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 email@example.com and we will consider adding it to the Library. It is also our aim to make the Library a truly inclusive multilingual facility and we thus welcome contributions in all languages.
The Topic of Terrorism on Yahoo! Answers: Questions, Answers and Users’ Anonymity
|2019||Chua, A. and Banerjee, S.||Article|
|The purpose of this paper is to explore the use of community question answering sites (CQAs) on the topic of terrorism. Three research questions are investigated: what are the dominant themes reflected in terrorism-related questions? How do answer characteristics vary with question themes? How does users’ anonymity relate to question themes and answer characteristics?
Data include 300 questions that attracted 2,194 answers on the community question answering Yahoo! Answers. Content analysis was employed.
The questions reflected the community’s information needs ranging from the life of extremists to counter-terrorism policies. Answers were laden with negative emotions reflecting hate speech and Islamophobia, making claims that were rarely verifiable. Users who posted sensitive content generally remained anonymous.
This paper raises awareness of how CQAs are used to exchange information about sensitive topics such as terrorism. It calls for governments and law enforcement agencies to collaborate with major social media companies to develop a process for cross-platform blacklisting of users and content, as well as identifying those who are vulnerable.
Theoretically, it contributes to the academic discourse on terrorism in CQAs by exploring the type of questions asked, and the sort of answers they attract. Methodologically, the paper serves to enrich the literature around terrorism and social media that has hitherto mostly drawn data from Facebook and Twitter.
The Tranquillity Campaign: A Beacon of Light in the Dark World Wide Web
|2017||Khaled al–Saud, A.||Article|
|This Research Paper sheds light on the experience of the pioneering Saudi–based independent online counter– radicalization campaign called ‘Sakinah’ (Tranquillity), launched in 2003. Relying on multiple interviews and discussions with the founder and head of the campaign the writer of this Research Note was granted exclusive access to early archived campaign materials and records of dialogues with terrorists and radicals. This Research Note is able to highlight the history and methodology of the campaign’s work, the shifted motivations of radicals over time, and the importance of such initiatives and efforts. It also shows how, as a result of the changing nature and environment in which radicals operate, the campaign innovated its strategies and moved from a defensive counter-narrative engagement towards more offensive, proactive messaging aimed at eliciting specific reactions and taking control of the narrative and debate.|
The Transnationalisation of Far Right Discourse on Twitter
|2018||Froio, C. Ganesh, B.||Article|
|How transnational are the audiences of far right parties and movements on Twitter? While an increasing number of contributions addresses the topic of transnationalism in far right politics, few systematic investigations exist on the actors and discourses favored in transnational exchanges on social media. Building on the literature on the far right, social movements, transnationalism and the Internet, the paper addresses this gap by studying the initiators and the issues that are favored in online exchanges between audiences of far right organizations, e.g. political parties and movements across France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. We use a new dataset on the activities of far right Twitter users that is analyzed through a mixed methods approach. Using social network analysis, we detect transnational links between far right organizations across countries based on retweets from audiences of far right Twitter users. Retweets are qualitatively coded for content and compared to the content retweeted within national communities. Finally, using a logistic regression, we quantify the level to which specific issues and organizations enjoy high levels of attention across borders. Subsequently, we use discourse analysis to qualitatively reconstruct the interpretative frames accompanying these patterns. We find that although social media are often ascribed much power in favoring transnational exchanges between far right organizations, there is little evidence of this. Only a few issues (anti-immigration and nativist interpretations of the economy) garner transnational far right audiences on Twitter. In addition, we find that more than movements, political parties play a prominent role in the construction of a transnational far right discourse.|
The Trolls Disappear in the Light: Swedish Experiences of Mediated Sexualised Hate Speech in the Aftermath of Behring Breivik
|Feminist journalists have come to expect special resistance, and even threats, from men’s groups as part of their work as journalists. However, the biggest threats might not originate in men’s groups’ activities. A big threat currently comes from Internet trolls’ responses to individuals who engage in hate‐provoked and hate‐provoking attacks on women as women. This is exemplified in the case of Anders Behring Breivik, who blew up government buildings in Oslo in 2011 and murdered youth from the Labour Party at Utøya as part of his explicitly articulated xenophobic and misogynist campaign against the Islamification of Norway. His ideas are still being shared in social media responses to this tragedy across Nordic countries. This paper argues that this demonstrates that the harms to women and to society go well beyond the individual victims of an identifiable incident. Largely because of their role in condemning and rejecting the hateful ideas advanced across social media forums, troll responses to the Breivik tragedy constitute a particular threat to female and especially feminist journalists.|
The Ungovernability of Digital Hate Culture
|Social media and the Internet play an important role in the proliferation of hateful and extreme speech. Looking to contemporary networks of digitally mediated extreme right-wing communication, this essay explores the form, dynamics, and potential governance of digital hate culture. It focuses on the cultural practices and imagination present in the networks of digital hate culture to illuminate how two frames, the Red Pill and white genocide, unify the different groups that take part in these networks. After providing a high-level overview of these networks, this essay explains three formal features of digital hate culture that make it ungovernable: its swarm structure, its exploitation of inconsistencies in web governance between different actors, and its use of coded language to avoid moderation by government or private sector actors. By outlining its cultural style and ungovernable features, this essay provides policy professionals and researchers with an understanding of contemporary digital hate culture and provides suggestions for future approaches to consider when attempting to counter and disrupt the networks on which it depends.|
The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, 2009
|2009||Home Office, United Kingdom||Policy|
|The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, 2009|
The Use of Social Media by Terrorist Fundraisers and Financiers
|2016||The Camstoll Group||Report|
|Financiers and fundraisers for al-Qaida and Islamic State (ISIS) are active
users of popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter,
YouTube and Instagram, in some cases even after being placed on a
United Nations or US government sanctions list. Terrorist financiers
and fundraisers have utilized social media to attract and direct funding
to procure weapons, pay salaries, strengthen infrastructure and operate
civil and social services. While the amount of funding raised via social
media is far less in comparison to revenues from oil sales or taxation,
al-Qaida and ISIS fundraisers have taken credit for millions of dollars
raised using social media-based campaigns—significant amounts by
Terrorist financiers and fundraisers for al-Qaida and ISIS have relied on
social media services to communicate with colleagues and supporters,
attract new followers globally, and promote aligned causes and
organizations. With their potential to spur viral content growth, social
media services enable fundraisers to more quickly and effectively solicit
support and reach larger audiences.
Social media companies have actively terminated the accounts of
terrorist facilitators—including a number of designated terrorist
fundraisers and financiers—citing violations of their respective terms
of service restrictions that prohibit support for violence or hate speech
[see pg.12]. For example, in early February 2016 Twitter announced the
closure of more than 125,000 accounts “for threatening or promoting
terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS,” noting that social media platforms
are “forced to make challenging judgment calls based on very limited
information and guidance.”1 Facebook has also stepped up its efforts
to remove users who back terror groups, and YouTube has taken down
content and terminated users who post terrorist material.2
The Use of Social Media by United States Extremists
|2018||Jensen M., James P., LaFree G., Safer-Lichtenstein A. and Yates E.||Report|
|Emerging communication technologies, and social media platforms in particular, play an increasingly important role
in the radicalization and mobilization processes of violent and non-violent extremists (Archetti, 2015; Cohen et al.,
2014; Farwell, 2014; Klausen, 2015). However, the extent to which extremists utilize social media, and whether it
influences terrorist outcomes, is still not well understood (Conway, 2017). This research brief expands the current
knowledge base by leveraging newly collected data on the social media activities of 479 extremists in the PIRUS
dataset who radicalized between 2005 and 2016.
1 This includes descriptive analyses of the frequency of social
media usage among U.S. extremists, the types of social media platforms used, the differences in the rates of social
media use by ideology and group membership, the purposes of social media use, and the impact of social media on
foreign fighter travel and domestic terrorism plots.
The Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes
|2012||United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)||Policy|
|Terrorism, in all its manifestations, affects us all. The use of the Internet to further terrorist purposes disregards national borders, amplifying the potential impact on victims. By highlighting cases and best practices that respond to this unique challenge, the present publication has two aims: first, to promote a better understanding of the ways in which communications technologies may be misused in furtherance of acts of terrorism and, second, to increase collaboration among Member States, so that effective criminal justice responses to this transnational challenge can be developed.|
The Viral Mediation of Terror: ISIS, Image, Implosion
|Operations involving the capture, processing, and transmission of terrorist events, campaigns, or images produce effects well beyond the representational/informational functions of media. This article examines several unspoken effects involved in the mediation of terrorism. We analyze the extent to which several mechanisms and operations of western media may be complicit in, if not fundamental to, the global production and administration of terror, particularly at the level of its image and what we call virality. We theorize the ways in which media not only “mediate” terror, but also function to regulate and/or administer it and, in particular, to exacerbate, amplify, and proliferate images and activities of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) across global networks of digital exchange. We argue that key to understanding the strategies and circulating effects of ISIS’s media involvement is the tendency of viral media operations to overproduce, overextend, and oversaturate. The condition of oversaturation denotes a hyperactive global media circuitry that is collapsing under its own weight. This condition reflects a strategic tendency of terror, which underlies all mediatic processing of images deployed by ISIS. It also reveals a vulnerability for terrorist strategy to exacerbate and exhaust the hyperactivity of media, and thus to accelerate the implosive collapse of the globally networked system. We theorize how implicit and unintended effects or outputs of the mediatic processing of terrorist meanings, images, and discourses may work to overstimulate the global system to the point of its reversal, exhaustion, or implosion.|
The Virtual 'Caliphate': Understanding Islamic State's Propaganda Strategy
|For too long, the immensity of Islamic State’s propaganda machine has obscured a rational
understanding of it. The organisation’s media strategists are producing high-definition depictions
of the most abhorrent brutality on an industrial scale, ensuring that jihadism is digitalised and
brought firmly into the 21st century. The days when we saw grainy video footage played on Al
Jazeera and propaganda was limited to stagnant speeches made by terrorist leaders are long gone.
Islamic State has revolutionised jihadist messaging, by jettisoning operational security in the
pursuit of dynamism, so that it can produce propaganda that tells a story, exciting or appalling its
viewers, depending on who they are.
This has not gone unnoticed, it is forever being discussed in the pages of our newspapers and on
the screens of our televisions – ‘high production value’ and ‘high definition’ are the new buzzwords
of today’s terrorism. While they may be appropriate terms, they have stopped us from rationally
assessing the organisation behind the glossy propaganda.
This report seeks to redress that situation, presenting the most extensive analysis of the
organisation’s propaganda strategy to date. It demonstrates that Islamic State’s media operation
is carefully calculated, with jihadist videographers producing bespoke content for a wide range of
audiences. It shows that the group’s brutality is a red herring; that the violence depicted is a result
of the propagandists’ desire to outrage hostile audiences abroad and gratify their supporters at
It is only after we have achieved an understanding of the motivations and objectives that drive the
Islamic State media machine that we can begin to challenge it effectively. How, for example, can
we be expected to develop a counter-narrative without knowing what narratives we are
countering? How can we propose effective counter messaging strategies unless we understand
what and how exactly the messages that we are countering are being disseminated, and to what
With hundreds of citizens from across the world travelling to join Islamic State’s terrorist
bastardisation of the ‘caliphate’, the situation has never been more critical. Extremist supporters
of Islamic State have already carried out attacks in countries around the world, from North
America to Australasia, and the threat of their intensification increases every day. It is imperative
that we – practitioners, policymakers and publics – better understand just how the messages of
indoctrination are delivered and hence what drives these individuals to waste life in the name of
Islamic State’s violent Islamist fantasy.
QUILLIAM CHARLIE WINTER
With this report, Quilliam’s Senior Researcher on Transnational Jihadism, Charlie Winter, has
made a most important contribution to the global effort to counter Islamic State. Through his
systematic research – which, over the course of the ‘caliphate’s’ first full year, involved daily
monitoring of terrorist activity on both Arabic- and English-language social media – he has been
able to critically assess the Islamic State media machine, both up close and from afar.
Through his assessment of Islamic State propaganda in aggregate, after his documenting of well
over a thousand individual propaganda campaigns, Charlie has been able to distil its
unprecedented jihadist brand into six key narratives: brutality, mercy, victimhood, war, belonging
and utopia. With these themes and their relative prevalence in mind, it was possible for him to
determine which audiences Islamic State targets in each of its campaigns: active opponents,
international publics, active members, potential recruits, disseminators, proselytizers and
enlisters. Evidently, the Islamic State propagandists know their game.
This war cannot be won through military and political means alone; it is as much a war of
information and propaganda as anything else and, currently, it is fatally imbalanced to the
advantage of Islamic State.
What this report makes very clear is that we need to respond in kind – relying upon someone else
to produce a panacea to it, a single counter-narrative that is universally appealing to all audiences,
is a fruitless pursuit. If the international community is to effectively approach the Islamic State
crisis, it must do so in a synchronised, comprehensive manner and revolutionise its approach to
Whether it is by matching the approach that Islamic State use or the sheer quantity of the content
they produce – an average of three videos and more than fifteen photographic reports are
circulated per day – we must respond to 21st Century jihadism by ensuring that we too are
operating in the same century.
The Virtual Caliphate: ISIS's Information Warfare
|ISIS will likely maintain the capacity to align its military and information operations (IO) in the coming years. Continuing conflicts and the plodding effort to address the underlying conditions where it has taken root will likely help ISIS retain physical sanctuary and command and control capability in Iraq, Syria, and North Africa, even if it loses control of major cities. ISIS’s IO campaign has supported multiple objectives, including control over territory, coercion of populations, and recruitment. This campaign has enabled ISIS’s survival and execution of international terror attacks. It may ultimately usher in a “Virtual Caliphate” – a radicalized community organized online – that empowers the global Salafi-jihadi movement and that could operate independently of ISIS. This “Virtual Caliphate,” the emergence of which becomes more likely the longer ISIS’s physical caliphate exists, would represent a unique challenge to American national security. Other hostile actors, beyond ISIS and the global Salafi-jihadi movement, are also adopting elements of a broader IO campaign, highlighting the requirement for
the U.S. to formulate a determined response. The U.S. possesses inherent advantages, including material resources, military strength and convening power, with which to confront this evolving threat. It also has challenges to overcome, including the lack of a government-wide strategy – supported by the necessary resources and proper bureaucratic organization – to counter enemy IO. The U.S. should continue to counter ISIS and other enemies in this arena by focusing on rolling them back on the ground, degrading their technical capabilities and other means they employ to reach their intended audiences, and helping facilitate the emergence of compelling counter-narratives amenable to American interests.
The Virtual Sanctuary of Al-Qaeda and Terrorism in an Age of Globalisation
|Chapter in Johan Eriksson, Giampiero Giacomello, 'International Relations and Security in the
Digital Age' - The fusion of globalisation and terrorism in the 21 century created a new, adaptable and complex form of ‘networked’ asymmetric adversary. For al-Qaeda and its successor affiliates Internet has become not just a virtual sanctuary, where every dimension of the global jihad is taking place online. In many ways cyberspace has created a virtual university of jihad with advice available anytime to any militant. It was also more than a functional tool to enhance its communication, to promote its ideology, recruit, fundraise and even train. For al-Qaeda and its progeny, cyberspace constitutes a type of central nervous system as it remains critical to its viability in terms of structure and even more as a movement. Some have even argued that al- Qaeda has become the “first guerrilla movement in history to migrate from physical space to cyberspace.”
The Virus of Hate: Far-Right Terrorism in Cyberspace
|2020||Weimann, G. and Masri, N.||Report|
|Founded in 1996, the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) is one of the leading academic institutes for counter-terrorism in the world, facilitating international cooperation in the global struggle against terrorism. ICT is an independent think tank providing expertise in terrorism, counter-terrorism, homeland security, threat vulnerability and risk assessment, intelligence analysis and national security and defense policy. ICT is a non-profit organization located at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel which relies exclusively on private donations and revenue from events, projects and program.|
The Web is a Terrorist’s Command-and-Control Network of Choice
|People do not want social media platforms to facilitate murder, writes Robert Hannigan|
The Women of Stormfront: An Examination of White Nationalist Discussion Threads on the Internet
|2011||Castle, T. and Chevalier, M.||Journal|
|Although a plethora of literature exists on hate or extremist group activity, the role of racist women remains an unexplored area. The current study sought to explore one method of communication for racist women, the Internet. The researchers conducted a content analysis on 227 discussion threads provided on one of the oldest extremist websites on the Internet, Stormfront. The purpose of this study was to investigate the content of the discussion threads described as ‘For Stormfront Ladies Only.’ Of primary interest to the researchers was whether the content discussed by women in this ‘White Nationalist’ cyber community supported the assertion by some scholars that the role of women in racist activities is undergoing a transformation and the implications of this study in that regard are discussed.|
There and Back Again: How White Nationalist Ephemera Travels Between Online and Offline Spaces
|2020||Berger, J.M., Aryaeinejad, K. and Looney, S.||Article|
|This article represents an initial exploration of the content and posting strategies of the current wave of racist flyer drops in the US, focusing specifically on a dataset of all documented flyers posted in 2018. The dataset was generated by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and augmented by the authors. The dataset is unique among open sources and includes a large number of incidents which were not reported in the media. The article consists of three parts. The first documents and briefly discusses the groups engaged in racist flyer development and drops. The second describes and characterises the text and image content of the flyers. The final section uses open sources and leaked material to describe the process by which flyer drops are instigated, planned and documented.|
This is Not a Game: How Steam Harbors Extremists
|Steam, the largest and most important online store for PC gamers with over $4 Billion in revenue in 2017, has recently gained popularity among white supremacists for being a platform, like Gab and Telegram, where they can openly express their ideology and calls for violence. The difference between Steam and social media platforms like Telegram or Gab is that while the latter do not share a formal business relationship with the wider social media industry, Steam has direct and lucrative relationships with most major game companies, including 2K, Electronic Arts, Xbox Game Studios, Ubisoft and others. Many of these game companies have made public statements about and dedicated significant resources towards keeping their products safe from the kinds of hateful ideologies espoused by extremists -- while continuing to work with Steam.|
This is Not Your Mother’s Terrorism: Social Media, Online Radicalization and the Practice of Political Jamming
|It is commonly recognized that social media presents vast new opportunities for terrorist groups seeking to radicalize audiences. However, few scholars have studied the actual mechanisms by which radicalizing messages are delivered to those audiences. Within this paper, the author explores one key aspect of the phenomenon of ‘jihadi cool’ – that is, the rendering of pro-Islamic terrorism into something hip and trendy among online audiences. Discussed is the use of political jamming: a subversive, satirical activity that draws on humor to reinforce ideological messages. The opportunity for countering these messages through the same technique is also considered.|
Thornton Statement Nottingham University Terrorism Arrests
|Comments made by Dr Rod Thornton, Lecturer, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham on the events surrounding, and the repercussions of , the terrorism arrests at Nottingham University in May 2008|