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
Mobilizing against Islam on social media: hyperlink networking among European far-right extra-parliamentary Facebook groups
2022 Törnberg, A. and Nissen, A. Article
The far right is notoriously effective in its use of digital media to mobilize people and to build a sense of collective identity around oppositional cultures. Yet, while research has begun to explore far-right groups’ social media hyperlinking activities, relatively little is known about the purposes and communicative functions of this form of communication. By combining social network analysis and qualitative content analysis on Facebook data obtained from 17 PEGIDA and Generation Identity Facebook pages in the period around the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ (2015–2017), this exploratory study investigates the linked source types and their purposes. We find that the groups predominantly link to mainstream media, far-right media and far-right non-institutional groups. While there are great overlaps in the communicative functions and purposes of the links for the two networks, the PEGIDA groups mainly focus on the promotion of political issues, especially around the opposition to third-country (Muslim) immigration, while the GI groups use them for self-promotional purposes. These differences are largely explainable by the groups’ adverse (online) mobilization aims.
Policy Brief: From Pilots to Practice: Risk-informed utilization of online data for preventing violent extremism and addressing hate speech
2022 United Nations Development Programme Policy
The Policy Brief and accompanying Guidance Note on utilizing online data to prevent violent extremism and hate speech apply the lessons learned from UNDP practitioners working on Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) across seven country offices by undertaking pilot projects that collect, analyse and apply online data to their programming. The Policy Brief outlines the major structural, technical, and ethical challenges faced by the practitioners, analyses relevant existing policy frameworks, and explores the potential of human rights-compliant data driven methods to inform PVE programming by offering policy considerations and recommendations to decision-makers. The Guidance Note offers an overview of key processes, tools, and resources for practitioners to consider when utilizing online data for PVE and addressing hate speech. It promotes risk management as an inherently enabling process for enhancing the evidence base for PVE programming.
The Network Illusion: How a Network-Centric Special Operations Culture Impedes Strategic Effect
2022 McCab, P. (Ed.) Book
America has often developed very impressive methods of waging war and protecting strategic interests, but all too often, its senior leaders are too optimistic about how much those methods can actually accomplish. The heart of U.S. national security challenges today is an ongoing erosion of American influence globally. What the U.S. now requires is a modification of older ideas in ways appropriate for the modern age. The works contained in this edited volume are signposts of a future that America still has time to choose wherein its efforts to safeguard its people and protect its interests can be remade and reforged in ways appropriate and successful in this era of dazzling technologies and enormous global change.
The Impact of the Internet and Cyberspace on the Rise in Terrorist Attacks Across the US and Europe
2022 Rees, J. and Montasari, R. Chapter
This chapter critically analyses the impact of the Internet and associated technology on the rise in terrorist attacks across the US and Europe over the last two decades. To this end, the chapter will be focusing on jihadists’ use of the Internet, yet comparisons will also be made with the radical right. Although there exist certainly differences between the groups, there are also similarities between them, and, in turn, this chapter will address these movements as a collective. The jihadist terrorist organisations that will be analysed in this chapter will include Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The findings reveal that although the Internet has been linked to the preparation and execution of attacks, as this chapter will explore, it is difficult to establish direct cause and effect associations between the Internet and the rise in attacks in Europe and the US.
Understanding the role of digital media in female participation in terrorism: the case of Bangladesh
2022 Parvez, S. and Hastings, J.V. Article
Notwithstanding the discernable participation of women in terrorist groups, empirical research on women in terrorism is very scant in Bangladesh. To fill this gap, our article examines women’s involvement in terrorism by analyzing the life stories of dozens of Bangladeshi women terrorists. We use a terrorist lifecycle approach to understand the role of digital media in female participation, particularly in terms of when in the lifecycle digital media becomes important, and in terms of how digital media interacts with other factors to shape women’s involvement in terrorist organizations. After analyzing female profiles and their socio-demographic traits, we provide an in-depth analysis of three female terrorist lifecycles. An analysis of the profiles of Bangladeshi terrorists who use digital media reveals that women were more likely to use digital media than men in the recruitment phase. The in-depth case studies of three female terrorist profiles find that multiple and different factors impact their terrorist life cycles. Social networks – families and friends – typically play a role in individuals’ decision to become involved and further engagement in terrorism. Specifically, digital media allows women to expand their social interactions beyond what is possible in person, thus allowing for virtual pathways into terrorism.
How online interaction radicalises while group involvement restrains: a case study of Action Zealandia from 2019 to 2021
2022 Halpin, J. and Wilson, C. Article
Scholars have long seen radicalisation as a predominantly group based phenomenon, occurring largely through ‘real world,’ in person interaction. By contrast, the internet is seen as playing only a limited ‘facilitating’ role in radicalising people to violence. However, a series of attacks by far right extremists over the past decade has demonstrated that this perspective is less accurate than it once was. Almost none of these terrorists were members of extremist groups and had only engaged with other extremists on the internet. In this article, we examine the relative importance of face-to-face group interaction and physically isolated internet-based radicalization in driving individuals towards extremist violence. We do so through a detailed case study of Action Zealandia, New Zealand’s leading ideological white nationalist group. The study is based on eighteen months of infiltration of the group by one of the authors from 2019 to 2021. When interacting online, members often adopt highly extremist personas, in some cases threatening mass violence. By contrast, face to face interaction and group membership pushed the group away from extremist violence. This was due to several factors: police pressure and a lack of opportunity for the movement to grow, and the often uninspiring nature of offline interaction.
What are the effects of different elements of media on radicalization outcomes? A systematic review
2022 Wolfowicz, M., Hasisi, B. and Weisburd, D. Article
This systematic review and meta-analysis sought to (1) identify and synthesize the effects of different media-related risk factors at the individual level, (2) identify the relative magnitudes of the effect sizes for the different risk factors, and (3) compare the effects between outcomes of cognitive and behavioral radicalization. The review also sought to examine sources of heterogeneity between different radicalizing ideologies.
Salafi-Jihadism and Digital Media
2022 Ranstorp, M., Ahlerup, L. and Ahlin, F. eds. Book
While the interest in Salafi-jihadism and the digital arena is not a new phenomenon, a limited amount of research has focused on the specific strategies and narratives disseminated by local groups and online supporter communities at the national and international level. The editors provide a brief introduction to the issue of Salafi-jihadism and digital media within the Swedish context, and further define the aim and research questions of the volume at hand. In addition, the current chapter defines some of the key concepts used throughout the volume, and further discusses some additional methodological considerations.
Report: A Case Study in Neo-Fascist Accelerationist Coalition Building Online
2022 Shadnia, D. Newhouse, A., Kriner, M. and Bradley, A. Report
This report provides an overview of two seemingly new formations of online networks of accelerationist and neo-fascist entities that emerged in early 2021 and are self-described Atomwaffen Division spinoffs. It also provides an understanding of how they behave online and speaks to the threats of offline violence they pose.
Learning from Foes: How Racially and Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists Embrace and Mimic Islamic State’s Use of Emerging Technologies
2022 Veilleux-Lepage, Y., Daymon, C. and Archambault, E. Report
This report concerns itself with terrorist technical innovation, particularly with regards to terrorists’ incorporation of emerging technologies into their practices. More specifically, it investigates, through the elaboration of a theoretical learning framework, how terrorist groups can adopt the practices of ideological enemies operating in different security, ideological and political environments. It does so through a study of three cases of emerging technology use by Islamic State (IS) and racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists (REMVE), which shed light on why ideologically diverse groups might adopt practices from each other.
Examining incel subculture on Reddit
2022 Helm, B., Scrivens, R., Holt, T.J., Chermak, S. and Frank, R. Article
The online presence of incels, or involuntary celibates, has been an increasing security concern for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers in recent years, given that self-identified incels – including Alek Minassian and Elliot Rodger – used the Internet to disseminate incel ideology and manifestos prior to committing acts of violence. However, little is empirically known about the incel movement in general or their online communities in particular. The present study draws from a set of comments from r/Incels, a now defunct but once popular subreddit dedicated to the incel community, and compares the most highly-upvoted comments (n = 500) to a random set of other comments (n = 500) in the subreddit. This qualitative analysis focuses on identifying subcultural discourse that is widely supported and engaged with by members of the online community and the extent to which incels utilize this online space to reaffirm deviant behavior. Our study underscores the importance, as well as the difficulties, of drawing from online sources like web-forums to generate new knowledge on deviant communities and behaviors. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of this analysis, its limitations, and avenues for future research.
Conspiracy, anxiety, ontology: Theorising QAnon
2022 Fitzgerald, J. Article
The rise of QAnon presents researchers with a number of important questions. While emerging literature provides insights into how QAnon exists online, there is a dearth of theoretical engagement with the questions of why it exists, and what conditions brought it into being. This paper seeks to address this gap by contextualizing QAnon as an ontological phenomenon underpinned by anxiety, and inquiring into the identity formation strategies employed by the movement. Applying the basic precepts of discourse theory and discourse analysis to a representative canon of QAnon content, it finds that, like other formations of collective identity, QAnon is premised on interconnected dynamics of ontological fulfillment that cannot be explained away by pointing to ‘the algorithm’ or ‘madness’. Nor can it be tackled effectively by the content takedowns and de-platforming strategies currently employed. The paper concludes with a call to explore more empathetic engagement with conspiracy adherents, arguing that until we (re)discover a more inclusive, agonistic politics, QAnon and other fantastical conspiracy movements will continue to arise and some may metastasize into violent action. New forms of resilience to (online) polarization can be built on this principle.
Understanding the #plandemic: Core framings on Twitter and what this tells us about countering online far right COVID-19 conspiracies
2022 McNeil-Willson, R. Article
This paper examines the need and possibility for developing online resilience-based approaches in response to COVID-19 vaccine conspiracies, often linked to the far right. Examining three datasets collected between December 2020 and April 2021, this paper details conspiracy narratives that have developed around COVID-19 vaccines, with specific focus on understanding the deployment of the idea of a planned pandemic or so-called ‘#plandemic’. This is then used to consider where existing resilience-based approaches to countering off-line polarisation and extremism might posit an appropriate online response. The article identifies four key #plandemic framings of COVID-19 vaccines — as control, as reset, as unnecessary and as unsafe — and analyses how these themes are constructed, to find that they are often created through hostile and confrontational interaction with other users. Based on these findings, the conclusion suggests companies shift their focus away from ‘negative’ approaches to content moderation (e.g., content removal) and towards resilience-building responses that cultivate flexible individual identities, build community support networks, and/or engage users with national and supranational democratic structures, as a more effective response to the sharing of online conspiracies.
Building social capital to counter polarization and extremism? A comparative analysis of tech platforms' official blog posts
2022 Watkin, A. and Conway, M. Article
This research employs the concept of social capital to compare the efforts that a range of tech companies have claimed to take to counter polarization and extremism and build resilience on their platforms. The dataset on which our analysis is based is made-up of a purposive sample of official blog posts from three ‘older’ (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and three ‘newer’ (i.e., TikTok, Discord, and Telegram) technology platforms. The selected posts focused on companies’ efforts to make their platform safer, build community resilience, counter violent extremism and/or polarization, or mentioned related topics such as countering hate organizations, radicalization, or misinformation. Revealed were seven themes incorporating, to a greater or lesser extent, the three main types of social capital (i.e., bonding, bridging and linking). These themes were granting user powers, strengthening existing communities, provision of information and education, building community, enhancing user rights, keeping users safe, and building trust and relationships with users. Analysis of these showed that while creation of all three types of social capital was apparent, similar to previous studies, bridging capital dominated here too; while there were some discrepancies between social capital generating activities and their framings on ‘older’ versus ‘newer’ platforms, other factors, including platform size and company values are likely to be equally or more important; and, finally, that companies attempts at generating online social capital can have negative as well as positive impacts with regard to countering polarization and extremism.
Designing recommender systems to depolarize
2022 Stray, J. Article
Polarization is implicated in the erosion of democracy and the progression to violence, which makes the polarization properties of large algorithmic content selection systems (recommender systems) a matter of concern for peace and security. While algorithm-driven social media do not seem to be a primary driver of polarization at the country level, they could be a useful intervention point in polarized societies. This paper examines algorithmic depolarization interventions aimed at transforming conflict: not suppressing or eliminating conflict, but making it more constructive. Algorithmic intervention is considered at three stages: what content is available (moderation), how content is selected and personalized (ranking), and content presentation and controls (user interface). Empirical studies of online conflict suggest that not only could the exposure-diversity intervention proposed as an antidote to ‘filter bubbles’ be improved: under some conditions, it can even worsen polarization. Using civility metrics in conjunction with diversity in content selection may be more effective. However, diversity-based interventions have not been tested at scale, and may not work in the diverse and dynamic contexts of real platforms. Instead, intervening in platform polarization dynamics will likely require continuous monitoring of polarization metrics, such as the widely used ‘feeling thermometer’. These metrics can be used to evaluate product features, and can potentially be engineered as algorithmic objectives. While using any metric as an optimization target may have harmful consequences, to prevent optimization processes from creating conflict as a side effect it may prove necessary to include polarization measures in the objective function of recommender algorithms.
The right-leaning be memeing: Extremist uses of Internet memes and insights for CVE design
2022 Bolaños Somoano, I. Article
This article constitutes a first step in understanding how Internet memes are used in extreme-right online milieus and formulating appropriate policy responses. First it looks at existing literature on memes as communication units. Secondly, it looks at the particular ways in which transnational extreme-right groups use Internet memes. Thirdly, it discusses the applicability of these memes to resilience-building projects targeting the extreme right. The article’s conclusions discourage the use of Internet memes by state and security actors, while highlighting positive uses by grassroots organisations. Some notes on further necessary research conclude the piece.
The name of the game: Promoting resilience against extremism through an online gaming campaign
2022 Pisoiu, D. and Lippe, F. Article
Extremist and terrorist groups are known to have used games and gaming successfully in their online recruitment and indoctrination campaigns. What are the possibilities for using online games to generate resilience against extremism? Current research on online counter and alternative narratives generally acknowledges effects in terms of awareness raising, yet is skeptical when it comes to impact, mostly owing to the limited evidence and empirical research in this area. A related problem with the early counter and alternative narrative campaigns, however, has been not only a lack of initial preparatory work on understanding the radicalization process itself — specifically, on how narratives are produced and disseminated — but also on aspects relating to the audience, the messenger, and the communications strategy more broadly. In designing DECOUNT, an online game that incorporates both counter and alternative narratives, we have taken these aspects into consideration and created an accessible, easy-to-use product by first researching the following: individual radicalization processes; extremist online propaganda narratives and imagery; and the preferences and issues of the target population. We then created and tested the game and placed it on particular social media platforms (Instagram, YouTube/Let’s Play), with appropriate targeting. Finally, we carried out a number of evaluation procedures, including a qualitative assessment and two quasi-experiments. This paper outlines this preparatory, creative, and evaluative work, and contextualizes it within the literature on the role played by online platforms and content both in individual radicalization processes and in creating resilience.
Communicative channels for pro-social resilience in an age of polarization
2022 Gerrand, V. Article
While the messaging tactics of extremist organizations have been studied by researchers, little attention has been devoted to understanding how alternative multimodal communications can enable resistance to polarizing content. This article takes as case studies three grassroots youth arts projects that deploy multimodal resources to educate and build resilience: Build Solid Ground, Jamal al-Khatib and Loulu. The projects won awards at the Horizon 2020 Building Resilience to Violent Extremism and Polarisation (BRaVE) Fair, which was hosted by the Berlin-based intercultural organization Cultures Interactive and took place via Zoom in November 2020. In the pandemic context of increased time spent online, polarization, and growing social and structural vulnerability in which young people face uncertain futures, these projects have been selected for their ability to build channels of communication that support pro-social resilience.
Introduction: Exploring societal resilience to online polarization and extremism
2022 Watkin, A., Gerrand, V. and Conway, M. Article
The seven articles in this special issue were selected from those delivered at a series of workshops undertaken by the European Commission H2020-funded Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism (BRaVE) Project in 2020–2021. Understanding polarization and (violent) extremism as distinct, interlinked, phenomena, the collected articles ask how online platforms can be mobilised to disrupt and reframe ideologies underpinning polarising and extremist messaging. To what extent can social media platforms serve as critical resources that contribute to building pro-social resilience? And, how can we build on what has been effective so far in terms of building online resilience, including what else might social media platforms and their users do to enhance what has already been found to be effective?
Radical Right Activities in Nusantara’s Digital Landscape: A Snapshot
2022 Mustaffa, M. Report
This study analysed three social media movements linked with extreme right‑wing activities online. Such activities were carried out by right‑wing extremists and those who support their philosophy of nationalism and religious conservatism, whether actively or passively. This study also investigated how themes and narratives from across the globe, such as US political discourse, Russian disinformation and conspiracy theories, are combined with real‑life local grievances in order to appeal to similarly aligned followers to help to disseminate and legitimise reactionary speech.
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