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.

Featured

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TitleYearAuthorTypeLinks
Digital Dog Whistles: The New Online Language of Extremism
The International Journal of Security Studies Weimann, G. Article
Terrorists and extremists groups are communicating sometimes openly but very often in concealed formats. Recently Far-right extremists including white supremacist, anti-Semite groups, racists and neo-Nazis started using a coded "New Language". Alarmed by police and security forces attempts to find them online and by the social platforms attempts to remove their contents, they try to apply the new language of codes and doublespeak. This study explores the emergence of a new language, the system of code words developed by Far-right extremists. What are the characteristics of this new language? How is it transmitted? How is it used? Our survey of online Far-right contents reveals the use of visual and textual codes for extremists. These hidden languages enable extremists to hide in plain sight and for others to easily identify like-minded individuals. There is no doubt that the "new language" used online by Far-right groups comprises all the known attributes of a language: It is very creative, productive and instinctive, uses exchanges of verbal or symbolic utterances shared by certain individuals and groups. These findings should serve both Law Enforcement and private sector bodies interested in preventing hate speech online.
Fake news: the effects of social media disinformation on domestic terrorism
Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict Piazza, J.A. Article
This study tests whether social media disinformation contributes to domestic terrorism within countries. I theorize that disinformation disseminated by political actors online through social media heightens political polarization within countries and that this, in turn, produces an environment where domestic terrorism is more likely to occur. I test this theory using data from more than 150 countries for the period 2000–2017. I find that propagation of disinformation through social media drives domestic terrorism. Using mediation tests I also verify that disinformation disseminated through social media increases domestic terrorism by, among other processes, enhancing political polarization within society.
Mobilizing extremism online: comparing Australian and Canadian right-wing extremist groups on Facebook
2021 Hutchinson, J., Amarasingam, A., Scrivens, R. and Ballsun-Stanton, B. Article
Right-wing extremist groups harness popular social media platforms to accrue and mobilize followers. In recent years, researchers have examined the various themes and narratives espoused by extremist groups in the United States and Europe, and how these themes and narratives are employed to mobilize their followings on social media. Little, however, is comparatively known about how such efforts unfold within and between right-wing extremist groups in Australia and Canada. In this study, we conducted a cross-national comparative analysis of over eight years of online content found on 59 Australian and Canadian right-wing group pages on Facebook. Here we assessed the level of active and passive user engagement with posts and identified certain themes and narratives that generated the most user engagement. Overall, a number of ideological and behavioral commonalities and differences emerged in regard to patterns of active and passive user engagement, and the character of three prevailing themes: methods of violence, and references to national and racial identities. The results highlight the influence of both the national and transnational context in negotiating which themes and narratives resonate with Australian and Canadian right-wing online communities, and the multi-dimensional nature of right-wing user engagement and social mobilization on social media.
Toward an Ethical Framework for Countering Extremist Propaganda Online
2021 Henschke, A. Article
In recent years, extremists have increasingly turned to online spaces to distribute propaganda and as a recruitment tool. While there is a clear need for governments and social media companies to respond to these efforts, such responses also bring with them a set of ethical challenges. This paper provides an ethical analysis of key policy responses to online extremist propaganda. It identifies the ethical challenges faced by policy responses and details the ethical foundations on which such policies can potentially be justified in a modern liberal democracy. We also offer an ethical framework in which policy responses to online extremism in liberal democracies can be grounded, setting clear parameters upon which future policies can be built in a fast-changing online environment.
Racism, Hate Speech, and Social Media: A Systematic Review and Critique
2021 Matamoros-Fernández, A. and Farkas, J. Article
Departing from Jessie Daniels’s 2013 review of scholarship on race and racism online, this article maps and discusses recent developments in the study of racism and hate speech in the subfield of social media research. Systematically examining 104 articles, we address three research questions: Which geographical contexts, platforms, and methods do researchers engage with in studies of racism and hate speech on social media? To what extent does scholarship draw on critical race perspectives to interrogate how systemic racism is (re)produced on social media? What are the primary methodological and ethical challenges of the field? The article finds a lack of geographical and platform diversity, an absence of researchers’ reflexive dialogue with their object of study, and little engagement with critical race perspectives to unpack racism on social media. There is a need for more thorough interrogations of how user practices and platform politics co-shape contemporary racisms.
An Ensemble Method for Radicalization and Hate Speech Detection Online Empowered by Sentic Computing
2021 Araque, O. and Iglesias, C. A. Article
The dramatic growth of the Web has motivated researchers to extract knowledge from enormous repositories and to exploit the knowledge in myriad applications. In this study, we focus on natural language processing (NLP) and, more concretely, the emerging field of affective computing to explore the automation of understanding human emotions from texts. This paper continues previous efforts to utilize and adapt affective techniques into different areas to gain new insights. This paper proposes two novel feature extraction methods that use the previous sentic computing resources AffectiveSpace and SenticNet. These methods are efficient approaches for extracting affect-aware representations from text. In addition, this paper presents a machine learning framework using an ensemble of different features to improve the overall classification performance. Following the description of this approach, we also study the effects of known feature extraction methods such as TF-IDF and SIMilarity-based sentiment projectiON (SIMON). We perform a thorough evaluation of the proposed features across five different datasets that cover radicalization and hate speech detection tasks. To compare the different approaches fairly, we conducted a statistical test that ranks the studied methods. The obtained results indicate that combining affect-aware features with the studied textual representations effectively improves performance. We also propose a criterion considering both classification performance and computational complexity to select among the different methods.
A Snapshot of the Syrian Jihadi Online Ecology: Differential Disruption, Community Strength, and Preferred Other Platforms
2021 Conway, M., Khawaja, M., Lakhani, S. and Reffin, J. Article
This article contributes to the growing literature on extremist and terrorist online ecologies and approaches to snapshotting these. It opens by measuring Twitter’s differential disruption of so-called “Islamic State” versus other jihadi parties to the Syria conflict, showing that while Twitter became increasingly inhospitable to IS in 2017 and 2018, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham retained strong communities on the platform during the same period. An analysis of the same groups’ Twitter out-linking activity has the twofold purpose of determining the reach of groups’ content by quantifying the number of platforms it was available on and analyzing the nature and functionalities of the online spaces out-linked to.
The online behaviors of Islamic state terrorists in the United States
2021 Whittaker, J. Article
This study offers an empirical insight into terrorists’ use of the Internet. Although criminology has previously been quiet on this topic, behavior‐based studies can aid in understanding the interactions between terrorists and their environments. Using a database of 231 US‐based Islamic State terrorists, four important findings are offered: (1) This cohort utilized the Internet heavily for the purposes of both networking with co‐ideologues and learning about their intended activity. (2) There is little reason to believe that these online interactions are replacing offline ones, as has previously been suggested. Rather, terrorists tend to operate in both domains. (3) Online activity seems to be similar across the sample, regardless of the number of co‐offenders or the sophistication of attack. (4) There is reason to believe that using the Internet may be an impediment to terrorists’ success.
Affective Practice of Soldiering: How Sharing Images Is Used to Spread Extremist and Racist Ethos on Soldiers of Odin Facebook Site
2021 Nikunen, K., Hokka, J. and Nelimarkka, M. Article
The paper explores how visual affective practice is used to spread and bolster a nationalist, extremist and racist ethos on the public Facebook page of the anti-immigrant group, Soldiers of Odin. Affective practice refers to a particular sensibility of political discourse, shaped by social formations and digital technologies—the contexts in which political groups or communities gather, discuss and act. The study shows how visual affective practice and sharing and responding to images fortify moral claims, sense exclusionary solidarity and promote white nationalist masculinity which legitimizes racist practices of “soldiering.” By examining both the representations and their reactions (emoticons), the study demonstrates how ideas and values are collectively strengthened through affective sharing and are supported by platform infrastructures. Most importantly, it demonstrates that instead of considering the affect of protecting the nation as a natural result of “authentic” gut feeling, we should understand the ways it is purposefully and collectively produced and circulated.
Governing Hate: Facebook and Digital Racism
2021 Siapera, E. and Viejo-Otero, P. Article
This article is concerned with identifying the ideological and techno-material parameters that inform Facebook’s approach to racism and racist contents. The analysis aims to contribute to studies of digital racism by showing Facebook’s ideological position on racism and identifying its implications. To understand Facebook’s approach to racism, the article deconstructs its governance structures, locating racism as a sub-category of hate speech. The key findings show that Facebook adopts a post-racial, race-blind approach that does not consider history and material differences, while its main focus is on enforcement, data, and efficiency. In making sense of these findings, we argue that Facebook’s content governance turns hate speech from a question of ethics, politics, and justice into a technical and logistical problem. Secondly, it socializes users into developing behaviors/contents that adapt to race-blindness, leading to the circulation of a kind of flexible racism. Finally, it spreads this approach from Silicon Valley to the rest of the world.
On Frogs, Monkeys, and Execution Memes: Exploring the Humor-Hate Nexus at the Intersection of Neo-Nazi and Alt-Right Movements in Sweden
2021 Askanius, T. Article
This article is based on a case study of the online media practices of the militant neo-Nazi organization the Nordic Resistance Movement, currently the biggest and most active extreme-right actor in Scandinavia. I trace a recent turn to humor, irony, and ambiguity in their online communication and the increasing adaptation of stylistic strategies and visual aesthetics of the Alt-Right inspired by online communities such as 4chan, 8chan, Reddit, and Imgur. Drawing on a visual content analysis of memes (N = 634) created and circulated by the organization, the analysis explores the place of humor, irony, and ambiguity across these cultural expressions of neo-Nazism and how ideas, symbols, and layers of meaning travel back and forth between neo-Nazi and Alt-right groups within Sweden today.
Online Extremism and Terrorism Research Ethics: Researcher Safety, Informed Consent, and the Need for Tailored Guidelines
2021 Conway, M. Article
This article reflects on two core issues of human subjects’ research ethics and how they play out for online extremism and terrorism researchers. Medical research ethics, on which social science research ethics are based, centers the protection of research subjects, but what of the protection of researchers? Greater attention to researcher safety, including online security and privacy and mental and emotional wellbeing, is called for herein. Researching hostile or dangerous communities does not, on the other hand, exempt us from our responsibilities to protect our research subjects, which is generally ensured via informed consent. This is complicated in data-intensive research settings, especially with the former type of communities, however. Also grappled with in this article therefore are the pros and cons of waived consent and deception and the allied issue of prevention of harm to subjects in online extremism and terrorism research. The best path forward it is argued—besides talking through the diversity of ethical issues arising in online extremism and terrorism research and committing our thinking and decision-making around them to paper to a much greater extent than we have done to-date—may be development of ethics guidelines tailored to our sub-field.
Discourse patterns used by extremist Salafists on Facebook: identifying potential triggers to cognitive biases in radicalized content
2021 Bouko, C., Naderer, B., Rieger, D., Van Ostaeyen, P. and Voué, P. Article
Understanding how extremist Salafists communicate, and not only what, is key to gaining insights into the ways they construct their social order and use psychological forces to radicalize potential sympathizers on social media. With a view to contributing to the existing body of research which mainly focuses on terrorist organizations, we analyzed accounts that advocate violent jihad without supporting (at least publicly) any terrorist group and hence might be able to reach a large and not yet radicalized audience. We constructed a critical multimodal and multidisciplinary framework of discourse patterns that may work as potential triggers to a selection of key cognitive biases and we applied it to a corpus of Facebook posts published by seven extremist Salafists. Results reveal how these posts are either based on an intense crisis construct (through negative outgroup nomination, intensification and emotion) or on simplistic solutions composed of taken-for-granted statements. Devoid of any grey zone, these posts do not seek to convince the reader; polarization is framed as a presuppositional established reality. These observations reveal that extremist Salafist communication is constructed in a way that may trigger specific cognitive biases, which are discussed in the paper.
Rushing to Judgement: Are Short Mandatory Takedown Limits for Online Hate Speech Compatible with The Freedom of Expression?
2021 Mchangama, J., Alkiviadou, N. and Mendiratta, R. Report
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.
Content personalisation and the online dissemination of terrorist and violent extremist content
2021 Tech Against Terrorism Policy
We welcome the increased focus amongst policymakers on the role played by content personalisation and other algorithmic recommendation systems on online platforms. Such scrutiny is warranted. Terrorist groups exploit platforms that make use of recommendation algorithms, and there are examples of individuals coming into contact with terrorist and violent extremist content via platforms using content personalisation. However, we are concerned that the current debate is, on a policy level, based on an incomplete understanding of terrorist use of the internet, and that a focus on content personalisation is a distraction from more important steps that should be taken to tackle terrorist use of the internet.
Echo Chambers on Social Media: A Systematic Review of the Literature
2021 Terren, L., and Borge Bravo, R. Article
The increasing pervasiveness of social media has been matched by growing concerns regarding their potential impact on democracy and public debate. While some theorists have claimed that ICTs and social media would bring about a new independent public sphere and increase exposure to political divergence, others have warned that they would lead to polarization, through the formation of echo chambers. The issue of social media echo chambers is both crucial and widely debated. This article attempts to provide a comprehensive account of the scientific literature on this issue, highlighting the different approaches, their similarities, differences, benefits and drawbacks, and offering a consolidated and critical perspective that can hopefully support future research in this area. Concretely, it presents the results of a systematic review of 55 studies investigating the existence of echo chambers on social media, identifying patterns across their foci, methods and findings, and shedding light on the contradictory nature of the literature. We found that the results of research on this issue seem largely influenced by methodological and data collection choices. Indeed, articles that found clear evidence of echo chambers on social media were all based on digital trace data, while those that found no evidence were all based on self-reported data. Future studies should take into account the potential biases of the different approaches and the significant potential of combining self-reported data with digital trace data.
The Case of Jihadology and the Securitization of Academia
2021 Zelin, A.Y. Article
This paper goes to the heart of this special issue by exploring the case of the web site, Jihadology, which the author founded and has managed for the past ten-plus years. It explores various issues including why such a site is necessary and/or useful, questions about dissemination and open access, lessons learned about responsibility and interaction with jihadis online, the evolution of the website that has the largest repository of jihadi content, interactions with governments and technology companies and how they viewed and dealt with the website. The paper also explores how the experience gained might help other researchers interested in creating primary source-first websites to assist in their research as well as to the benefit of others in the field. Therefore, this paper aims to shed light not only on this unique case, but also on the moral and ethical questions that have arisen through maintaining the Jihadology website for more than a decade in a time of changing online environments and more recent calls for censorship.
Hate, Obscenity, and Insults: Measuring the Exposure of Children to Inappropriate Comments in YouTube
2021 Alshamrani, S., Abusnaina, A., Abuhamad, M., Nyang, D. and Mohaisen, D. Article
Social media has become an essential part of the daily routines of children and adolescents. Moreover, enormous efforts have been made to ensure the psychological and emotional well-being of young users as well as their safety when interacting with various social media platforms. In this paper, we investigate the exposure of those users to inappropriate comments posted on YouTube videos targeting this demographic. We collected a large-scale dataset of approximately four million records, and studied the presence of five age-inappropriate categories and the amount of exposure to each category. Using natural language processing and machine learning techniques, we constructed ensemble classifiers that achieved high accuracy in detecting inappropriate comments. Our results show a large percentage of worrisome comments with inappropriate content: we found 11% of the comments on children’s videos to be toxic, highlighting the importance of monitoring comments, particularly on children platforms.
Comparing the Online Posting Behaviors of Violent and Non-Violent Right-Wing Extremists
2021 Scrivens, R., Wojciechowski, T.W., Freilich, J.D., Chermak, S.M. and Frank, R. Article
Despite the ongoing need for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to identify and assess the online activities of violent extremists prior to their engagement in violence offline, little is empirically known about their online behaviors generally or differences in their posting behaviors compared to non-violent extremists who share similar ideological beliefs particularly. In this study, we drew from a unique sample of violent and non-violent right-wing extremists to compare their posting behaviors within a sub-forum of the largest white supremacy web-forum. Analyses for the current study proceeded in three phases. First, we plotted the average posting trajectory for users in the sample, followed by an assessment of the rates at which they stayed active or went dormant in the sub-forum. We then used logistic regression to examine whether specific posting behaviors were characteristic of users’ violence status. The results highlight a number of noteworthy differences in the posting behaviors of violent and non-violent right-wing extremists, many of which may inform future risk factor frameworks used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to identify credible threats online. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of this analysis, its limitations and avenues for future research.
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