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
“You Need to Be Sorted Out With a Knife”: The Attempted Online Silencing of Women and People of Muslim Faith Within Academia
2016 Barlow, C., Awan, I. Article
Academics are increasingly expected to use social media to disseminate their work and knowledge to public audiences. Although this has various advantages, particularly for alternative forms of dissemination, the web can also be an unsafe space for typically oppressed or subordinated groups. This article presents two auto-ethnographic accounts of the abuse and hate academics researching oppressed groups, namely, women and people of Muslim faith, experienced online. In doing so, this article falls into four parts. The first section provides an overview of existing literature, particularly focusing on work which explores the violence and abuse of women and people of Muslim faith online. The second section considers the auto-ethnographic methodological approach adopted in this article. The third section provides the auto-ethnographic accounts of the author’s experiences of hate and abuse online. The final section locates these experiences within broader theoretical concepts, such as silencing, and considers possible implications of such online hate in both an academic context and beyond.
“You Know What to Do”: Proactive Detection of YouTube Videos Targeted by Coordinated Hate Attacks
2019 Mariconti, E., Suarez-Tangil, G., Blackburn, J., de Cristofaro, E., Kourtellis, N., Leontiadis, I., Serrano, J.L. and Stringhini, G. Article
Video sharing platforms like YouTube are increasingly targeted by aggression and hate attacks. Prior work has shown how these attacks often take place as a result of "raids," i.e., organized efforts by ad-hoc mobs coordinating from third-party communities. Despite the increasing relevance of this phenomenon, however, online services often lack effective countermeasures to mitigate it. Unlike well-studied problems like spam and phishing, coordinated aggressive behavior both targets and is perpetrated by humans, making defense mechanisms that look for automated activity unsuitable. Therefore, the de-facto solution is to reactively rely on user reports and human moderation. In this paper, we propose an automated solution to identify YouTube videos that are likely to be targeted by coordinated harassers from fringe communities like 4chan. First, we characterize and model YouTube videos along several axes (metadata, audio transcripts, thumbnails) based on a ground truth dataset of videos that were targeted by raids. Then, we use an ensemble of classifiers to determine the likelihood that a video will be raided with very good results (AUC up to 94%). Overall, our work provides an important first step towards deploying proactive systems to detect and mitigate coordinated hate attacks on platforms like YouTube.
“Yes, I can”: what is the role of perceived self-efficacy in violent online-radicalisation processes of “homegrown” terrorists?
2019 Schlegel, L. Article
Radicalisation is influenced by a multitude of factors such as situational, social and psychological factors, including social-cognitive processes. This article explores how homegrown extremists are influenced by their perceived agency and how the beliefs of their own abilities to change their situation are directly shaped by the online-propaganda they consume using ISIS propaganda as a case study. The article serves as an exploratory analysis of the potential explanatory qualities of Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy. This preliminary theoretical work explores how online-propaganda seeks to increase perceived personal self-efficacy to inspire action. The findings indicate that an increased focus on agency beliefs may facilitate a more holistic understanding of the psycho-social processes influencing radicalization and factors driving certain individuals to perpetrate violence while others do not. More research needs to be conducted, but this work is a first exploratory step in advancing our understanding of self-efficacy beliefs in the radicalization of homegrown extremists.
“To My Brothers in the West . . .”: A Thematic Analysis of Videos Produced by the Islamic State’s al-Hayat Media Center
2017 Macnair, L. and Frank, R. Journal
This study examines videos produced by the al-Hayat Media Center, a branch of the Islamic State’s (IS) larger media campaign aimed more specifically at Western audiences. Using a thematic analysis approach, recurring themes of 10 al-Hayat videos were identified with conclusions made regarding the specificities of the message and the target audience. It was found that al-Hayat videos cater to potential Western recruits and sympathizers by portraying life in the IS as spiritually and existentially fulfilling, while simultaneously decrying the West as secular, immoral, and criminal. By utilizing well-produced propaganda videos that tap into the dissatisfactions of Western Muslims, al-Hayat was shown to deliver a sophisticated and legitimate message that may play a role in the larger radicalization process.
“Talk About Terror in Our Back Gardens”: an Analysis of Online Comments about British Foreign Fighters in Syria
2016 da Silvaa, R. and Crilley, R. Journal
The phenomenon of foreign fighters has become a central issue to the ongoing conflict in Syria. This article explores how members of the public answer the question ‘Why do British citizens join the conflict in Syria’ on social media sites and in response to online news articles. Building upon research on everyday narratives of security and terrorism, we analyse 807 comments, and in doing so, we argue that online comments are important in producing the discursive environment for making sense of British foreign fighters and what should be done in response to them. We find that there is a tendency to view British foreign fighters as being purely motivated by religion, and there is also a belief that British foreign fighters should be responded to through exceptional measures. We discuss the implications of such perceptions, and we highlight how problematic misconceptions about Islam and Muslims are not just disseminated through elite and media discourse, but through everyday narratives published by members of the public online.
“Real Men Don’t Hate Women”: Twitter Rape Threats and Group Identity
2016 Hardaker, C. and McGlashan, M. Journal
On 24th July 2013, feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez's petition to the Bank of England to have Elizabeth Fry's image on the UK's £5 note replaced with the image of another woman was successful. The petition challenged the Bank of England's original plan to replace Fry with Winston Churchill, which would have meant that no woman aside from the Queen would be represented on any UK banknote. Following this, Criado-Perez was subjected to ongoing misogynistic abuse on Twitter, a microblogging social network, including threats of rape and death. This paper investigates this increasingly prominent phenomenon of rape threats made via social networks. Specifically, we investigate the sustained period of abuse directed towards the Twitter account of feminist campaigner and journalist, Caroline Criado-Perez. We then turn our attention to the formation of online discourse communities as they respond to and participate in forms of extreme online misogyny on Twitter. We take a corpus of 76,275 tweets collected during a three month period in which the events occurred (July to September 2013), which comprises 912,901 words. We then employ an interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of language in the context of this social network. Our approach combines quantitative approaches from the fields of corpus linguistics to detect emerging discourse communities, and then qualitative approaches from discourse analysis to analyse how these communities construct their identities.
“On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Dog”: The Online Risk Assessment of Violent Extremists
2016 Shortland, N. Article
Online behaviour can provide a unique window from which we can glean intent. From an intelligence standpoint it provides an important source of open-source information. However, making inference of intent from online activity is inherently difficult. Yet elsewhere progress is being made in incorporating information online into decisions regarding risk and offender prioritisation. This chapter synthesises lessons learnt from studies of risk assessment of violent extremists, risk assessment online, and the form and function of extremist materials online in order to begin to approach the issue of online risk assessment of violent extremism. In doing so it highlights issues associated with the diversity of online extremist behaviour, the diversity of offline extremist behaviour and the general lack of understanding related to the interaction of online and offline experiences, and how this contributes to the wider psychological process of ‘radicalisation'. Implications for practitioners are discussed.
“Flexible” capital accumulation in Islamic State social media
2015 Richards, I. Journal
This article explores online social media produced by the neo-jihadist group “Islamic State” (IS) from a political-economic perspective. Using a framework developed by anthropologist David Harvey, it examines how IS social media operates within depoliticised neoliberal environments characterised by “flexible” regimes of capital accumulation. It explicates how IS acquires political-economic capital by evoking “spectacle”, “fashion” and a “commodification of cultural forms”. Drawing from Christian Fuchs’ informational theory, the article also considers the roles of agency and competition in accumulation processes where “knowledge and technology reinforce each other”. By revealing how IS both constitutes and is constituted by its flexible approach to social media, the article seeks to illuminate avenues for better understanding neo-jihadist ideations.
“Electronic Jihad”: The Internet as Al Qaeda's Catalyst for Global Terror
2016 Rudner, M. Journal
The Internet has emerged as a key technology for Al Qaeda and other jihadist movements waging their so-called electronic jihad across the Middle East and globally, with digital multiplier effects. This study will examine the evolving doctrine of “electronic jihad” and its impact on the radicalization of Muslims in Western diaspora communities The study describes Internet-based websites that served as online libraries and repositories for jihadist literature, as platforms for extremist preachers and as forums for radical discourse. Furthermore, the study will then detail how Internet connectivity has come to play a more direct operational role for jihadi terrorist-related purposes, most notably for inciting prospective cadres to action; for recruiting jihadist operatives and fighters; for providing virtual training in tactical methods and manufacture of explosives; for terrorism financing; and for actual planning and preparations for specific terror attacks. Whereas contemporary jihadist militants may be shifting from the World Wide Web to social media, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter for messaging and communications, nevertheless the Internet-based electronic jihad remains a significant catalyst for promoting jihadist activism and for facilitating terrorist operations.
“Deplorable” Satire: Alt-Right Memes, White Genocide Tweets, and Redpilling Normies.
2019 Greene, V.S. Article
In the past decade, people associated with what is known as the alt-right have employed a strategy similar to that of progressive, antiracist satirists to advance a decidedly white supremacist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and deadly serious agenda. As this article documents, the alt-right weaponizes irony to attract and radicalize potential supporters, challenge progressive ideologies and institutions, redpill normies, and create a toxic counterpublic. Discussing examples of satiric irony generated by the extreme right alongside those produced by the (often mainstream) left, this article pairs two satirical memes, two activists' use of irony, two ambiguously satirical tweets, and two recent controversies pertaining to racism and satire so as to illustrate how people with very different political commitments employ a similar style with potent effects. Of particular significance are reverse racism discourses, including "white genocide," and the increasingly complicated relationship between intentions, extremism, and satire.
“Breivik is my Hero”: the Dystopian World of Extreme Right Youth on the Internet
2014 Turner-Graham, E. Journal
The extreme right is currently on the rise throughout Europe, making use of the Continent's economic and social problems to bolster its cause. It is also making increasing use of the Internet to spread its message and build a virtual world that it hopes will one day be reflected in reality. Until now the bulk of research into the extreme right's use of the Internet has focused on the online activities of political parties and organised groups. But the horrific acts of the Norwegian terrorist, counterjihadist and lone wolf Anders Behring Breivik, and his promotion of those acts and the ideology behind them by way of the Internet, has provoked an array of microblogs — that is, cutting-edge web presences made up of provocative short sentences, single images or video links. They idolise Breivik and reveal the potent use the extreme right is making of alternative media. The creators of these pro-Breivik counterjihadist sites are often young people well-versed in the use of the multi-faceted new media and as such they are able to create an appealing vision of their brave new world. They often work independently, producing a virtual worldview from the seclusion and relative anonymity of home computers. They are creating virtual places of congregation, community and validation for vulnerable young people in search of identity, purpose and meaning. In doing so, a new range of radical voices is being cultivated and added to current extreme right discourse. This paper will examine the extreme right's use of the Internet and the specific use made by its pro-Breivik, counterjihadist voices — the new voices of the extreme right.
“@ me if you need shoutout”: Exploring Women's Roles in Islamic State Twitter Networks
2017 Huey, L., Inch, R., and Peladeau, H. Article
This article investigates the social media content of women who are affiliated with the Islamic State. Throughout one year, ninety-three Twitter accounts were tracked to explore the patterns of engagement by pro–Islamic State women online and examine how these patterns illuminate the roles that pro–Islamic State women occupy on social media networks. The study reveals that women who associate with the Islamic State mostly preserve the traditional gendered role of support in the online realm. However, support is not their exclusive role and some women are active in the organization, using Twitter to recruit, promote, and even commit terrorist violence.
‘The Baghdadi Net’: How A Network of ISIL-Supporting Accounts Spread Across Twitter
2019 Ayad, M. Report
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIL) supporters fanned out large amounts of Arabic content across Twitter all through the week in the wake of the news surrounding the death of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Many accounts were exhibiting strong and multiple signals of automated behavior1, spawning every hour, on the hour, and Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) researchers monitored and tracked these accounts, and their tactics for the past week following the news. Twitter, and accounts specifically designed to report ISIL activity, were limiting some of the effects of what researchers were calling the ‘Baghdadi Net.’ However, it was clear the accounts were able to generate again, sometimes seconds within a takedown period, and spread video, and audio, as well as new ISIL-news content. Many accounts used western avatars, linked to real people, as well as hashtags that were trending across the Middle East and North Africa, including those being used in the Iraq and Lebanon protests. Latching on to trending topics is a well-documented tactic by ISIL and other groups to increase impressions and overall reach of content. As of Friday, the accounts were tweeting out audio content produced by al Furqan media heralding the ascension of the new ISIL leader Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi al Qurashi.
‘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.
‘Bomb-Making for Beginners’: Inside al Al-Qaeda E-Learning Course
2013 Stenersen, A. Journal
This study explores how terrorists utilise the Internet to learn bomb-making skills. Unlike previous studies, it does not focus on assessing the quality of online bomb recipes. Rather, it discusses the efforts being made by on-line jihadists to help others learn by providing so-called “e-learning courses.” As of today, such courses have few active participants yet they tend to attract large interest – indicating that there is a demand among Al-Qaeda’s online sympathisers for developing this concept further.
Youth Online and at Risk: Radicalisation Facilitated by the Internet
2011 Royal Canadian Mounted Police Report
While the internet provides access to rich educational experiences, great entertainment, and the chance to connect with friends around the clock, it also creates a number of risks that young people, parents, and guardians need to be aware of. There are the commonly known concerns of identity theft, online predators, and cyber-bullying but there is another issue that we need to collectively work to address— Radicalisation to violence. This informational resource strives to increase the awareness of how the internet is being used to radicalise and recruit youth in North America.
Youth and Violent Extremism on Social Media: Mapping the Research
2017 Alava, S., Frau-Meigs, D., and Hassan, G. Report
Does social media lead vulnerable individuals to resort to violence? Many people believe it
does. And they respond with online censorship, surveillance and counter-speech. But what
do we really know about the Internet as a cause, and what do we know about the impact
of these reactions? All over the world, governments and Internet companies are making
decisions on the basis of assumptions about the causes and remedies to violent attacks. The
challenge is to have analysis and responses firmly grounded. The need is for a policy that is
constructed on the basis of facts and evidence, and not founded on hunches – or driven by
panic and fearmongering.
It is in this context that UNESCO has commissioned the study titled Youth and Violent
Extremism on Social Media – Mapping the Research. This work provides a global mapping
of research (mainly during 2012-16) about the assumed roles played by social media in
violent radicalization processes, especially when they affect youth and women. The research
responds to the belief that the Internet at large is an active vector for violent radicalization
that facilitates the proliferation of violent extremist ideologies. Indeed, much research
shows that protagonists are indeed heavily spread throughout the Internet. There is a
growing body of knowledge about how terrorists use cyberspace. Less clear, however, is
the impact of this use, and even more opaque is the extent to which counter measures are
helping to promote peaceful alternatives. While Internet may play a facilitating role, it is not
established that there is a causative link between it and radicalization towards extremism,
violent radicalization, or the commission of actual acts of extremist violence.
You Too Can Be Awlaki
2011 Brachman, J.M. and Levine, A.N. Article
Writing On The Walls: Discourses On Bolivian Immigrants In Chilean Meme Humor
2019 Haynes, N. Article
Internet memes have become a popular form through which northern Chileans express frustrations with their marginalization on global, national, and local levels. At the same time, many of these memes criticize Bolivian immigrants for using resources and taking jobs from “true Chileans.” The humorous nature of these texts mitigates the extremity of embedded racial and nationalist ideologies, which are more explicitly expressed in political speech, news media, and quotidian language. This article uses critical discourse analysis to trace ideological formations across multiple online and offline instantiations, making visible a continuum of extreme speech. Through these connections, we see how anti-immigrant discourses position northern residents in a formation of nested marginality. Memes are thus a central way that disenfranchised Chilean citizens reinforce a worldview in which they consider themselves deserving of greater access to resources than Bolivians, precisely because of their marginalized position in relation to the nation.
Worldwide Online Jihad versus the Gaming Industry Reloaded – Ventures of the Web
2010 Prucha, N. Chapter
[Chapter in, "New Approaches to the Analysis of Jihadism: On and Offline", Rüdiger Lohlker (ed.)] Jihadism has been an important issue of public discussions since 9/11. Internet media have been used by Jihadis as means of communication, propaganda, recruitment, and even training purposes. In this volume, the processes of interaction on Jihadi internet sites are analysed. Particular attention lays on the mechanisms of spread of propaganda via the internet by diverse technical means. The process of transformation of Islamic knowledge into Jihadi knowledge, the rhetorics of videos, the development of South Asian Jihadi organisations and some conceptual issues are discussed.
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