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
Responding To The Threat Of Cyberterrorism Through Information Assurance
1999 Ogren, J. G. and Langevin, J. R. MA Thesis
The number of people connecting to the Internet is growing at an astounding rate: estimates range from 100% to 400% annually over the next five years. This unprecedented level of interconnectedness has brought with it the specter of a new threat: cyberterrorism. This thesis examines the impact of this threat on the critical infrastructure of the United States specifically focusing on Department of Defense issues and the National Information Infrastructure (NII). A working definition for cyberterrorism is derived, and a description of the Nation's critical infrastructure is provided. A number of possible measures for countering the threat of cyberterrorism are discussed, with particular attention given to the concept of information assurance.

Information assurance demands that trustworthy systems be developed from untrustworthy components within power-generation systems, banking, transportation, emergency services, and telecommunications. The importance of vulnerability testing (or red-teaming) is emphasized as part of the concept of information assurance. To support this, a cyberterrorist 'red team' was formed to participate in the Marine Corps' Urban Warrior Experiment. The objective of t his thesis is to address the impact of these issues from a Systems Management perspective. This includes taking into account the changes that must occur in order to improve the U.S.' ability to detect, protect against, contain, neutralize, mitigate the effects of, and recover from attacks on the Nation's Critical Infrastructure.
Call Of Duty - Jihad – How The Video Game Motif Has Migrated Downstream From Islamic State Propaganda Videos
2019 Dauber, C. E., Robinson, M. D., Baslious, J. J. and Blair, A. G. Article
From a technical standpoint, Islamic State (IS) videos are demonstrably superior to those of other groups. But as time goes by, their aesthetic is migrating downstream as other groups attempt to copy it. Specifically, IS has turned to video games, regularly mimicking and even directly copying the aesthetic and design of First Person Shooter games, most often Call of Duty, in their videos, and other groups have followed suit. This specific aesthetic offers a way to recruit young, technologically savvy, men while sanitizing the violence they were being recruited to participate in. This study offers an instrument for tracking the IS aesthetic as it moves to other groups as well as its evolution over time, and offers a case study of a specific group that has copied the IS aesthetic, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS.)
Understanding The Expression Of Grievances In The Arabic Twitter-sphere Using Machine Learning
2019 Al-Saggaf, Y. and Davies, A. Article
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to discuss the design, application and findings of a case study in which the application of a machine learning algorithm is utilised to identify the grievances in Twitter in an Arabian context. Design/methodology/approach To understand the characteristics of the Twitter users who expressed the identified grievances, data mining techniques and social network analysis were utilised. The study extracted a total of 23,363 tweets and these were stored as a data set. The machine learning algorithm applied to this data set was followed by utilising a data mining process to explore the characteristics of the Twitter feed users. The network of the users was mapped and the individual level of interactivity and network density were calculated. Findings The machine learning algorithm revealed 12 themes all of which were underpinned by the coalition of Arab countries blockade of Qatar. The data mining analysis revealed that the tweets could be clustered in three clusters, the main cluster included users with a large number of followers and friends but who did not mention other users in their tweets. The social network analysis revealed that whilst a large proportion of users engaged in direct messages with others, the network ties between them were not registered as strong. Practical implications Borum (2011) notes that invoking grievances is the first step in the radicalisation process. It is hoped that by understanding these grievances, the study will shed light on what radical groups could invoke to win the sympathy of aggrieved people. Originality/value In combination, the machine learning algorithm offered insights into the grievances expressed within the tweets in an Arabian context. The data mining and the social network analyses revealed the characteristics of the Twitter users highlighting identifying and managing early intervention of radicalisation.
The Online Caliphate Internet Usage And ISIS Support In The Arab World
2019 Piazza, J., A. and Guler, A. Article
Experts argue that the internet has provided expanded opportunities for violent extremist groups to propagandize and recruit. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, is an exemplar in that it has heavily invested in an online presence and uses online communities and social media to attract and retain supporters. Does ISIS’s online presence translate into a higher probability that individuals in its target audience will become supporters? In this study, we analyze over 6,000 individuals in six Arab countries to find if those that use the internet to follow political news or to express political views are more likely to support ISIS. We find that respondents who get their news online are significantly more likely to support ISIS than those who follow the news on television or print media. Moreover, those who use online fora for political expression are also more likely to express support for ISIS. Indeed, individuals who engage in online political discussion are more likely to support ISIS than those who engage in conventional political activity, though less than those who engage in contentious political behaviors such as attending a political protest. We conclude with a brief discussion of the academic and policy implications of these findings.
Embodying The Nordic Race Imaginaries Of Viking Heritage In The Online Communications Of The Nordic Resistance Movement
2019 Kølvraa, C. Article
Kølvraa’s article focuses on the cultural imaginary of the Scandinavian extreme right by analysing the online presence of the so-called Nordic Resistance Movement. He seeks to show how the cultural imaginaries of this National Socialist organization make use of the Scandinavian Viking heritage in three distinct ways. First, to produce a distinctly Nordic form of National Socialism and thus potentially make this ideology palatable to Nordic publics. Second, to differentiate their racially oriented political project from a wider far-right or populist right concern with the defence of European Christian heritage and/or civilization against Islam. And, third, to thematize and perform a certain hyper-masculine identity, especially in the context of martial and sporting competitions arranged by the organization.
Charlie Hebdo, 2015: 'Liveness' And Acceleration Of Conflict In A Hybrid Media Event
2019 Valaskivi, K., Tikka, M. and Sumiala, J. Article
In this article, the authors examine the intensification of liveness and its effects in the Charlie Hebdo attacks that took place in Paris in January 2015. In their investigation they first re-visit the existing theoretical literature on media, event and time, and discuss in particular the relationship between media events and the idea of liveness. They then move on to the empirical analysis of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and demonstrate the aspects of intensified liveness in the circulation of selected tweets. The analysis is based on a multi-method approach developed for the empirical study of hybrid media events. In conclusion, the authors argue that the liveness, experienced and carried out simultaneously on multiple platforms, favours stereotypical and immediate interpretations when it comes to making sense of the incidents unfolding before the eyes of global audiences. In this condition, incidents are interpreted ‘en direct’, but within the framework of older mnemonic schemes and mythologization of certain positions (e.g. victims, villains, heroes) in the narrative. This condition, they claim, further accelerates the conflict between the different participants that took part in the event.
New Technology in the Hands of the New Terrorism
2019 Goertz, S. and Streitparth, A. E. Article
This chapter examines the technological opportunities of the digital age and the Internet for a multidirectional exchange of Jihadi ideas, ideology, strategy and tactics. Myriads of social networks on the Internet serve as platforms for Jihadi disputes, which shows that the Internet and telecommunication technology of the twenty-first century are of central importance for new terrorism. Currently, the World Wide Web and its numerous media channels are the most important and most commonly and frequently used communication and propaganda platforms of the Islamist and Jihadi milieu. The Internet allows free cross-border and real-time communication and interaction as well as the reception of (supposedly authentic) reports on the fate of individual Jihadis and developments in far-off conflict regions. These technological achievements of the twenty-first century have enabled the (imagined) worldwide Umma to interconnect and pose a historically new potential for Jihadi actors of new terrorism to mobilise and radicalise Muslims on a global scale.
A Comparative Analysis Of Right-wing Radical And Islamist Communities' Strategies For Survival In Social Networks - Evidence From The Russian Social Network Vkontakte
2019 Myagkov, M., Shchekotin, E. V., Chudinov, S. I. and Goiko, Y. L.
This article presents a comparative analysis of online communities of right-wing radicals and Islamists, who are considered to be numerous and dangerous extremist groups in Russian society. The online communities were selected based on the content posted on the largest Russian social networking site VKontakte. The goal of this article is to determine the strategy and tactics employed by extremist online communities for survival on social networking sites. The authors discovered that both right-wing radical and Islamist groups employ similar behavioural techniques, with the mimicry of ideologically neutral content as the most common. In addition, every extremist community also applies some unique methods. For example, if there is a risk of being blocked, right-wing radicals tend to shift their activity and communication to the other Internet-based platforms that are not under state control; however, Islamists prefer to suddenly change the content of their communities (i.e. by using secondary mimicry).
Caught In The Net - The Impact Of "Extremist" Speech Regulations On Human Rights Content
2019 Jaloud, A. R. A., Al Khatib, K., Deutch, J., Kayyali, D. and York, J. C. Article
Social media companies have long struggled with what to do about extremist content on their platforms. While most companies include provisions about “extremist” content in their community standards, until recently, such content was often vaguely defined, providing policymakers and content moderators a wide berth in determining what to remove, and what to allow. Unfortunately, companies have responded with overbroad and vague policies and practices that have led to mistakes at scale that are decimating human rights content.

The belief that deleting content on online platforms can solve the deeply rooted problems of extremism in modern society is a mistake. The examples highlighted in this document show that casting a wide net into the Internet with faulty automated moderation technology not only captures content deemed extremist, but also inadvertently captures useful content like human rights documentation, thus shrinking the democratic sphere. No proponent of automated content moderation has provided a satisfactory solution to this problem.

In recent years, following the rise of the Islamic State, companies have come under increasing pressure to undertake stricter measures when it comes to such speech. In the United States, this has come in the form of legislative proposals, civil lawsuits from victims of terrorist attacks, and pressure from the executive branch of the federal government. The European Commission has ramped up its efforts from a code of conduct launched in 2017 that would require companies to review reported extremist content within 24 hours, to a much more aggressive regulation that would create financial penalties for companies if they fail to act on extremist content within one hour.

Regardless of these regulations, the vast majority of companies are already restrictive when it comes to extremist content. And because there is no globally agreed-upon definition of what constitutes a terrorist (and nations would inevitably disagree as to whether a specific entity met such a definition), U.S.-based companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube look to U.S. regulations to underpin their policies. As a result, the extremist groups that receive the most focus are typically those on the U.S. Department of State’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Facebook, for example, provides a list to moderators that includes photographs of leaders from groups on that list.

But although companies use this list as guidance, they are not legally obligated under U.S. law to remove content that comes from these groups. As far as is publicly known, the U.S. government has not taken the position that allowing a designated foreign terrorist organization to use a free and freely available online platform is tantamount to “providing material support” for such an organization, as is prohibited under the patchwork of U.S. anti-terrorism laws. Although the laws prohibit the offering of “services” to terrorist organizations, the U.S. Supreme Court has limited that to concerted “acts done for the benefit of or at the command of another.” And U.S. courts have consistently rejected efforts to impose civil liability on online platforms when terrorist organizations use them for their communications.
Branding A Caliphate In Decline - The Islamic State’s Video Output (2015-2018)
2019 Nanninga, P. Article
Although video releases have been central to the Islamic State’s efforts to represent itself to its audiences, an extensive quantitative and qualitative study of these sources over a longer period of time is still lacking. This paper therefore provides an overview and analysis of the entire corpus of official videos released by the Islamic State between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2018. It particularly focuses on how the Islamic State’s decline in Iraq and Syria during this period is reflected in its video output and how the group has responded to its setbacks. The paper demonstrates a strong correlation between the group’s mounting troubles and its video production: the numbers of videos decreased dramatically and their content reflects the Islamic State’s (re)transformation from a territory-based ‘state’ to an insurgent group relying on guerrilla tactics and terrorist attacks. Nevertheless, this paper argues that the Islamic State’s multi-faceted response to its setbacks might ensure the groups’ appeal to its target audience in the years to come.
Social Media Mechanisms For Right Wing Political Violence In The 21st Century Discursive Opportunities Group Dynamics And Co Ordination
2019 Wahlstrom, M. & Tornberg, A. Article
This article maps mechanisms by which online social media activities may contribute to right-wing political violence. High-impact studies on the wave of right-wing and racist violence in the 1990s and early 2000s established that mass media discourse on immigrants and previous violent incidents had a significant influence on the prevalence of radical right violence. This link was captured by Koopmans's and Olzak’s notion of discursive opportunities. However, this was before the dominance of online social networks and social media, which changed the media landscape radically. We argue for broadening and refining the operationalization of the concept of discursive opportunities in social movement studies as well as including in our theoretical models new mechanisms brought about by the new online media. In relation to radical right and anti-immigrant mobilizations in Sweden in the 2010s, we elaborate and exemplify three mechanisms through which activities on social media may affect the incidence of violence: a) having an increasingly co-produced discursive opportunity structure, b) making inter-group dynamics in movement groups and networks trans-local, and c) sharing (rare) practical information and co-ordinating activities.
Paris And Nice Terrorist Attacks - Exploring Twitter And Web Archives
2019 Schafer, V., Truc, G. and Badouard, R. Article
The attacks suffered by France in January and November 2015, and then in the course of 2016, especially the Nice attack, provoked intense online activity both during the events and in the months that followed. The digital traces left by this reactivity and reactions to events gave rise, from the very first days and even hours after the attacks, to a ‘real-time’ institutional archiving by the National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France, BnF) and the National Audio-visual Institute (Institut national de l’audiovisuel, Ina). The results amount to millions of archived tweets and URLs. This article seeks to highlight some of the most significant issues raised by these relatively unprecedented corpora, from collection to exploitation, from online stream of data to its mediation and re-composition. Indeed, web archiving practices in times of emergency and crises are significant, almost emblematic, loci to explore the human and technical agencies, and the complex temporalities, of ‘born-digital’ heritage. The cases examined here emphasize the way these ‘emergency collections’ challenge the perimeters and the very nature of web archives as part of our digital and societal heritage, and the guiding visions of its governance and mission. Finally, the present analysis underlines the need for a careful contextualization of the design process – both of original web pages or tweets and of their archived images – and of the tools deployed to collect, retrieve and analyse them.
Do Internet Searches for Islamist Propaganda Precede or Follow Islamist Terrorist Attacks?
2019 Enomoto, C. E. and Douglas, K. Article
Using a Vector-Autoregressive (VAR) model, this paper analyzes the relationship between Islamist terrorist attacks and Internet searches for the phrases such as "join Jihad" or "join ISIS." It was found that Internet searches for "join Jihad" and "taghut" (Arabic word meaning "to rebel") preceded the Islamist terrorist attacks by three weeks over the period January 2014 to December 2016. Internet searches for "kufar" (the derogatory Arabic word for non-Muslims) preceded the attacks that resulted in deaths from the Islamist terrorist groups. Casualties, including those injured and killed by the Islamist groups, were also found to precede Internet searches for "join Jihad" and "ISIS websites." Countermeasures to the usage of social media for terrorist activity are also discussed. As an example, if Internet searches for specific terms can be identified that precede a terrorist attack, authorities can be on alert to possibly stop an impending attack. Chat rooms and online discussion groups can also be used to disseminate information to argue against terrorist propaganda that is being released.
Halting Boko Haram Islamic State's West Africa Province Propaganda In Cyberspace With Cybersecurity Technologies
2019 Ogunlana, S. O. Article
Terrorists use cyberspace and social media technology to create fear and spread violent ideologies, which pose a significant threat to public security. Researchers have documented the importance of the application of law and regulation in dealing with the criminal activities in cyberspace. Using routine activity theory, this article assessed the effectiveness of technological approaches to mitigating the expansion and organization of terrorism in cyberspace. Data collection included open-source documents, government threat
assessments, legislation, policy papers, and peer-reviewed academic literature and semistructured interviews with fifteen security experts in Nigeria. The key findings were that the new generation of terrorists who are more technological savvy are growing, cybersecurity
technologies are effective, and bilateral/multilateral cooperation is essential to combat the expansion of terrorism in cyberspace. The data provided may be useful to stakeholders responsible for national security, counterterrorism, law enforcement on the choice of cybersecurity technologies to confront terrorist expansion in cyberspace
Platform Surveillance
2019 Murakami Wood, D. and Monahan, T. Journal
This special responsive issue on “Platform Surveillance” critically assesses the surveillance dimensions and politics of large-scale digital platforms. The issue includes an editorial introduction to the topic and its implications, dozens of articles on specific platforms or platform trends, three book reviews of Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, and an interview with Zuboff about her work.
ISIS at Its Apogee: The Arabic Discourse on Twitter and What We Can Learn From That About ISIS Support and Foreign Fighters
2019 Ceron, A., Curini, L. and Iacus, S. M. Article
We analyze 26.2 million comments published in Arabic language on Twitter, from July 2014 to January 2015, when Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)’s strength reached its peak and the group was prominently expanding the territorial area under its control. By doing that, we are able to measure the share of support and aversion toward the Islamic State within the online Arab communities. We then investigate two specific topics. First, by exploiting the time granularity of the tweets, we link the opinions with daily events to understand the main determinants of the changing trend in support toward ISIS. Second, by taking advantage of the geographical locations of tweets, we explore the relationship between online opinions across countries and the number of foreign fighters joining ISIS.
Feature extraction and selection for automatic hate speech detection on Twitter
2019 Routar de Sousa, J. G. MA Thesis
In recent decades, information technology went through an explosive evolution, revolutionizing the way communication takes place, on the one hand enabling the rapid, easy and almost costless digital interaction, but, on the other, easing the adoption of more aggressive communication styles. It is crucial to regulate and attenuate these behaviors, especially in the digital context, where these emerge at a fast and uncontrollable pace and often cause severe damage to the targets. Social networks and other entities tend to channel their efforts into minimizing hate speech, but the way each one handles the issue varies. Thus, in this thesis, we investigate the problem of hate speech detection in social networks, focusing directly on Twitter. Our first goal was to conduct a systematic literature review of the topic, targeting mostly theoretical and practical approaches. We exhaustively collected and critically summarized mostly recent literature addressing the topic, highlighting popular definitions of hate, common targets and different manifestations of such behaviors. Most perspectives tackle the problem by adopting machine learning approaches, focusing mostly on text mining and natural language processing techniques, on Twitter. Other authors present novel features addressing the users themselves. Although most recent approaches target Twitter, we noticed there were few tools available that would address this social network platform or tweets in particular, considering their informal and specific syntax. Thus, our second goal was to develop a tokenizer able to split tweets into their corresponding tokens, taking into account all their particularities. We performed two binary hate identification experiments, having achieved the best f-score in one of them using our tokenizer. We used our tool in the experiments conducted in the following chapters. As our third goal, we proposed to assess which text-based features and preprocessing techniques would produce the best results in hate speech detection. During our literature review, we collected the most common preprocessing, sentiment and vectorization features and extracted the ones we found suitable for Twitter in particular. We concluded that preprocessing the data is crucial to reduce its dimensionality, which is often a problem in small datasets. Additionally, the f-score also improved. Furthermore, analyzing the tweets’ semantics and extracting their character n-grams were the tested features that better improved the detection of hate, enhancing the f-score by 1.5% and the hate recall by almost 5% on unseen testing data. On the other hand, analyzing the tweets’ sentiment didn’t prove to be helpful. Our final goal derived from a lack of user-based features in the literature. Thus, we investigated a set of features based on profiling Twitter users, focusing on several aspects, such as the gender of authors and mentioned users, their tendency towards hateful behaviors and other characteristics related to their accounts (e.g. number of friends and followers). For each user, we also generated an ego network, and computed graph-related statistics (e.g. centrality, homophily), achieving significant improvements - f-score and hate recall increased by 5.7% and 7%, respectively.
Techniques for analyzing digital environments from a security perspective
2019 Shrestha, A. PhD Thesis
The development of the Internet and social media has exploded in the last couple of years. Digital environments such as social media and discussion forums provide an effective method of communication and are used by various groups in our societies.  For example, violent extremist groups use social media platforms for recruiting, training, and communicating with their followers, supporters, and donors. Analyzing social media is an important task for law enforcement agencies in order to detect activity and individuals that might pose a threat towards the security of the society.

In this thesis, a set of different technologies that can be used to analyze digital environments from a security perspective are presented. Due to the nature of the problems that are studied, the research is interdisciplinary, and knowledge from terrorism research, psychology, and computer science are required. The research is divided into three different themes. Each theme summarizes the research that has been done in a specific area.

The first theme focuses on analyzing digital environments and phenomena. The theme consists of three different studies. The first study is about the possibilities to detect propaganda from the Islamic State on Twitter.  The second study focuses on identifying references to a narrative containing xenophobic and conspiratorial stereotypes in alternative immigration critic media. In the third study, we have defined a set of linguistic features that we view as markers of a radicalization.

A group consists of a set of individuals, and in some cases, individuals might be a threat towards the security of the society.  The second theme focuses on the risk assessment of individuals based on their written communication. We use different technologies including machine learning to experiment the possibilities to detect potential lone offenders.  Our risk assessment approach is implemented in the tool PRAT (Profile Risk Assessment Tool).

Internet users have the ability to use different aliases when they communicate since it offers a degree of anonymity. In the third theme, we present a set of techniques that can be used to identify users with multiple aliases. Our research focuses on solving two different problems: author identification and alias matching. The technologies that we use are based on the idea that each author has a fairly unique writing style and that we can construct a writeprint that represents the author. In a similar manner,  we also use information about when a user communicates to create a timeprint. By combining the writeprint and the timeprint, we can obtain a set of powerful features that can be used to identify users with multiple aliases.

To ensure that the technologies can be used in real scenarios, we have implemented and tested the techniques on data from social media. Several of the results are promising, but more studies are needed to determine how well they work in reality.
Digital Discourse, Online Repression, And Cyberterrorism- Information Communication Technologies In Russia’s North Caucasus Republics
2019 Tewell, Z.S. MA Thesis
 

Is the cyber-utopian versus cyber-repression argument the most effective way to frame the political uses of new technologies? Contemporary discourse on social media fails to highlight political dynamics in authoritarian regimes with weak state control, where independent groups can capitalize on the use of coercive force. In this thesis, I will explore the various methods through which information communication technologies are utilized by civil groups, uncivil groups, and the state using Russia's North Caucasus republics as a case study. New technologies are exploited through a variety of means by an array of actors in the North Caucasus whose goals may not necessarily be democratic. Through this evidence I demonstrate that information communication technologies do not inherently aid democratization, nor do they necessarily aid the incumbent regime; rather, they are merely a conduit through which existing groups put forth their agendas regarding their ideals of the modern state.

 
Detection Of Jihadism In Social Networks Using Big Data
2019 Rebollo, C. S., Puente, C., Palacios, R., Piriz, C., Fuentes, J. P. and Jarauta, J. Article
Social networks are being used by terrorist organizations to distribute messages with the intention of influencing people and recruiting new members. The research presented in this paper focuses on the analysis of Twitter messages to detect the leaders orchestrating terrorist networks and their followers. A big data architecture is proposed to analyze messages in real time in order to classify users according to diferent parameters like level of activity, the ability to infuence other users, and the contents of their messages. Graphs have been used to analyze how the messages propagate through the network, and this involves a study of the followers based on retweets and general impact on other users. Ten, fuzzy clustering techniques were used to classify users in profiles, with the advantage over other classifcations techniques of providing a probability for each profile instead of a binary categorization. Algorithms were tested using public database from Kaggle and other Twitter extraction techniques. The resulting profiles detected automatically by the system were manually analyzed, and the parameters that describe each profile correspond to the type of information that any expert may expect. Future applications are not limited to detecting terrorist activism. Human resources departments can apply the power of profle identification to automatically classify candidates, security teams can detect undesirable clients in the financial or insurance sectors, and immigration officers can extract additional insights with these
techniques.