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
Apocalypse, Later: A Longitudinal Study of the Islamic State Brand
2018 Winter, C. Journal
This article compares two universes of official Islamic State media that were compiled 18 months apart. It explores the nuances of the group’s worldview and illustrates the extent to which external and internal situational exigencies impacted the Islamic State’s brand during its formative years as caliphate. It finds that the organization’s media infrastructure was about half as productive in early 2017 as it had been in mid-2015. The data also show that, even though the group had internationalized its theater of terrorist operations during the time period in question, the brand itself actually contracted to become markedly less globalized in 2016. Finally, the data indicate a substantial thematic rearrangement in the organization’s propaganda, one that saw its story shifting away from the millenarian “utopia” towards military denialism. In sum, the data indicate that the Islamic State propagandists were far less productive by January 2017, and that their aggregate product was less international and less utopian but more militant and more defiant, a shift that suggested a new phase in their political marketing operations, one focused on framing the caliphate as an embattled but still defiant pseudo-state struggling to maintain past momentum.
Making Sense of Jihadi Stratcom: The Case of the Islamic State
2019 Winter, 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.
Daesh Propaganda, Before and After its Collapse
2019 Winter, C. Report
This report compares two archives of official Daesh media that were compiled four years apart. It explores the nuances of the group’s worldview and tracks how external and internal situational exigencies impacted them during its formative years as a caliphate. It finds that the organisation’s media infrastructure was about one-tenth as productive in mid-2019 as it was in mid-2015. The data also show that it was spending more time covering the pursuits of its global network in 2019 than in 2015. Finally, the data point towards a substantial thematic rearrangement in the organisation’s overarching propaganda narrative that manifested in it shifting its story away from millenarian utopianism and towards military denialism. In sum, the data indicate that by 2019 Daesh’s propagandists were far less productive and their aggregate product was more international and less focused on civilian issues. This shift points towards a new phase in the group’s political marketing trajectory, one focused more on survival than on expansion.
Daesh Propaganda, Before and After its Collapse: Countering Violent Extremism
2019 Winter, C. Report
This report compares two archives of official Daesh media that were compiled four years apart. It explores the nuances of the group’s worldview and tracks how external and internal situational exigencies impacted them during its formative years as a caliphate. It finds that the organisation’s media infrastructure was about one tenth as productive in mid-2019 as it was in mid-2015. The data also show that it was spending more time covering the pursuits of its global network in 2019 than in 2015. Finally, the data point towards a substantial thematic rearrangement in the organisation’s overarching propaganda narrative that manifested in it shifting its story away from millenarian utopianism and towards military denialism. In sum, the data indicate that by 2019 Daesh’s propagandists were far less productive and their aggregate product was more international and less focused on civilian issues. This shift points towards a new phase in the group’s political marketing trajectory, one focused more on survival than on expansion.
Framing War: Visual Propaganda, the Islamic State, and the Battle for East Mosul
2020 Winter, C. Article
This article explores how propaganda can be used to construct counter-factual visual narratives at times of war. Specifically, it examines how the Islamic State communicated its way through the 100-day-long battle for east Mosul, which was launched by the coalition and its allies in October 2016. Drawing on Jacques Ellul’s 1962 theory of propaganda, it uses qualitative content analysis to decipher the 1,261 media products published online by the group during the first phase of its defence of the city. The author contends that, even though it was resoundingly defeated there by January, the global legacy of this battle, which was used as a testing ground for a series of potent innovations in insurgent strategic communication, will endure long into the future.
Redefining ‘Propaganda’: The Media Strategy of the Islamic State
2020 WInter, C. Article
In this article, Charlie Winter challenges the way in which the word ‘propaganda’ is used in contemporary discourse around war and terrorism. He considers the case of the Islamic State, using it to demonstrate that the term – as it is conventionally understood – is an inadequate tool when it comes to describing the full range of tactical and strategic approaches to communication that are employed by insurgents today. If anything, he contends, ‘propaganda’ refers to an entire information ecosystem in which different media are geared towards different tasks.
Mapping The Extremist Narrative Landscape In Afghanistan
2020 Winter, C. and Alrhmoun, A. Report
This report, which maps how Violent Extremist Organisations (VEOs) are seeking to influence and shape the trajectory of Afghan politics today, aims to inform and support the development
of strategic communications programming that meaningfully counters extremist narratives and enable more targeted, effective responses to the long-term challenges posed by VEO appeals.
Online Extremism: Research Trends in Internet Activism, Radicalization, and Counter-Strategies
2020 Winter, C., Neumann, P., Meleagrou-Hitchens, A., Ranstorp, M., Vidino, L. and Fürst, J. Article
This article reviews the academic literature on how and for what purposes violent extremists use the Internet, at both an individual and organizational level. After defining key concepts like extremism, cyber-terrorism and online radicalization, it provides an overview of the virtual extremist landscape, tracking its evolution from static websites and password-protected forums to mainstream social media and encrypted messaging apps. The reasons why violent extremist organizations use online tools are identified and evaluated, touching on propaganda, recruitment, logistics, funding, and hacking. After this, the article turns to the ways violent extremist individuals use the Internet, discussing its role as a facilitator for socialization and learning. The review concludes by considering the emergent literature on how violent extremism is being countered online, touching on both defensive and offensive measures.
Terror on Twitter: A Comparative Analysis of Gender and the Involvement in Pro-Jihadist Communities on Twitter
2016 Witmer, E.W. MA Thesis
Social media has become the milieu of choice to radicalize young impressionable minds by terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State. While a plethora of research exists on the recruitment and propaganda efforts by terrorist organizations there is limited number of quantitative studies that observe the relationship of gender and the involvement in online radical milieus. This current research will build upon prior studies through the comparative analysis of 750 unique Twitter accounts supporting the IS and the affiliates of al-Qaeda that were non-randomly sampled between January and September of 2015. The research aimed to address the questions of: 1) whether women that are involved in pro-jihadist communities on Twitter post substantively different amounts of content than men, 2) whether women that are involved in pro-jihadist communities on Twitter post substantively different content than their male counterparts and, 3) whether the gender disparity in level and type of involvement on Twitter differ amongst the supporters of different jihadist organizations. This study found that, while pro-jihadist communities on Twitter continue to be dominated by male participation, female supporters of the IS are more active and post more violent content than women that support any other organization. The intragroup differences found amongst the female supporters suggests that group ideology, recruitment and
propaganda strategies play a role in the level of involvement of women in radical milieus.
‘Don’t Talk to Me’: Effects of Ideologically Homogeneous Online Groups and Politically Dissimilar Offline Ties on Extremism
2010 Wojcieszak, M. Article
This study analyzes cross-sectional data obtained from respondents in neo-Nazi online discussion forums and textual data from postings to these forums. It assesses the impact of participation in radical and homogeneous online groups on opinion extremism and probes whether this impact depends on political dissimilarity of strong and weak offline ties. Specifically, does dissimilarity attenuate (as deliberative theorists hope) or rather exacerbate (as research on biased processing predicts) extreme opinions? As expected, extremism increases with increased online participation, likely due to the informational and normative influences operating within online groups. Supporting the deliberative and biased processing models, both like-minded and dissimilar social ties offline exacerbate extremism. Consistent with the biased processing model, dissimilar offline ties exacerbate the effects of online groups. The theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
Social Media: A Source Of Radicalization And A Window Of Opportunity, Lessons From Israel
2019 Wolfowicz, M Presentation
PROTOCOL: What are the effects of different elements of media on radicalization outcomes? A systematic review
2021 Wolfowicz, M., Hasisi, B. and Weisburd, D. Article
Objectives: In this systematic review and meta analysis we will collate and synthesize the evidence on media‐effects for radicalization, focusing on both cognitive
and behavioral outcomes. The goal is to identify the relative magnitudes of the effects for different mediums, types of content, and elements of human‐media
relationships.
Methodology: Random‐effects meta analysis will be used and the results will be rank‐ordered according to the size of the pooled estimates for the different factors.
Meta‐regressions, moderator analysis, and sub‐group analyses will be used to investigate sources of heterogeneity.
Implications: The results of this review will provide a better understanding of the relative magnitude of the effects of media‐related factors. This information should
help the development of more evidence‐based policies.
21st Century Radicalization: The Role Of The Internet User And Nonuser In Terrorist Outcomes
2014 Woodring, D.W. MA Thesis
This study examines differences between users and nonusers of information communication technologies (ICTs) within the pre-incident planning processes for domestic terrorist movements operating within the United States. In addition, this study is the first quantitative exploration of the prevalence, types, and purposes of ICT use within terrorist movements, specifically environmental, far-right, and Islamic extremist movements. Using“officially designated” federal terrorism investigations from the American Terrorism Study (ATS), we analyzed extracted evidence of ICT usage among individuals (n =331) engaged in the pre-incident planning processes as members of terrorist movements between 1995-2011. While we find significant differences in terrorist ICT use across terrorist movements, our findings suggest that demographics are not a strong predictor of usage. We find the highest prevalence of usage among Islamic movements. However, evidence of online radicalization or recruitment was found predominantly among environmental movements. We conclude with a discussion of these findings and their implications for counterterrorism policy.
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.
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.
Boko Haram and the Discourse of Mimicry: a Critical Discourse Analysis of Media Explanations for Boko Haram’s Improved Video Propaganda Quality
2015 Wyszomierski, L.E. Journal
The Nigeria-based violent non-state actor Boko Haram is increasingly reported on in the news media in relation to the Islamic State, another, more prominent, violent non-state actor. In particular, these comparisons have been drawn within the context of reports on Boko Haram’s recent improvement in video propaganda quality. While the associations with the Islamic State are often warranted, there are broader social consequences when colonial power relations are brought into play. Borrowing an approach from critical discourse analysis, 16 online English-language news articles were read through a postcolonial lens in order to analyse the structural relations of dominance that arise when discussing African non-state actors. The analysis revealed that among the corpus of articles, nine developed a discourse of mimicry, which serves to deny Boko Haram full agency, relegate them to a silenced subaltern status, and ultimately to diminish the sense of threat posed to the dominant geopolitical security paradigm.
The Internet in Indonesia: Development and Impact of Radical Websites
2010 Yang Hui, J. Journal
The Internet has become a crucial part of modern society's life due to its ability to facilitate communication and structure contemporary society. Indonesia has not been left out of this global phenomenon. The Internet came to Indonesia in 1983 and its usage has continued to expand ever since, especially within institutions of learning and in the government sector. The study of radical websites must be situated within the development of the Internet in Indonesia in general instead of being examined by itself. The impact of certain activities such as cyberterrorism must then be examined in perspective, given the vast expanse of Indonesia as an archipelago and the resulting difficulties in linking the entire country to the Internet. This article seeks to trace the development of the Internet in Indonesia and examine the resulting impact on the reach of the radical Bahasa Indonesia Islamic websites in the Indonesian Archipelago and beyond. It also highlights typical narrative and operations of the radical websites, which serves to distinguish them from radical websites from elsewhere, such as the Middle East.
Paradigmatic Shifts in Jihadism in Cyberspace: The Emerging Role of Unaffiliated Sympathizers in Islamic State’s Social Media Strategy
2016 Yannick Veilleux-Lepage Report
This paper provides an overview of the evolution of the concept of jihadism as it presently exists in cyberspace. From its roots during the Chechen conflict to the current use of social media by the Islamic State (IS), this paper identifies and examines three highly significant paradigm shifts: (1) the emergence of rudimentary Web 2.0 platforms and jihadist forums; (2) the advent of advanced Web 2.0 and social media platforms as methods of spreading jihadism; and (3) turn towards ‘lone wolf’ terrorism. In this paper, the author argues that IS’ extensive reliance on unaffiliated sympathizers, who either re-tweet or re-post content produced and authorized by the IS leadership can be seen as a groundbreaking paradigm shift in the evolution of jihadism in cyberspace. Furthermore, it is also argued that IS’ strategy of empowering of unaffiliated sympathizers represents a further development in the evolution of jihadism in cyberspace and can best be understood as an attempt to normalize and legitimize IS’ existence through its efforts to dominate the ‘IS narrative’ across social media platforms.
The Evolution of Online Extremism in Malaysia
2017 Yasin, N.A.M. Journal
The apocalyptic narrative of the Syrian civil war promoted by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in 2014 had galvanised around a hundred radicals in Malaysia who subsequently migrated to Iraq and Syria. At least forty-five of them propagated their jihadist cause online resulting in the mushrooming of online extremism in the country. The growth spans over five years (2013-2017) in two phases, one led by Muhammad Lotfi Arifin’s network of online followers and the other by Muhammad Wanndy Muhammad Jedi’s online supporters and sympathizers. Lotfi and his network popularised the concept of ‘jihad’ from the perspective of militant groups, while Wanndy lured vulnerable online followers deeper into the later stages of violent radicalisation. The trajectory of Malaysia’s online violent radicalism from Lotfi to Wanndy was coincidental rather than deliberate, signifying the ‘funnel’ process of radicalisation. This process is synced with the terrorists’ switch from online public platforms to encrypted and private ones.
EEG distinguishes heroic narratives in ISIS online video propaganda
2020 Yoder, K.J., Ruby, K., Pape, R. and Decety, J. Article
The Islamic State (ISIS) was uniquely effective among extremist groups in the Middle East at recruiting Westerners. A major way ISIS accomplished this was by adopting Hollywood-style narrative structures for their propaganda videos. In particular, ISIS utilized a heroic martyr narrative, which focuses on an individual’s personal glory and empowerment, in addition to traditional social martyr narratives, which emphasize duty to kindred and religion. The current work presented adult participants (n = 238) video clips from ISIS propaganda which utilized either heroic or social martyr narratives and collected behavioral measures of appeal, narrative transportation, and psychological dispositions (egoism and empathy) associated with attraction to terrorism. Narrative transportation and the interaction between egoism and empathy predicted video recruitment appeal. A subset of adults (n = 80) underwent electroencephalographic (EEG) measurements while watching a subset of the video-clips. Complementary univariate and multivariate techniques characterized spectral power density differences when perceiving the different types of narratives. Heroic videos show increased beta power over frontal sites, and globally increased alpha. In contrast, social narratives showed greater frontal theta, an index of negative feedback and emotion regulation. The results provide strong evidence that ISIS heroic narratives are specifically processed, and appeal to psychological predispositions distinctly from other recruitment narratives.