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 Radicalization Risks Of GPT-3 And Advanced Neural Language Models
2020 McGuffie, K. and Newhouse, A. Report
In 2020, OpenAI developed GPT-3, a neural language model that is capable of sophisticated natural language generation and completion of tasks like classification, question-answering, and summarization. While OpenAI has not opensourced the model’s code or pre-trained weights at the time of writing, it has built an API to experiment with the model’s capacity. The Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC) evaluated the GPT-3 API for the risk of weaponization by extremists who may attempt to use GPT-3 or hypothetical unregulated models to amplify their ideologies and recruit to their communities.
Internet, the Great Radicalizer? Exploring Relationships Between Seeking for Online Extremist Materials and Cognitive Radicalization in Young Adults
2020 Frissen, T. Article
Anecdotal evidence asserts that extremist materials on the internet play a decisive role in radicalization processes. However, due to a structural absence of empirical data in the current literature, it remains uncertain if—and to what extent—online extremist materials radicalize. Therefore, the approach of the study was two-fold. First, we explored what types of online jihadist media are pro-actively sought and consumed by young adults. Second, we investigated if and how active exposure to online jihadist media is related to cognitive radicalization, whilst taking into account one's moral disengagement, prior involvement in petty crime, and socio-demographics. Cross-sectional data analyses within a sample of Belgian young adults (n = 1872) show that beheading videos—the most violent and radical form of any of the jihadist materials under scrutiny—were most sought online (36%), but were, paradoxically, the least predictive for radicalization. On the contrary, the rather static jihadist magazines were sought by a small minority (10–11%) but were most strongly associated with radicalization. A stepwise linear regression analysis and Structural Equation Model support our hypothesis that the process of cognitive radicalization is a complex, phasic trajectory from actively seeking out extremist materials to sympathies for violent political behaviors.
Decoding Hate: Using Experimental Text Analysis to Classify Terrorist Content
2020 Alrhmoun, A., Maher, S. and Winter, C. Report
This paper uses automated text analysis – the process by which unstructured text is extracted, organised and processed into a meaningful format – to develop tools capable of analysing
Islamic State (IS) propaganda at scale. Although we have used a static archive of IS material, the underlying principle is that these techniques can be deployed against content produced by any number of violent extremist movements in real‑time. This study therefore aims to complement work that looks at technology‑driven strategies employed by social media, video‑hosting and file‑sharing platforms to tackle violent extremist content disseminators.
The EU Digital Services Act (DSA): Recommendations For An Effective Regulation Against Terrorist Content Online
2020 Ritzmann, A., Farid, H. and Schindler, H-J. Policy
In 2020, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Berlin carried out a sample analysis to test the extent to which YouTube, Facebook and Instagram block “manifestly illegal” terrorist content upon notification. Our findings raise doubts that the currently applied compliance systems of these companies achieve the objectives of making their services safe for users. As a result, CEP proposed requirements for effective and transparent compliance regimes with a focus on automated decision-making tools and lessons learned from the regulation of the financial industry. This Policy Paper combines all the relevant lessons learned and gives concrete recommendations on how to make the DSA also an effective regulation against terrorist content online.
Regulating Social Media: The Fight Over Section 230 — and Beyond
2020 Barrett' P.M. Report
There are increasing calls to curtail or revoke Section 230, a 1996 law that protects internet companies from most lawsuits related to user-generated content. Critics of Section 230 say it discourages vigilant self-regulation. Proponents counter that the law has fostered free expression and innovation. Our report concludes that Section 230 ought to be preserved but significantly amended.
What they do in the shadows: examining the far-right networks on Telegram
2020 Urman, A. and Katz, S. Article
The present paper contributes to the research on the activities of far-right actors on social media by examining the interconnections between far-right actors and groups on Telegram platform using network analysis. The far-right network observed on Telegram is highly decentralized, similarly to the far-right networks found on other social media platforms. The network is divided mostly along the ideological and national lines, with the communities related to 4chan imageboard and Donald Trump’s supporters being the most influential. The analysis of the network evolution shows that the start of its explosive growth coincides in time with the mass bans of the far-right actors on mainstream social media platforms. The observed patterns of network evolution suggest that the simultaneous migration of these actors to Telegram has allowed them to swiftly recreate their connections and gain prominence in the network thus casting doubt on the effectiveness of deplatforming for curbing the influence of far-right and other extremist actors.
The German Far-right on YouTube: An Analysis of User Overlap and User Comments
2020 Rauchfleisch, A. and Kaiser, J. Article
This study focuses on the formation of far-right online communities on YouTube and whether the rise of three new actors (Pegida, Identitarian movement, AfD) can also be observed with user behavior on YouTube. We map the network of far-right, conspiracy and alternative media channels in the German-language YouTube sphere, how this network evolves over time and identify the topics that users discuss. Our analysis shows that the overall common denominator within the German far-right YouTube sphere is the refugee crisis and the problems associated with it. Furthermore, we show that the community is getting denser and more centralized over time.
A “Europe des Nations”: far right imaginative geographies and the politicization of cultural crisis on Twitter in Western Europe
2020 Ganesh, B. and Froio, C. Article
Contestation over European integration has been widely studied in the rhetoric of parties, leaders, and movements on the far right in a variety of media. Focusing on Twitter use by far right actors in Western Europe, we apply corpus-aided discourse analysis to explore how imaginative geographies are used to politicize Europe among their digital publics. We find that the idea of a crisis of cultural identity pervades imaginaries of Europe amongst far right digital publics. While Europe is presented as facing a crisis of cultural identity, we find that the far right articulates an aspirational imaginary of Europe, the ‘Europe des Nations’ that rejects liberal-democratic pluralism in the EU and the ‘establishment’. We find that the contestation of Europe in far right digital publics relies on a crisis of cultural identity, representing a translation of Nouvelle Droite imaginaries of Europe into the social media space.
Triggered by Defeat or Victory? Assessing the Impact of Presidential Election Results on Extreme Right-Wing Mobilization Online
2020 Scrivens, R., Burruss, G.W., Holt, T.J., Chermak, S.M., Freilich, J.D. and Frank, R. Article
The theoretical literature from criminology, social movements, and political sociology, among others, includes diverging views about how political outcomes could affect movements. Many theories argue that political defeats motivate the losing side to increase their mobilization while other established models claim the winning side may feel encouraged and thus increase their mobilization. We examine these diverging perspectives in the context of the extreme right online and recent presidential elections by measuring the effect of the 2008 and 2016 election victories of Obama and Trump on the volume of postings on the largest white supremacy web-forum. ARIMA time series using intervention modeling showed a significant and sizable increase in the total number of posts and right-wing extremist posts but no significant change for firearm posts in either election year. However, the volume of postings for all impact measures was highest for the 2008 election.
One year since the Christchurch Call to Action: A Review
2020 Pandey, P. Report
This brief analyses the impact of the Christchurch Call to Action, issued to gather countries and technology companies to stop the use of the internet for disseminating violent extremist content. The Call was the result of a summit organised shortly after a terrorist attack in New Zealand in March 2019. This brief finds that the Call lacks clear conceptual definitions and is singularly focused on social media platforms. It also raises questions about how such efforts can maintain a balance between safeguarding digital platforms against terrorist and violent content, while preserving essential freedoms including of speech and expression.
Proposals for Improved Regulation of Harmful Online Content
2020 Benesch, S. Report
This paper offers a set of specific proposals for better describing harmful content online and for reducing the damage it causes, while protecting freedom of expression. The ideas are mainly meant for OSPs since they regulate the vast majority of online content; taken together they operate the largest system of censorship the world has ever known, controlling more human communication than any government. Governments, for their part, have tried to berate or force the companies into changing their policies, with limited and often repressive results. For these reasons, this paper focuses on what OSPs should do to diminish harmful content online. The proposals focus on the rules that form the basis of each regulation system, as well as on other crucial steps in the regulatory process, such as communicating rules to platform users, giving multiple stakeholders a role in regulation, and enforcement of the rules.
Angry by design: toxic communication and technical architectures
2020 Munn, L. Article
Hate speech and toxic communication online is on the rise. Responses to this issue tend to offer technical (automated) or non-technical (human content moderation) solutions, or see hate speech as a natural product of hateful people. In contrast, this article begins by recognizing platforms as designed environments that support particular practices while discouraging others. In what ways might these design architectures be contributing to polarizing, impulsive, or antagonistic behaviors? Two platforms are examined: Facebook and YouTube. Based on engagement, Facebook’s Feed drives views but also privileges incendiary content, setting up a stimulus–response loop that promotes outrage expression. YouTube’s recommendation system is a key interface for content consumption, yet this same design has been criticized for leading users towards more extreme content. Across both platforms, design is central and influential, proving to be a productive lens for understanding toxic communication.
Repeated and Extensive Exposure to Online Terrorist Content: Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit Perceived Stresses and Strategies
2020 Reeve, Z. Article
U.K. Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) Case Officers (COs) are tasked with identifying, and facilitating the removal of material that breaches the Terrorism Act 2006. COs are extensively and repeatedly exposed to material deemed illegal and harmful (including but not restricted to graphic terrorist and non-terrorist material). However, there is little research on the impact of this work, or how COs manage and mitigate the risks of their roles. Semi-structured interviews reveal the adaptive coping mechanisms that promote good perceived health and wellbeing in CTIRU, as well as areas of concern and improvement.
Far-Right Extremism: Is it Legitimate Freedom of Expression, Hate Crime, or Terrorism?
2020 Lowe, D Article
Following the rise in far-right inspired terrorist attacks globally, social media and electronic communications companies have been criticized, mainly by politicians, for allowing far-right extremist content to be available. This article is a comparative legal study focusing on Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.’ legal provisions regarding the right to freedom of expression, hate crime, and proscription of terrorist organizations. This study found a disparity in the form of expression protected under this right. This disparity widens further when related to hate crime and proscribing groups as terrorist organizations. As such, social media and communications companies have difficulty setting at global level a baseline in determining whether content is legitimate commentary or is extremism promoting or inciting hatred and violence. The article concludes with a recommendation for how states can provide comparable legislation on hate crime as they have done in relation to Islamist inspired extremism. This will assist social media and communications companies in removing content and suspending accounts. These companies are not the guardians of freedom of expression, that is the role of states’ legislatures and judiciary.
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 Role of the Internet in Facilitating Violent Extremism: Insights from Former Right-Wing Extremists
2020 Gaudette, T., Scrivens, R. and Venkatesh, V. Article
While a growing body of evidence suggests that the Internet is a key facilitator of violent extremism, research in this area has rarely incorporated former extremists’ experiences with the Internet when they were involved in violent extremism. To address this gap, in-depth interviews were conducted with ten Canadian former right-wing extremists who were involved in violent racist skinhead groups, with interview questions provided by thirty Canadian law enforcement officials and ten community activists. Participants were asked about their use of the Internet and the connection between their on- and offline worlds during their involvement in the violent right-wing extremist movement. Overall, our study findings highlight the interplay between the Internet and violent extremism as well as the interactions between the on- and offline worlds of violent extremists. We conclude with a discussion of study limitations and avenues for future research.
Digitale Worte – Analoge Taten: Eine fallgestützte Analyse nach außen und nach innen kommunizierter Ideologie einer rechtsextremen Gruppierung
2020 Schwarz, K., Hartung, F., Piening, M.T., Bischof, S., Fernholz, T., Fielitz, M., Patz, J., Richter, C., Diskriminierung, F. and Hasskriminalität, F. Article
In diesem Beitrag werden auf Basis von staatsanwaltschaftlichen Verfahrensakten, Daten der Programmierschnittstelle von Twitter (API) und frei zugänglichen Online-Inhalten Konstitutions- und Kommunikationsdynamiken einer rechtsextremistischen Gruppierung analysiert, von der mehrere Mitglieder 2014 wegen der Bildung einer kriminellen Vereinigung verurteilt wurden. Es wird rekonstruiert und analysiert, wie die jungen Erwachsenen über verschiedene Kommunikationskanäle innerhalb ihrer Gruppe und nach außen kommunizieren, wie sich interne und externe Selbstdarstellungen unterscheiden. Dabei wird aufgezeigt, welchen Stellenwert Gewalt und Gewaltbefürwortung in dieser Gruppe besitzen, wie sich die Mitglieder als Individuen und als Kollektiv definieren, Geltung verschaffen und von anderen abgrenzen wollen. Da für die Kommunikation der Gruppe nicht zuletzt Social Media eine Rolle spielen, wird auch diskutiert, inwiefern Mechanismen digitaler, netzwerkbasierter Kommunikation, wie die sogenannte Filterblase, für den Radikalisierungsprozess relevant sind.
The homogeneity of right-wing populist and radical content in YouTube recommendations
2020 Röchert, D., Weitzel, M. and Ross, B. Article
The use of social media to disseminate extreme political content on the web, especially right-wing populist propaganda, is no longer a rarity in today's life. Recommendation systems of social platforms, which provide personalized filtering of content, can contribute to users forming homogeneous cocoons around themselves. This study investigates YouTube's recommendations system based on 1,663 German political videos in order to analyze the homogeneity of the related content. After examining two datasets (right-wing populist and politically neutral videos), each consisting of ten initial videos and their first and second level recommendations, we show that there is a high degree of homogeneity of right-wing populist and neutral political content in the recommendation network. These findings offer preliminary evidence on the role of YouTube recommendations in fueling the creation of ideologically like-minded information spaces.
Online Extremism: Challenges and Opportunities in the Western Balkans
2020 Comerford, M. and Dukic, S. Policy
The Western Balkans faces a double challenge from online extremism. Online platforms are facilitating the specific targeting of the region by diverse international extremist narratives. Meanwhile regional histories and geopolitics are being appropriated to justify extremist actions and narratives around the world. This is part of a wider trend that underscores the growing challenge posed by the proliferation of transnational extremist ideologies on online platforms, both violent jihadist and extreme right wing. In the Western Balkans, this poses a number of specific risks. While the issue of the prevention, mitigation, and regulation of online extremism is a global one, there are a number of region-specific considerations relevant to effective policy and practitioner responses.
Tiered Governance and Demonetization: The Shifting Terms of Labor and Compensation in the Platform Economy
2020 Caplan, R. and Gillespie, T. Article
Social media platforms have profoundly transformed cultural production, in part by restructuring the terms by which culture is distributed and paid for. In this article, we examine the YouTube Partner Program and the controversies around the “demonetization” of videos, to understand these arrangements and what happens when they shift beneath creators’ feet. We use the testimony of YouTubers, provided in their own videos, to understand how creators square the contradiction between YouTube’s increasingly cautious rules regarding “advertiser-friendly” content, its shifting financial and algorithmic incentive structure, and its stated values as an open platform of expression. We examine YouTube’s tiered governance strategy, in which different users are offered different sets of rules, different material resources, and different procedural protections when content is demonetized. And we examine how, especially when the details of that tiered governance are ambiguous or poorly conveyed, creators develop their own theories for why their content has been demonetized—which can provide some creators a tactical opportunity to advance politically motivated accusations of bias against the platform.
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