote its propaganda and recruit new members, resulting in thousands of social media users adopting a pro-ISIS stance every year. Automatic identification of pro-ISIS users on social media has, thus, become the centre of interest for various governmental and research organisations. In this paper we propose a semantic graph-based approach for radicalisation detection on Twitter. Unlike previous works, which mainly rely on the lexical representation of the content published by Twitter users, our approach extracts and makes use of the underlying semantics of words exhibited by these users to identify their pro/anti-ISIS stances. Our results show that classifiers trained from semantic features outperform those trained from lexical, sentiment, topic and network features by 7.8% on average F1-measure.
The State of the Art: A Literature Review of Social Media Intelligence Capabilities for Counter-Terrorism
2017 Bartlett, J., Miller, C. Article
This paper is a review of how information and insight can be drawn from open social media sources. It focuses on the specific research techniques that have emerged, the capabilities they provide, the possible insights they offer, and the ethical and legal questions they raise. The relevance and value of these techniques are considered for the purpose of maintaining public safety by preventing, pursuing, protecting and preparing against terrorism.
The Rise of Jihadist Propaganda on Social Networks
2016 Badawy, A., Ferrara, E. Article
Using a dataset of over 1.9 million messages posted on Twitter by about 25,000 ISIS members, we explore how ISIS makes use of social media to spread its propaganda and to recruit militants from the Arab world and across the globe. By distinguishing between violence-driven, theological, and sectarian content, we trace the connection between online rhetoric and key events on the ground. To the best of our knowledge, ours is one of the first studies to focus on Arabic content, while most literature focuses on English content. Our findings yield new important insights about how social media is used by radical militant groups to target the Arab-speaking world, and reveal important patterns in their propaganda efforts.
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