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
'Beyond Anything We Have Ever Seen': Beheading Videos and the Visibility of Violence in the War against ISIS.
2015 Friis, S.M. Journal
This article examines the role of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria's (ISIS's) beheading videos in the United Kingdom and the United States. These videos are highly illustrative demonstrations of the importance of visual imagery and visual media in contemporary warfare. By functioning as evidence in a political discourse constituting ISIS as an imminent, exceptional threat to the West, the videos have played an important role in the re-framing of the conflict in Iraq and Syria from a humanitarian crisis requiring a humanitarian response to a national security issue requiring a military response and intensified counterterrorism efforts. However, this article seeks to problematize the role and status of ISIS's beheadings in American and British security discourses by highlighting the depoliticizing aspects of reducing a complicated conflict to a fragmented visual icon. The article concludes by emphasizing the need for further attention to how the visibility of war, and the constitution of boundaries between which acts of violence are rendered visible and which are not, shape the political terrain in which decisions about war and peace are produced and legitimized.
'Like Sheep Among Wolves': Characterizing Hateful Users on Twitter
2018 Ribeiro,M.H., Calais, P.H., Santos, Y.A., Almeida, A.F., and Meira, W. Jr. Article
Hateful speech in Online Social Networks (OSNs) is a key challenge for companies and governments, as it impacts users and advertisers, and as several countries have strict legislation against the practice. This has motivated work on detecting and characterizing the phenomenon
in tweets, social media posts and comments. However, these approaches face several shortcomings due to the noisiness of OSN data, the sparsity of the phenomenon, and the subjectivity of the definition of hate speech. This works presents a user-centric view of hate speech, paving the way for better detection methods and understanding. We collect a Twitter dataset of 100, 386 users along with up to 200 tweets from their timelines with a randomwalk-based crawler on the retweet graph, and select a subsample of 4, 972 to be manually annotated as hateful or not through crowdsourcing. We examine the difference between user activity patterns, the content disseminated between hateful and normal users, and network centrality measurements in the sampled graph. Our results show that hateful users have more recent account creation dates, and more statuses, and followees per day. Additionally, they favorite more tweets, tweet in shorter intervals and are more central in the retweet network, contradicting the “lone wolf” stereotype often associated with such behavior. Hateful users are more negative, more profane, and use less words associated with topics such as hate,
terrorism, violence and anger. We also identify similarities between hateful/normal users and their 1-neighborhood, suggesting strong homophily.
'Sometimes You Just Have to Try Something': A Critical Analysis of Danish State-Led Initiatives Countering Online Radicalisation
2018 Warrington, A. Article
This research paper argues that Danish online radicalisation policies are driven by logics of urgency (the threat is imminent) within a limited realm of discursive possibilities (the threat is securitised) which blur the lines between state and civil society as well as state and private sector interactions. Potential political implications bring into play questions about the democratic values that are perceived as safeguarded by these policies. The Danish case shows that we (as citizens, policy makers and researchers) must engage in further discussions on dynamics between the current threat perception of online radicalisation and policies addressing such a threat. My argument is constructed from a discourse analysis of official documents as of 2016-2017 on countering and preventing violent extremism and an analysis of the political logics driving a state-level conceptualisation of online radicalisation through interviews with government officials. The two-part analysis is theoretically based on Securitisation from the Copenhagen School in combination with Critical Terrorism Studies to create a critically inspired approach that remains within existing structures of Danish politics. This is done to engage with the current political landscape characterised by a securitisation of specific forms of online content associated with the Islamic State as an Other. Online radicalisation is herein constructed as a multidimensional threat towards a societal Self referring to the physical safety of citizens and a value based ‘way of life’. The decentralised structure of the internet allows communication flows that enable radicalisation to be understood as an inter-sectoral threat where multiple elements of the referent object are threatened simultaneously. This threat perception challenges government officials in developing and implementing policies to address the threat of the Other while safeguarding the democratic values of the Danish Self.
'Stop fake hate profiles on Facebook': Challenges for crowdsourced activism on social media
2017 Farkas, J. and Neumayer, C. Article
This research examines how activists mobilise against fake hate profiles on Facebook. Based on six months of participant observation, this paper demonstrates how Danish Facebook users organised to combat fictitious Muslim profiles that spurred hatred against ethnic minorities. Crowdsourced action by Facebook users is insufficient as a form of sustainable resistance against fake hate profiles. A viable solution would require social media companies, such as Facebook, to take responsibility in the struggle against fake content used for political manipulation.
'The Call to Jihad The Role of Internet Preachers' Angela Gendron YouTube 360p
2014 Gendron, A. Lecture
Angela Gendron of Carleton University at 'Swansea University's Symposium 2014: Terrorists' Use of the Internet' speaks on radicalisation and the role of internet preachers. Originally published on July 4, 2014 by CTProject
'Waging War on the Ideological Battleground' Dr Anne Aly YouTube
2014 Aly, A. Lecture
Paper presented at Swansea University 2014: Terrorists' Use of the Internet (5th-6th June 2014) by Dr Anne Aly of Curtin University. Dr Daly's paper focuses on terroristic narratives and counter narratives online.
'Weighing the Role of the Internet in Past, Present, and Future Terrorism' Dr Maura Conway
2014 Conway, M. Lecture
VOX-Pol Coordinator Dr Maura Conway discussing the role of the Internet in the past, the present & the future of terrorism, at the 2014 Symposium of Cyber Terrorism Project at Swansea University.
(((They))) rule: Memetic antagonism and nebulous othering on 4chan
2019 Tuters, M. and Hagen, S. Article
Previously theorised as vehicles for expressing progressive dissent, this article considers how political memes have become entangled in the recent reactionary turn of web subcultures. Drawing on Chantal Mouffe’s work on political affect, this article examines how online anonymous communities use memetic literacy, memetic abstraction, and memetic antagonism to constitute themselves as political collectives. Specifically, it focuses on how the subcultural and highly reactionary milieu of 4chan’s /pol/ board does so through an anti-Semitic meme called triple parentheses. In aggregating the contents of this peculiar meme from a large dataset of /pol/ comments, the article finds that /pol/ users, or anons, tend to use the meme to formulate a nebulous out-group resonant with populist demagoguery.
21st Century Radicalization: The Role Of The Internet User And Nonuser In Terrorist Outcomes
2014 Woodring, D.W. MA Thesis
This study examines differences between users and nonusers of information communication technologies (ICTs) within the pre-incident planning processes for domestic terrorist movements operating within the United States. In addition, this study is the first quantitative exploration of the prevalence, types, and purposes of ICT use within terrorist movements, specifically environmental, far-right, and Islamic extremist movements. Using“officially designated” federal terrorism investigations from the American Terrorism Study (ATS), we analyzed extracted evidence of ICT usage among individuals (n =331) engaged in the pre-incident planning processes as members of terrorist movements between 1995-2011. While we find significant differences in terrorist ICT use across terrorist movements, our findings suggest that demographics are not a strong predictor of usage. We find the highest prevalence of usage among Islamic movements. However, evidence of online radicalization or recruitment was found predominantly among environmental movements. We conclude with a discussion of these findings and their implications for counterterrorism policy.
4chan & 8chan embeddings
2020 Voué, P., De Smedt, T. and De Pauw, G. Report
We have collected over 30M messages from the publicly available /pol/ message boards on 4chan and 8chan, and compiled them into a model of toxic language use. The trained word embeddings (±0.4GB) are released for free and may be useful for further study on toxic discourse or to boost hate speech detection systems: textgain.com/8chan.
4chan and /b/: An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Community
2011 Bernstein, M.S., Monroy-Hernández, A., Harry, D., André, P., Panovich, K. and Vargas, G. Article
We present two studies of online ephemerality and anonymity based on the popular discussion board /b/ at 4chan.org: a website with over 7 million users that plays an influential role in Internet culture. Although researchers and practitioners often assume that user identity and data permanence are central tools in the design of online communities, we explore how /b/ succeeds despite being almost entirely anonymous and extremely ephemeral. We begin by describing /b/ and performing a content analysis that suggests the community is dominated by playful exchanges of images and links. Our first study uses a large dataset of more than five million posts to quantify ephemerality in /b/. We find that most threads spend just five seconds on the first page and less than five minutes on the site before expiring. Our second study is an analysis of identity signals on 4chan, finding that over 90% of posts are made by fully anonymous users, with other identity signals adopted and discarded at will. We describe alternative mechanisms that /b/ participants use to establish status and frame their interactions.
9/11 als Netzereignis: Zur Formation von Erinnerungskultur und Mediengedächtnis im World Wide Web
2018 Nachreiner, T. M. PhD Thesis
Die vorliegende Arbeit beschreibt den Zusammenhang zwischen den digitalen Erinnerungskulturen von ‚9/11‘ und der Mediengeschichte des World Wide Web im Zeitraum von 2001 bis 2016. Die darin angelegte Problemstellung behandelt das rekursive Verhältnis von Medialität und Historizität und lässt sich als Kombination von zwei Fragestellungen fassen: Welchen Einfluss hat der digitale Medienwandel – insbesondere in Form des World Wide Web – auf die Verarbeitung des Medienereignisses ‚9/11‘ in verschiedenen Erinnerungskulturen? Und welche Rolle spielen im Gegenzug das Medienereignis und die Erinnerungskultur von ‚9/11‘ für die Beobachtbarkeit des Web als historischer Medienkonstellation und für die Bedingungen der Internet- und Webhistoriographie? Bislang gibt es zu beiden Fragen lediglich punktuelle kulturwissenschaftliche Untersuchungen, die zwar einzelne Anwendungen oder bestimmte Zeitpunkte thematisieren, jedoch die strukturelle Koevolution von Medialität und Historizität nur unzureichend berücksichtigen. Die vorliegende Arbeit ist die erste medienhistoriographische Studie, die nicht nur einzelne webbasierte Erscheinungsformen des Erinnerungsortes ‚9/11‘ betrachtet, sondern ihre heterogenen Entwicklungslinien und transmedialen Verflechtungen genealogisch wie systematisch untersucht. Im Umkehrschluss besteht das Novum der Arbeit in der Ausarbeitung und Anwendung einer reflexiven Perspektive, die den Status von ‚9/11‘ als Element von webbasierten Gedächtnisformen und als Erkenntnisobjekt der Webgeschichte diskutiert.
A benchmark dataset for learning to intervene in online hate speech
2019 Qian, J., Bethke, A., Liu, Y., Belding, E. and Wang, W.Y. Article
Countering online hate speech is a critical yet challenging task, but one which can be aided by the use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques. Previous research has primarily focused on the development of NLP methods to automatically and effectively detect online hate speech while disregarding further action needed to calm and discourage individuals from using hate speech in the future. In addition, most existing hate speech datasets treat each post as an isolated instance, ignoring the conversational context. In this paper, we propose a novel task of generative hate speech intervention, where the goal is to automatically generate responses to intervene during online conversations that contain hate speech. As a part of this work, we introduce two fully-labeled large-scale hate speech intervention datasets collected from Gab and Reddit. These datasets provide conversation segments, hate speech labels, as well as intervention responses written by Mechanical Turk Workers. In this paper, we also analyze the datasets to understand the common intervention strategies and explore the performance of common automatic response generation methods on these new datasets to provide a benchmark for future research.
A Blueprint for Bypassing Extremism
The Redirect Method Policy
The Redirect Method​ uses Adwords targeting tools and curated YouTube videos uploaded by people all around the world to confront online radicalization. It focuses on the slice of ISIS’ audience that is most susceptible to its messaging, and redirects them towards curated YouTube videos debunking ISIS recruiting themes. This open methodology was developed from interviews with ISIS defectors, respects users’ privacy and can be deployed to tackle other types of violent recruiting discourses online.
A Brief History of Propaganda During Conflict: Lessons for Counter-Terrorism Strategic Communications
2016 Ingram, H.I. Report
There is a tendency in scholarly and strategic-policy fields to see the propaganda produced by groups like Islamic State and Al-Qaeda as historically unheralded. As evidence, slickly produced communiques and a penchant for using social media are typically highlighted. This narrow perspective, in placing the current phenomenon into an historical and thematic vacuum, infers that history has little to offer contemporary efforts to understand and confront extremist propaganda. This research paper explores the history of propaganda during conflict and draws out key lessons for improving counterterrorism strategic communications. Overall, history suggests that a strategic communications campaign during conflict is more likely to succeed if it based on a multifaceted approach characterised by the deployment of a diversity of messages that leverage a variety of target audience motivations, uses all pertinent means of communication (not just the latest), and synchronises this messaging with strategicpolicy/politico-military actions.
A Common Transnational Agenda? Communication Network and Discourse of Political-Salafists on Twitter
2017 Ranko et al. Journal
Employing social network analysis, this article investigates  the  transnational communication network and discourse of political-Salafists on social media. It examines whether political-Salafists across the MENA region have a common sociopolitical and geopolitical agenda, and whether – given the recent shift of some political-Salafists towards violence – their discourse and communication network can still be distinguished from that of the jihadists. The analysis finds that political-Salafists do not share a common agenda but that their discourse and communication network display three transnational gravity centres: a revisionist, a status quo-oriented and an ostracized pro-Sisi gravity centre. Only the revisionist gravity centre advocates violence. Its discourse, however, remains clearly set apart from that of the jihadists.
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. Article
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).
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, V.L. Article
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).
A Comparative Approach To Social Media Extreme Speech: Online Hate Speech As Media Commentary
2019 Pohjonen, M. Article
By exploring lessons learned from Ethiopia and Finland, this article challenges two assumptions about online hate speech research. First, it challenges the assumption that the best way to understand controversial concepts such as online hate speech is to determine how closely they represent or mirror some underlying set of facts or state of affairs online or in social media. Second, it challenges the assumption that academic research should be seen as separate from the many controversies that surround online hate speech debates globally. In its place, the article proposes the theory of “commentary” as a comparative research framework aimed at explaining how the messy and complex world of online and social media practices is articulated as hate speech over other ways of imagining this growing problem in global digital media environments.
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.