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
The Language of New Terrorism: Differences in Psychological Dimensions of Communication in Dabiq and Inspire
2018 Vergani, M., and Bliuc, A-M. Journal
We investigate differences in the psychological aspects underpinning Western mobilisation of two terrorist groups by analysing their English-language propaganda. Based on a computerised analysis of the language used in two English-language online magazines circulated by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda (i.e., Dabiq and Inspire), we found significant differences in their language—the ISIS’ language being higher in authoritarianism and its level of religiousness. In a follow-up experimental study, we found that being high in religiousness and authoritarianism predicts more positive attitudes towards the language used by ISIS, but not towards the language used by al-Qaeda. The results suggest that ISIS’ propaganda may be more effective in mobilising individuals who are more authoritarian and more focused on religion than that of al-Qaeda. These findings are consistent with the behaviour observed in recent homegrown terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe.
The Language of Radicalization: Female Internet Recruitment to Participation in ISIS Activities
2018 Windsor, L. Article
Why do young Muslim women radicalize and undertake high-risk political behaviors, and what factors influence their sociopolitical transformation? The process of radicalization happens because of individual, social, and political dynamics, and is facilitated by the availability of computer-mediated communication. Some young Muslim women keep detailed records of their radicalization process via social media, which we use to understand their sociopolitical transformation. By evaluating their language, we can better understand how their personal, social, and political development unfolds. This paper is a case study examining the words of one young Muslim woman, Aqsa Mahmood, who moved from her home in Scotland to join the ISIS fighters in Syria. Her Tumblr blog provides a linguistic, political, and ideological record of the process of her radicalization. We identify linguistic patterns in her blog posts that can help to develop and reveal a typology of the language of female radicalization.
The Legal Response Of Western Democracies To Online Terrorism And Extremism
2020 Ramati, N. VOX-Pol Publication
Extremists and terrorists have found the online sphere, and specifically its social networks, to be an efficient tool for advancing their methods and political needs. The legal responses to the resulting threats from this online activity vary from country to country. The immense importance of the Internet in the everyday life of billions of people worldwide has raised difficult questions regarding the attempt to regulate online activity, especially in relation to the right of privacy and freedom of speech. This report examines how western democracies balance, from a legal point of view, the need to protect their populations from terrorist attacks and their duty to preserve the democratic rights of privacy and free speech.
The Lure of (Violent) Extremism: Gender Constructs in Online Recruitment and Messaging in Indonesia
2020 Johnston, M.F. Article
The gender dimension of violent extremism is under-studied; and “women terrorists” are stereotyped as either men’s dupes or (internet) warriors. Applying a gender lens, this study uses content analysis to examine Islamist extremist websites in Indonesia. Analysis reveals distinct recruitment language targeted at women and men, and rigid gender segregation of content and spaces. Extremists co-opt the language of women’s rights while also promoting gender-discriminatory harmful practices with the intent of establishing what they consider to be a more devout Islamic state. Gender analysis of online extremism has implications for strategies to counter and prevent radicalization to violence.
The Mediums and the Messages: Exploring the Language of Islamic State Media through Sentiment Analysis
2018 Macnair, L. and Frank, R. Article
This study applies the method of sentiment analysis to the online media released by the Islamic State (IS) in order to distinguish the ways in which IS uses language within their media, and potential ways in which this language differs across various online platforms. The data used for this sentiment analysis consist of transcripts of IS-produced videos, the text of IS-produced online periodical magazines, and social media posts from IS-affiliated Twitter accounts. It was found that the language and discourse utilised by IS in their online media is of a predominantly negative nature, with the language of videos containing the highest concentration of negative sentiment. The words and phrases with the most extreme sentiment values are used as a starting point for the identification of specific narratives that exist within online IS media. The dominant narratives discovered with the aid of sentiment analysis were: 1) the demonstrated strength of the IS, 2) the humiliation of IS enemies, 3) continuous victory, and 4) religious righteousness. Beyond the identification of IS narratives, this study serves to further explore the utility of the sentiment analysis method by applying it to mediums and data that it has not traditionally been applied to, specifically, videos and magazines.
The Neurocognitive Process Of Digital Radicalization: A Theoretical Model And Analytical Framework
2019 Howard, T., Poston, B. and Benning, S. D. Article
Recent studies suggest that empathy induced by narrative messages can effectively facilitate persuasion and reduce psychological reactance. Although limited, emerging research on the etiology of radical political behavior has begun to explore the role of narratives in shaping an individual’s beliefs, attitudes, and intentions that culminate in radicalization. The existing studies focus exclusively on the influence of narrative persuasion on an individual, but they overlook the necessity of empathy and that in the absence of empathy, persuasion is not salient. We argue that terrorist organizations are strategic in cultivating empathetic-persuasive messages using audiovisual materials, and disseminating their message within the digital medium. Therefore, in this paper we propose a theoretical model and analytical framework capable of helping us better understand the neurocognitive process of digital radicalization.
The New Netwar: Countering Extremism Online
2017 Frampton, M., Fisher, A., and Prucha, N. Report
Policy Exchange’s new report provides a comprehensive analysis of the
struggle against online jihadist extremism – what we call “the new
Netwar”. This issue is vital to UK national security and there is a
danger that the blood and treasure we are investing in defeating ISIS in
Iraq and Syria will produce little more than a pyrrhic victory unless we
act to defeat the virtual threat. At present, we are certainly not winning
the war online. The spate of terrorist attacks the UK suffered in the first
half of 2017 confirmed that online extremism is a real and present
danger. In each case, online radicalisation played some part in driving
the perpetrators to violence. As a society, we are struggling to grasp the
extent of the challenge and also appropriate ways of responding. It is
clear that the status quo is not working. It is time for a new approach.
Policy Exchange has worked with a team of experts to provide fresh
insight into the debate around online extremism. The report that
follows is divided into three sections:
The Next Generation of Terror
2009 Sageman, M. Article
The world's most dangerous jihadists no longer answer to al Qaeda. The terrorists we should fear most are self-recruited wannabes who find purpose in terror and comrades on the Web. This new generation is even more frightening and unpredictable than its predecessors, but its evolution just may reveal the key to its demise.
The Online Battleground The Use Of Online Platforms By Extremist Groups And Haktivists To Form Networks And Collective Indentities
2018 Jasmeet, B. MA Thesis
This thesis examines the use of social and virtual media by white supremacists, Islamic extremists and the hacktivist groups that surveil and dispute them. Social media platforms are commonly to use share opinions, have conversations and create followings of like-minded people. Extremist groups have adapted to new technologies to control their communications, allowing them to shape the way in which their messages are seen and understood by a global audience. Hacktivists use similar tactics and sites to gain traction for their movements against those they oppose. The research questions at the center of this project explored the functionality of digital platforms that enable extremist groups and hackers to disseminate their ideologies en masse to a global audience, and how the use of metaphors of war aid in enticing individuals to engage. The platforms were chosen as they facilitated the tracing of communication and interactions between hackers and extremists with those who become participants on those sites. Data collection focused on textual and graphical uploads, tweets, and forum posts on these platforms, as well as the interfaces of the websites through which the groups choose to interact. The data was analyzed using actor-network theory and critical theories of race. The results of this research showed that platforms make possible rapid and widespread dissemination of the beliefs of the hate groups, as well as the circulation of instructions on how to gain traction for their movements. Becoming a part of the networks created by these platforms allows new actors to modify their behaviors to emulate those they are interacting with. Users on the sites shape their identities based on the content they read, as well as the relationships they form with others in their networks. By understanding the way in which the groups use social media platforms to become accessible by their intended audience, it is possible to determine how followers shift from engaging to carrying out orders.
The Online Caliphate: Internet Usage And ISIS Support In The Arab World
2019 Piazza, J., A. and Guler, A. Article
Experts argue that the internet has provided expanded opportunities for violent extremist groups to propagandize and recruit. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, is an exemplar in that it has heavily invested in an online presence and uses online communities and social media to attract and retain supporters. Does ISIS’s online presence translate into a higher probability that individuals in its target audience will become supporters? In this study, we analyze over 6,000 individuals in six Arab countries to find if those that use the internet to follow political news or to express political views are more likely to support ISIS. We find that respondents who get their news online are significantly more likely to support ISIS than those who follow the news on television or print media. Moreover, those who use online fora for political expression are also more likely to express support for ISIS. Indeed, individuals who engage in online political discussion are more likely to support ISIS than those who engage in conventional political activity, though less than those who engage in contentious political behaviors such as attending a political protest. We conclude with a brief discussion of the academic and policy implications of these findings.
The Original Web of Hate - Revolution Muslim and American Homegrown Extremists
2015 Levin, B. Journal
Before the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leveraged the Internet into a truly modern quasi-state propaganda machine through horrendous online videos, travel handbooks, and sophisticated Twitter messengering, more humble yet highly effective precursors targeted youthful Western Muslims for radicalism, during a time when home grown plots peaked. These brash new entrants into the crowded freewheeling world of extremist cyber-haters joined racists, religious extremists of other faiths, Islamophobes, single issue proponents, as well as anti-government rhetoriticians and conspiracists. The danger from these evolving new provocateurs, then and now, is not that they represent a viewpoint that is widely shared by American Muslims. However, the earlier successful forays by extremist Salafists, firmly established the Internet as a tool to rapidly radicalize, train and connect a growing, but small number of disenfranchised or unstable young people to violence. The protections that the First Amendment provide to expression in the United States, contempt for Western policies and culture, contorted fundamentalism, and the initial successes of these early extremist Internet adopters, outlined here, paved the way for the ubiquitous and sophisticated online radicalization efforts we see today.
The Original Web of Hate Revolution Muslim and American Homegrown Extremists
2015 Levin, B. Article
Before the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leveraged the Internet into a truly modern quasi-state propaganda machine through horrendous online videos, travel handbooks, and sophisticated Twitter messengering, more humble yet highly effective precursors targeted youthful Western Muslims for radicalism, during a time when home grown plots peaked. These brash new entrants into the crowded freewheeling world of extremist cyber-haters joined racists, religious extremists of other faiths, Islamophobes, single issue proponents, as well as anti-government rhetoriticians and conspiracists. The danger from these evolving new provocateurs, then and now, is not that they represent a viewpoint that is widely shared by American Muslims. However, the earlier successful forays by extremist Salafists, firmly established the Internet as a tool to rapidly radicalize, train and connect a growing, but small number of disenfranchised or unstable young people to violence. The protections that the First Amendment provide to expression in the United States, contempt for Western policies and culture, contorted fundamentalism, and the initial successes of these early extremist Internet adopters, outlined here, paved the way for the ubiquitous and sophisticated online radicalization efforts we see today.
The Path to Persuasion: An Investigation into how Al-Shabab Constructs their Brand in their Digital Magazine Gaidi Mtaani.
2017 Bulbeck, E. MA Thesis
Branding strategies are becoming increasingly important for terrorist organisations who need
to take a more purposeful approach at imbuing aspirational associations to their organisations
in order secure recruits and funds in an increasingly competitive environment. The creation
and implication of these individual brands are further amplified through the sophisticated
harnessing of ICT and digital media, where the harnessing of novel tactics and digital trends
feed into the increasing use of branding. It is a strategy being employed by numerous terrorist
groups, and a burgeoning research field is rapidly evolving to represent this development.
This study seeks to explore how al-Shabab constructs their brand in their digital magazine
Gaidi Mtaani, using Aristotle's rhetorical triad of ethos, pathos and logos. This study has the
hopes of contributing to comparison studies between Dabiq and Inspire and wider terrorist
branding, terrorism, ICT and communication studies. Understanding the differences between
how some of the most notorious terrorist organizations distinguish themselves will help
counter the rhetoric and brand associations projected through their publications. In order to
answer this research question, this study will consist of a two-part theoretical framework
situated in the concept of branding and rhetoric theory. Rhetoric theory will help this study
understand how al-Shabab communicate and constructs their brand. It will allow for the
analysis of any persuasive communications that express al-Shabab’s brand associations and
help analyse al-Shabab's divisive use of language in order to ultimately promote their brand
and ideas. The empirical data will be analysed through the use of qualitative content analysis.
The platform governance triangle: conceptualising the informal regulation of online content
2019 Gorwa, R. Article
From the new Facebook ‘Oversight Body’ for content moderation to the ‘Christchurch Call to eliminate terrorism and violent extremism online,’ a growing number of voluntary and non-binding informal governance initiatives have recently been proposed as attractive ways to rein in Facebook, Google, and other platform companies hosting user-generated content. Drawing on the literature on transnational corporate governance, this article reviews a number of informal arrangements governing online content on platforms in Europe, mapping them onto Abbott and Snidal’s (2009) ‘governance triangle’ model. I discuss three key dynamics shaping the success of informal governance arrangements: actor competencies, ‘legitimation politics,’ and inter-actor relationships of power and coercion.
The Power Of A Good Story: Narrative Persuasion in Extremist Propaganda and Videos Against Violent Extremism
2018 Frischlich, L., Rieger, D., Morten, A. and Bente, G. Article
The perceived threat of extremist online propaganda has generated a need for countermeasures applicable to large audiences. The dissemination of videos designed to counter violent extremism (CVE videos) is widely discussed. These videos are often described as “counter-narratives,” implying that narrativity is a crucial factor for their effectiveness. Experimental research testing this assumption is rare and direct comparisons of narrativity effects between propaganda and CVE videos are lacking. To fill this gap, we conducted two experiments (one in a laboratory and one online) in which we confronted German participants with different religious affiliations and from various cultural backgrounds (NStudy 1 = 338 and NStudy 2 = 155) with Islamist extremist or right-wing extremist propaganda videos and with corresponding CVE videos. The results confirmed that narrativity (a) increases persuasive processing of propaganda and CVE videos, (b) fosters amplification intentions regarding these videos, and (c) increases attraction to extremists versus counter-activists. Thus, our studies highlight the crucial role of narrativity in both extremist propaganda and video-based CVE approaches.
The Power of Online Radicalization with Peter Neumann, part 1
2014 Neumann, P. Video
An Interview with Peter Neumann by David H. Schanzer, Associate Professor of the Practice for Public Policy and Director, Triangle Center of Terrorism and Homeland Security. Originally uploaded by D Schanzer on 31 January 2014 (Part 1)
The Power of Online Radicalization with Peter Neumann, part 2
2014 Neumann, P. Video
An interview with Peter Neumann of VOX-Pol partner ICSR by David H. Schanzer, Associate Professor of the Practice for Public Policy and Director, Triangle Center of Terrorism and Homeland Security, focusing on the power of online radicalisation. Originally uploaded by D Schanzer on 31 January 2014
The Propaganda Pipeline: The ISIS Fuouaris Upload Network on Facebook
2020 Ayad, M. Report
This new investigation from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) delves into the inner workings of a pro-ISIS account network on Facebook, providing a case study of the resilient network dynamics, technological loopholes, and cross-platform activity that allowed a web of accounts to survive and flourish for over three months on a platform which purports to be a hostile environment for terrorist actors.
The Radical Online: Individual Radicalization Processes and the Role of the Internet
2014 Koehler, D. Journal
This paper examines in detail the role of the Internet in individual radicalization processes of eight German former right-wing extremists. Applying Grounded Theory methodology the qualitative interviews were analyzed in several coding and re-coding phases. The findings are integrated into the existing literature afterwards. Besides well known factors, such as more effective communication, anonymity and better networking opportunities, this study found evidence that the Internet is a major driving factor to establish and foster the development of radical contrast societies (cf. Koehler, 2015) transmitting radical and violent ideologies and translating them into political activism. As a venue for information exchange, ideological development and training, the individual radicalization process was characteristically shaped or even made possible through the Internet. This paper also shows the high value of qualitative research regarding the topic in contrast to usually employed quantitative analysis of webpage content.
The Response of, and on, Twitter to the Release of Dabiq Issue 15
2017 Grinnell, D., Macdonald, S., and Mair, D. Article
The so-called Islamic State (IS) has a sophisticated media strategy (Winter 2017), an important part of which has been its English-language online magazine Dabiq. Launched in July 2014, a total of fifteen issues of Dabiq in the two years that followed. These issues were disseminated in a variety of ways, including archive sites (Bodo and Speckhard 2017), web forums and file-sharing networks (Gambhir 2016), the dark web (Stacey 2017), and even via an attempt to sell the freely available magazines for profit through the online retailer Amazon (Masi 2015). One of the most important forums for dissemination, however, was the social media platform Twitter (Bodo and Speckhard 2017; Gambhir 2016; Cunningham, Everton and Schroeder 2015; Shaheen 2015). Released in July 2016, the theme of Dabiq issue 15 was ‘Break the Cross’. After referring to a number of attacks that had occurred in the preceding weeks, the issue’s foreword called on ‘pagan Christians’, ‘liberalist secularists’ and ‘sceptical atheists’ to ‘recognize their Creator and submit to Him’. In addition to regular features, including ‘Among the believers are men’ and ‘In the words of the enemy’ (which, in this issue’ focussed on Pope Francis), and advertisements for other IS media, issue 15 contained an 18 page feature article, also titled ‘Break the Cross’. Arguing that the Bible does not display the three hallmarks of a true divine text, the article discusses the doctrine of the Trinity, whether Jesus was crucified, and whether Paul’s New Testament teachings are authentic (repeatedly stating that Paul was a known liar). It then seeks to establish the authenticity of the Prophet Muhammad, before asking Christians rhetorically: ‘O People of the Scripture, follow the truth from your Lord, whom you claim to love. Would you follow your parents and ancestors if you knew they were walking into a fire?’ and concluding ‘Know well that our fight will continue until you are defeated and submit to the rule of your Creator, or until we achieve martyrdom. Allah has made our mission to wage war against disbelief until it ceases to exist, as he has ordered us to kill all pagans wherever they are found’. Drawing on an original dataset, in this article we examine the response to the release of Dabiq issue 15 on Twitter. We examine the response in two respects: first, the response from Twitter itself, in terms of suspension activity; and, second, the response from other users, in terms of their engagement with posts disseminating the new issue. Before presenting our findings, we begin by offering an overview of our methodology.