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
“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.
Intersections of ISIS media leader loss and media campaign strategy A visual framing analysis
2019 Winkler, C., El-Damanhoury, K., Saleh, Z., Hendry, J. and El-Karhili, N. Article
The decision to target leaders of groups like ISIS to hamper their effectiveness has served as a longstanding principle of counterterrorism efforts. Yet, previous research suggests that any results may simply be temporary. Using insights from confiscated ISIS documents from Afghanistan to define the media leader roles that qualified for each level of the cascade, CTC (Combating Terrorism Center) records to identify media leaders who died, and a content analysis of all ISIS images displayed in the group’s Arabic weekly newsletter to identify the group’s visual framing strategies, this study assesses whether and how leader loss helps explain changes in the level and nature of the group’s visual output over time. ISIS’s quantity of output and visual framing strategies displayed significant changes before, during, and after media leader losses. The level of the killed leader within the group’s organizational hierarchy also corresponded to different changes in ISIS’s media framing
The battle for truth: How online newspaper commenters defend their censored expressions
2019 Fangen, K. and Holter, C. R. Article
The presence of hate speech in the commentary field of online newspapers is a pressing challenge for free speech policy. We have conducted interviews with 15 people whose comments were censored for posting comments of a racist, discriminatory or hateful nature. What characterizes their self-understanding and enemy images? We found that central to their motivation for writing such comments was an understanding of themselves as particularly knowledgeable people. They see themselves as people who fight for the revelation of the truth, in contrast to the lies spread by politicians and the media. Furthermore, they regard politicians and the media as corrupt elites that are leading our society into destruction by their naïve support of liberal migration policies. By linking up to alternative news media, these individuals support various forms of racialized conspiracy theories, but also a form of radical right-wing populism in their concern that politics should be acted out by people themselves. As such, our study adds to the literature on conspiracy theories in general and racialized conspiracy theories in particular, but also to the literature on online far-right activists. Our contribution lies both in the newness of focusing on the self-perceptions, but also in opening up for a modification of existing literature on the far right.
Hatred Behind the Screens - A Report on the Rise of Online Hate Speech
2019 Williams, M. and de Reya, M. Report
— The reporting, recording and incidence of online hate speech has increased over the past two years.
— While the number of people personally targeted remains relatively low, large numbers of people are being exposed to online hate speech, potentially causing decreased life satisfaction. In particular, an increasingly large number of UK children (aged 12-15) report that they are exposed to hateful content online.
— Online hate speech tends to spike for 24-48 hours after key national or international events such as a terror attack, and then rapidly fall, although the baseline of online hate can remain elevated for several months. Where it reaches a certain level, online hate speech can translate into offline hate crime on the streets.
— Hate crime, including hate speech, is both hard to define and hard to prosecute. A patchwork of hate crime laws has developed over the last two decades, but there is concern the laws are not as effective as they could be, and may need to be streamlined and/or extended - for example to cover gender and age-related hate crime. The Law Commission is currently reviewing hate crime legislation, and has separately completed a preliminary review of the criminal law in relation to offensive
and abusive online communications, concluding there was "considerable scope for reform".
— According to a recent survey by Demos, the public appreciates the difficult trade-off between tackling hate crime and protecting freedom of speech, with 32% in favour of a safety first approach, 23% in favour of protecting civil liberties, and 42% not favouring either option
Virtual Plotters. Drones. Weaponized AI?: Violent Non-State Actors as Deadly Early Adopters
2019 Gartenstein-Ross, D., Shear, M. and Jones, D. Article
Over the past decade, violent non-state actors’ (VNSAs) adoption of new technologies that can help their operations have tended to follow a recognizable general pattern, which this study dubs the VNSA technology adoption curve: As a consumer technology becomes widely available, VNSAs find ways to adapt it to their deadly purposes. This curve tends to progress in four stages:

1. Early Adoption – The VNSA tries to adopt a new technology, and disproportionately
underperforms or fails in definable ways.
2. Iteration – The consumer technology that the VNSA is attempting to repurpose undergoes improvements driven by the companies that brought the technology to market. These improvements are designed to enhance consumers’ experience and the utility that consumers derive from the technology. The improvements help the intended end user, but also aid the VNSA, which iterates alongside the company.
3. Breakthrough – During this stage, the VNSA’s success rate with the new technology significantly improves.
4. Competition – Following the VNSA’s seemingly sudden success, technology companies, state actors, and other stakeholders develop countermeasures designed to mitigate the VNSA’s exploitation of the technology. The outcome of this phase is uncertain, as both the VNSA and its competitors enter relatively uncharted territory in the current technological environment. The authorities and VNSA will try to stay one step ahead of one another.

This report begins by explaining the adoption curve, and more broadly the manner in which VNSAs engage in organizational learning. The report then details two critical case studies of past VNSA technological adoption to illustrate how the adoption curve works in practice, and to inform our analysis of VNSA technological adoptions that are likely in the future.
Countering Violent Extremism Online: The Experiences of Informal Counter Messaging Actors
2019 Lee, B. Article
The online space is a haven for extremists of all kinds. Although efforts to remove violent and extremist content are increasing, there is a widely accepted need to also contest extremist messages with counter messages designed to undermine and disrupt extremist narratives. While the majority of academic focus has been on large and well‐funded efforts linked to governments, this article considers the experiences of informal actors who are active in contesting extremist messaging but who lack the support of large institutions. Informal actors come without some of the baggage that accompanies formal counter-message campaigns, which have been attacked as lacking in credibility and constituting “just more government propaganda.” This has been noted by some of the wider countering violent extremism industry and the appetite for incorporating “real‐world” content in their campaigns seems to be rising. This article fills a gap in our knowledge of the experiences of informal counter-messaging actors. Through a series of in‐depth qualitative interviews it demonstrates that, despite the potentially serious risks of incorporating greater levels of informal content, there is an appetite among informal actors to engage with formal campaigns where they can be selective over who they work with and maintain a degree of control.
A comparison of ISIS foreign fighters and supporters social media posts: an exploratory mixed-method content analysis
2019 Dillon, L., Neo, L. S. and Freilich, J. D. Article
This paper compares the social media posts of ISIS foreign fighters to those of ISIS supporters. We examine a random sample of social media posts made by violent foreign fighters (n = 14; 2000 posts) and non-violent supporters (n = 18; 2000 posts) of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) (overall n = 4,000 posts), from 2009 to 2015. We used a mixed-method study design. Our qualitative content analyses of the 4,000 posts identified five themes: Threats to in-group, societal grievances, pursuit for significance, religion, and commitment issues. Our quantitative comparisons found that the dominant themes in the foreign fighters’ online content were threats to in-group, societal grievances, and pursuit for significance, while religion and commitment issues were dominant themes in the supporters’ online content. We also identified thematic variations reflecting individual attitudes that emerged during the 2011–2015 period, when major geopolitical developments occurred in Syria and Iraq. Finally, our quantitative sentiment-based analysis found that the supporters (10 out of 18; 56%) posted more radical content than the foreign fighters (5 out of 14; 36%) on social media.
How Extreme Is The European Far Right? Investigating Overlaps in the German Far-Right Scene on Twitter
2019 Ahmed, R. and Pisoiu, D. VOX-Pol Publication
The aim of the report is to determine the overlaps apparent in the far-right scene on Twitter, and specifically, to ascertain the extent to which different groups on the scene are indeed talking about the same issues in the same way, in spite of apparent differences in tone and underlying ideologies. The authors utilise a mixed-methods approach: first, gaining a cursory insight into the extreme right-wing scene on Twitter across Europe; and then applying a detailed frame analysis to three selected groups in Germany to determine the implicit and explicit overlaps between them, thus complementing the quantitative findings to offer an in-depth analysis of meaning.
ISIS Propaganda: A Full-Spectrum Extremist Message
2019 Baele, S. J., Boyd, K. A. and Coan, T. G. Book
This book offers a comprehensive overview and analysis of the Islamic State's use of propaganda. Combining a range of different theoretical perspectives from across the social sciences, and using rigorous methods, the authors trace the origins of the Islamic State's message, laying bare the strategic logic guiding its evolution, examining each of its multi-media components, and showing how these elements work together to radicalize audiences' worldviews. This volume highlights the challenges that this sort of "full-spectrum propaganda" raises for counter terrorism forces. It is not only a one-stop resource for any analyst of IS and Salafi-jihadism, but also a rich contribution to the study of text and visual propaganda, radicalization and political violence, and international security.
‘The Baghdadi Net’: How A Network of ISIL-Supporting Accounts Spread Across Twitter
2019 Ayad, M. Article
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.
Prevalent Sentiments of the Concept of Jihad in the Public Commentsphere
2019 Silverman, G. and Sommer, U. Article
Certain studies of social conflicts and geopolitical processes through online social networks entail qualitative analysis. One such issue is the tension between Western and Muslim societies. We introduce computer-assisted qualitative sentiment analysis for the inquiry and extraction of varied sentiments. The analysis explores the prevalent meanings of the term jihad through discussions of Muslims and non-Muslims in the online public sphere. After examining 4,630 Facebook comments and replies, our examination leads to a holistic mapping that details “peaceful,” “moderate,” and “radical” opinions regarding jihad, which is an integral institution of the Muslim world. Through this method, we suggest a “Muslim–non-Muslim tension indicator,” which can be used in a range of political analyses.
Right-Wing Extremists’ Persistent Online Presence: History and Contemporary Trends
2019 Conway, M., Scrivens, R. and Macnair, L. VOX-Pol Publication
This policy brief traces how Western right-wing extremists have exploited the power of the internet from early dial-up bulletin board systems to contemporary social media and messaging apps. It demonstrates how the extreme right has been quick to adopt a variety of emerging online tools, not only to connect with the like-minded, but to radicalise some audiences while intimidating others, and ultimately to recruit new members, some of whom have engaged in hate crimes and/or terrorism. Highlighted throughout is the fast pace of change of both the internet and its associated platforms and technologies, on the one hand, and the extreme right, on the other, as well as how these have interacted and evolved over time. Underlined too is the persistence, despite these changes, of rightwing extremists’ online presence, which poses challenges for effectively responding to this activity moving forward.
Predicting Behavioural Patterns in Discussion Forums using Deep Learning on Hypergraphs
2019 Arya, D., Rudinac, S. and Worring, M. VOX-Pol Publication
Online discussion forums provide open workspace allowing users to share information, exchange ideas, address problems, and form groups. These forums feature multimodal posts and analyzing them requires a framework that can integrate heterogeneous information extracted from the posts, i.e. text, visual content and the information about user interactions with the online platform and each other. In this paper, we develop a generic framework that can be trained to identify communication behavior and patterns in relation to an entity of interest, be it user, image or text in internet forums. As the case study we use the analysis of violent online political extremism content, which has been a major challenge for domain experts. We demonstrate the generalizability and flexibility of our framework in predicting relational information between multimodal entities by conducting extensive experimentation around four practical use cases.
Hezbollah’s “Virtual Entrepreneurs” - How Hezbollah Is Using The Internet To Incite Violence In Israel
2019 Shkolnik, M. and Corbeil, A. Article
In recent years, Hezbollah has used social media to recruit Israeli Arabs and West Bank-based Palestinians to attack Israeli targets. A recent innovation in terrorist tactics has given rise to “virtual entrepreneurs,” which to date have been largely associated with the Islamic State’s online recruitment efforts. Hezbollah’s virtual planners, similar to those in the Islamic State, use social media to establish contact with potential recruits before transitioning to more encrypted communications platforms, transferring funds, and issuing instructions to form cells, conduct surveillance, and carry out terrorist attacks. Online recruitment presents a low-cost option that offers plausible deniability for Hezbollah. While every virtual plot led by Hezbollah that targeted Israel has been foiled thus far, Israeli authorities spend time and resources disrupting these schemes at the expense of other more pressing threats. By digitally recruiting Palestinians to attack Israel, Hezbollah and its patron Iran are seeking to cultivate a new front against Israel amid rising regional hostilities.
What Do Closed Source Data Tell Us About Lone Actor Terrorist Behavior? A Research Note
2019 Gill, P., Corner, E., McKeeb, A., Hitchen, P. and Betley, P. Article
This article contributes to the growing body of knowledge on loneactor terrorism with the incorporation of closed-source data. The analyses presented investigate the antecedent behaviors of U.K.- based lone-actor terrorists leading up to their planning or conducting a terrorist event. The results suggest that prior to their attack or arrest the vast majority of lone-actor terrorists each demonstrated elements concerning (a) their grievance, (b) an escalation in their intent to act, (c) gaining capability—both psychologically and technically and (d) attack planning. The results also disaggregate our understanding of lone-actor terrorists in two ways. First, we compare the behaviors of the jihadist actors to those of the extreme-right. Second, we visualize Borum’s (2012) continuums of loneness, direction, and motivation. Collectively the results provide insight into the threat assessment and management of potential lone actors
Online news media and propaganda influence on radicalized individuals: Finding from interviews with Islamist prisoners and former Islamists
2019 Neumann, K. and Baugut, P. Article
This study is the first to explore the twin influences of online propaganda and news media on Islamists. We conducted 44 in-depth interviews with cognitively and behaviorally radicalized Islamist prisoners in Austria as well as former Islamists in Germany and Austria. We found that online propaganda and news media had interdependent influences on Islamists’ rejections of non-Muslims and Western politics, as well as on their willingness to use violence and commit suicide. Cognitively radicalized individuals were influenced by propaganda that blamed non-Muslims for opposing Islam; this was reinforced by online mainstream news reports of right-wing populism and extremism that propagandists selectively distributed via social media. Among behaviorally radicalized individuals, exposure to propaganda and news reports depicting Muslim war victims contributed to the radicalized individuals’ willingness to use violence. Moreover, propaganda and media reports that extensively personalized perpetrators of violence strengthened radicalized individuals’ motivations to imitate the use of violence.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the freedom of opinion and expression
2019 United Nations Report
The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the General Assembly the report prepared by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, submitted in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 34/18. In this report, the Special Rapporteur evaluates the human rights law that applies to the regulation of online ‘hate speech’.
Islamic State Propaganda and Attacks: How Are They Connected?
2019 Rosenblatt, N., Winter, C. and Basra, R. Article
What is the relationship between the words and deeds of a terrorist group? Despite frequent speculation in media
and policy circles, few studies have tested this relationship. This study aims to verify a potential correlation between
the volume of propaganda produced by Islamic State (IS)—including statements by the group’s leadership—and
the number of attacks carried out in its name. We examine this issue by comparing two datasets: one of all
official propaganda produced by the Islamic State in 2016, and another of the completed, failed, and disrupted
plots carried out by the group and its supporters in Europe in the same year. We find no strong and predictable
correlation between the volume of propaganda Islamic State produces and the number of attacks the group and its
supporters carry out. There is no regular rise in IS propaganda output before or after its attacks. In particular, there
is no regular rise in attacks after leadership statements. However, the results may have identified differences in how
IS central and regional media offices respond to attacks. The findings suggest that rather than merely looking at
the volume of IS propaganda, it is necessary to also examine its content. As such, the deliberately broad premise of
this study is intended as the first in a series of papers examining the potential relationship between IS propaganda
and IS attacks.
A Philosophical and Historical Analysis of “Generation Identity”: Fascism, Online Media, and the European New Right
2019 Richards, I. Article
This article analyzes ideological and organizational characteristics of the pan-European youth movement, “Generation Identity” (GI), through a philosophical and historical lens. With a synoptic perspective on existing and original research, it outlines an analysis of key GI literature as well as its ideological influences, activist behavior, and media strategies. This research reveals that, like other twentieth and twenty-first century examples of neo-fascism, the movement is syncretic and attempts to legitimize its political aims through reference to historical quasi- and proto-fascist cases, in combination with popular left and right-wing political ideals. A reflection on GI’s activist behavior, on the other hand, demonstrates that the movement is relatively unique in the field of current far-right politics; particularly in the extent to which it draws practical inspiration from the tactics and propagandizing strategies of contemporary left-wing movements. GI’s online presence, including its leaders’ promotion of gamification, also illustrates its distinctive appeal to young, relatively affluent, countercultural and digitally literate populations. Finally, while in many respects GI is characteristic of the “European New Right” (ENR), the analysis finds that its spokespersons’ various promotion of capitalism and commodification, including through their advocacy of international trade and sale of merchandise, diverges from the anti-capitalist philosophizing of contemporary ENR thinkers.
Personal Statement from James Watkins to Committee on Homeland Security 8Chan enquiry
2019 Watkins, J. Article
Chairman Thompson and Members of the Committee: Today, James Watkins appears for a congressional deposition addressing your Committee’s concern over social media companies’ efforts to address online extremist content. We have prepared this statement in an effort to assist the Committee in understanding how careful and responsible a platform 8chan is. While Mr. Watkins is empathetic to the victims of mass shootings in America, 8chan has never tolerated illegal speech and has a consistent track record of working with law enforcement agencies when appropriate. After the current disruption of service, 8chan has taken steps to improve its ability to identify illegal content and to act more quickly in doing so. To these ends, it hopes to be of continued assistance to law enforcement officers in times of need. Mindful of tragedies America has faced, Mr. Watkins also believes in the exceptional promise of the First Amendment. 8chan is the only platform featuring a full commitment to free speech—a one-of-a-kind discussion board where anonymous users shared tactics about French democracy protests, how to circumvent censorship in repressive countries, and the best way to beat a classic video game. In this hodgepodge of chaotic discussion, down-home recipes are traded, sorrows lifted, and a small minority of users post hateful and ignorant items. As Justice Hugo Black once noted, the “First Amendment provides the only kind of security system that can preserve a free government – one that leaves the way wide open for people to favor, discuss, advocate, or incite causes and doctrines however obnoxious and antagonistic such views may be to the rest of us.”1 It is with this in mind that Mr. Watkins is proud to host the only platform compatible with the First Amendment.
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