Library

Welcome to VOX-Pol’s online Library, a research and teaching resource, which collects in one place a large volume of publications related to various aspects of violent online political extremism.

Our searchable database contains material in a variety of different formats including downloadable PDFs, videos, and audio files comprising e-books, book chapters, journal articles, research reports, policy documents and reports, and theses.

All open access material collected in the Library is easy to download. Where the publications are only accessible through subscription, the Library will take you to the publisher’s page from where you can access the material.

We will continue to add more material as it becomes available with the aim of making it the most comprehensive online Library in this field.

If you have any material you think belongs in the Library—whether your own or another authors—please contact us at onlinelibrary@voxpol.eu and we will consider adding it to the Library. It is also our aim to make the Library a truly inclusive multilingual facility and we thus welcome contributions in all languages.

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TitleYearAuthorTypeLinks
THE EGLYPH WEB CRAWLER: ISIS CONTENT ON YOUTUBE
2018Counter Extremism ProjectReport
From March 8 to June 8, 2018, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) conducted a
study to better understand how ISIS content is being uploaded to YouTube, how long
it is staying online, and how many views these videos receive. To accomplish this,
CEP conducted a limited search for a small set of just 229 previously-identified ISIS
terror-related videos from among the trove of extremist material available on the
platform.
CEP used two computer programs to locate these ISIS videos: a web crawler to
search video titles and descriptions for keywords in videos uploaded to YouTube, and
eGLYPH, a robust hashing content-identification system. CEP’s search of a limited
set of ISIS terror-related videos found that hundreds of ISIS videos are uploaded to
YouTube every month, which in turn garner thousands of views.
Indonesia and the Tech Giants vs ISIS Supporters: Combating Violent Extremism Online
2018INSTITUTE FOR POLICY ANALYSIS OF CONFLICT (IPAC)Journal
The Indonesian government is cooperating more effectively now with private sector technology giants such as Google and Facebook to remove extremist content from social media platforms. Even as the hiccups in their relationship are being worked out, the extremists seem to be finding low-tech ways around blockages. The 8-9 May 2018 riot of terrorist suspects detained at the headquarters of the paramilitary police Brimob outside Jakarta showed the government’s ability to move speedily to address a
spike in online violent extremist exhortations. It also showed how quickly extremists can transfer material to other platforms and mirror sites. The extremists’ wholesale shift to encrypted applications by 2014 made the government’s often clumsy efforts to close down websites seem anachronistic. The Information and Communications Ministry (Kominfo) realised it needed the help of the tech companies but found the companies had their own standards and guidelines for removal of material which differed from the ministry’s. After the owners of Telegram, the pro-ISIS extremists’ encrypted application of choice, failed to respond to Kominfo’s requests to remove material, the Indonesian government blocked Telegram’s web access, finally getting the company’s attention. New restrictions, coinciding with defeats of ISIS in the Middle East and the weakening of links between ISIS media channels and their supporters in Indonesia, led to a decline in the use of large, semi-public Telegram channels to disseminate propaganda. But the use of highly encrypted private small group and two-person chats over Telegram continues. As of mid-2018, government and social media companies have stepped up their efforts to detect and remove extremist content by using artificial intelligence and other tools to trawl the web. They also train their respective artificial intelligence (AI) machines to anticipate new tactics such as better encryption or other camouflage technology. While such innovation is commendable, most Indonesian ISIS supporters are not technologically sophisticated. Instead of responding with high-tech countermeasures, they simply create hundreds of back up channels and accounts, move their groups and channels regularly, and store terabytes of propaganda material across various platforms and devices. They are also exploring new encrypted messaging apps to prepare for the day when Telegram is no longer usable. The problem is that interactive small group discussions among extremists can also be a gold
mine of intelligence that allows state agencies to understand how extremists think and make informed analyses about future threats. The challenge is how to manage intelligence-gathering
and reduce the public’s exposure to extremist material online at the same time, through a combination of domestic regulations, new technologies and a partnership of government, the
private sector and civil society.
Generalized Gelation Theory Describes Onset of Online Extremist Support
2018 Manrique,P., Zheng, M., Cao,Z., Restrepo, E., Johnson, N.F.Article
We introduce a generalized form of gelation theory that incorporates individual heterogeneity and show that it can explain the asynchronous, sudden appearance and growth of online extremist groups supporting ISIS (so-called Islamic State) that emerged globally post-2014. The theory predicts how heterogeneity impacts their onset times and growth profiles and suggests that online extremist groups present a broad distribution of heterogeneity-dependent aggregation mechanisms centered around homophily. The good agreement between the theory and empirical data suggests that existing strategies aiming to defeat online extremism under the assumption that it is driven by a few “bad apples” are misguided. More generally, this generalized theory should apply to a range of real-world systems featuring aggregation among heterogeneous objects.
Finding Extremists in Online Social Networks
2018Klausen, J., Marks E. C., Zaman T.Article
Online extremists’ use of social media poses a new form of threat to the general public. These extremists range from cyberbullies to terrorist organizations. Social media providers often suspend the extremists’ accounts in response to user complaints. However, extremist users can simply create new accounts and continue their activities. In this work we present a new set of operational capabilities to address the threat posed by online extremists in social networks. We use thousands of Twitter accounts related to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to develop behavioral models for these users—in particular, what their accounts look like and with whom they connect. We use these models to track existing extremist users by identifying pairs of accounts belonging to the same user. We then present a model for efficiently searching the social network to find suspended users’ new accounts based on a variant of the classic Pólya’s urn setup. We find a simple characterization of the optimal search policy for this model under fairly general conditions. Our urn model and main theoretical results generalize easily to search problems in other fields.
The Transnationalisation of Far Right Discourse on Twitter
2018Froio, C. Ganesh, B.VOX-Pol Publication
How transnational are the audiences of far right parties and movements on Twitter? While an increasing number of contributions addresses the topic of transnationalism in far right politics, few systematic investigations exist on the actors and discourses favored in transnational exchanges on social media. Building on the literature on the far right, social movements,
transnationalism and the Internet, the paper addresses this gap by studying the initiators and the issues that are favored in online exchanges between audiences of far right organizations, e.g. political parties and movements across France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. We use a new dataset on the activities of far right Twitter users that is analyzed
through a mixed methods approach. Using social network analysis, we detect transnational links between far right organizations across countries based on retweets from audiences of far right Twitter users. Retweets are qualitatively coded for content and compared to the content retweeted within national communities. Finally, using a logistic regression, we quantify the level to which specific issues and organizations enjoy high levels of attention across borders. Subsequently, we use discourse analysis
to qualitatively reconstruct the interpretative frames accompanying these patterns. We find that although social media are often ascribed much power in favoring transnational exchanges between far right organizations, there is little evidence of this. Only a few issues (anti-immigration and nativist interpretations of the economy) garner transnational far right audiences on Twitter. In addition, we find that more than movements, political parties play a prominent role in the construction of a transnational far right discourse.
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg
2018Ní Aoláin F.Featured
A letter to Mr. Zuckerberg from the UN Rapporteur on the definition of terrorism.
Association Between Time Spent Online and Vulnerability to Radicalization: An Empirical Study
2018Amit, S., Islam, A, Md.Report
The aim of this research is to investigate the risk of online radicalization among young adults, particularly university-attending students, by relating their vulnerability to online
radicalization with the amount of time they spend online. This research is an outcome of the “Building Resilient Universities Project” (BRUP), funded by the National Endowment for
Democracy (NED), a private non-profit, US-based organization, and implemented by the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB). The study adopts a quantitative research
approach using a sample of 600 ULAB undergraduates. Analysis of data collected from students shows that the high-internet-user group, i.e., those who use the internet for seven
hours or more a day, are more likely to find radical and religiously offensive material online; less likely to be influenced by family, faculty and community members; and have lower
access to learning and knowledge resources that can render them resilient to radicalization. Therefore, it is posited that high-internet-user students are more vulnerable to online
radicalization than others. The data also supports that high-internet-user males more
vulnerable to online radicalization than females
Exposure to Extremist Online Content Could Lead to Violent Radicalization:A Systematic Review of Empirical Evidence
2018Hassan, G., Brouillette-Alarie, S., Alava, S., Frau-Meigs, D., Lavoie, L., Fetiu, A., Varela, W., Borokhovski, E., Venkatesh, V., Rousseau, C. and Sieckelinck, S.,Journal
The main objective of this systematic review is to synthesize the empirical evidence on how the Internet and social media may, or may not, constitute spaces for exchange that can be favorable to violent extremism. Of the 5,182 studies generated from the searches, 11 studies were eligible for inclusion in this review. We considered empirical studies with qualitative, quantitative, and mixed designs, but did not conduct meta-analysis due to the heterogeneous and at times incomparable nature of the data. The reviewed studies provide tentative evidence that exposure to radical violent online material is associated with extremist online and offline attitudes, as well as the risk of committing political violence among white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and radical Islamist groups. Active seekers of violent radical material also seem to be at higher risk of engaging in political violence as compared to passive seekers. The Internet’s role thus seems to be one of decision-shaping, which, in association with offline factors, can be associated to decision-making. The methodological limitations of the reviewed studies are discussed, and recommendations are made for future research.
An Intelligence Reserve Corps to Counter Terrorist Use of the Internet
2018Byman, D.Article
“Never before in history have terrorists had such easy access to the minds and eyeballs of
millions,” declared one journalistic account of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine and
proficient use of Twitter, Facebook, bots, and other modern means of getting its message out.
Such views that the group’s “mastery of modern digital tools” has transformed terrorism
are commonplace and, though usually presented breathlessly, contain some basic truths.1
Successful terrorist groups are good communicators and they employ the technology of
their times. Fighting terrorism today thus requires fighting terrorism on the Internet and
otherwise countering the use of advanced communications technologies. President Trump
himself stressed this in a tweet after a 2017 terrorist attack in London: “Loser terrorists must
be dealt with in a much tougher manner. The internet is their main recruitment tool which
we must cut off & use better!”2 Terrorists are only one dangerous actor on the Internet—and
the one this paper focuses on—but other dangers ranging from hostile state intelligence
services to criminal groups are also lurking. The above journalist’s quote could also apply to
Russian disinformation, sophisticated criminal phishing attempts, and other malicious uses
of the Internet.
This paper proceeds as follows. First, it examines some of the ways in which terrorist groups
use the Internet, focusing on the Islamic State in particular, and the limits and problems
they have had. Second, it looks at several of the historical problems the US government
has had in stopping this use and at the general issues that are likely to plague future efforts
regarding terrorist use of new technologies. Finally, the paper details some of the parameters
of an Intelligence Reserve Corps, describing its benefits and its limits.
Online discontent: comparing Western European far-right groups on Facebook
2018Klein O., Muis J.Article
Far-right groups increasingly use social media to interact with other groups and reach their followers. Social media also enable ‘ordinary’ people to participate in online discussions and shape political discourse. This study compares the networks and discourses of Facebook pages of Western European far-right parties, movements and communities. Network analyses of pages indicate that the form of far-right mobilization is shaped by political opportunities. The absence of a strong far-right party offline seems to be reflected in an online network in which non-institutionalized groups are the most prominent actors, rather than political parties. In its turn, the discourse is shaped by the type of actor. Content analyses of comments of followers show that parties address the political establishment more often than immigration and Islam, compared to non-institutionalized groups. Furthermore, parties apply less extreme discursive practices towards ‘the other’ than non-institutionalized groups.

Down, but Not Out: An Updated Examination of the Islamic State’s Visual Propaganda
2018Milton, D.Featured
As the physical territory held by the group known as the Islamic State diminished in 2016-2017, concern
about of the status of the group’s “virtual” caliphate increased. This report focuses on one aspect
of that virtual caliphate: the production of visual propaganda by the group’s ofcial media bureaus.
Using a dataset of more than 13,000 pieces of ofcial visual propaganda distributed from January 2015
to June 2018, this report examines how the production of such pieces has changed over this timeframe
in terms of the number of pieces distributed, the geographic dynamics associated with the production
of propaganda, and the content featured in these products. Through the course of this examination,
several key findings emerge:
Ofcial visual propaganda production has decreased significantly: According to the CTC’s collection
criteria, August 2015 represented the high-water mark for the production of ofcial visual propaganda,
with 754 releases. The low-point occurred in June 2018, with 44 releases. This represents
a 94-percent decrease in visual propaganda production. It is important to note that this decrease
does not account for non-visual production such as text-only tweets.
Despite the decrease, fluctuation in visual propaganda production is likely to continue: At the
macro level, production rebounded slightly in January 2018 before falling of again. This follows a
more sustained rebound in production that occurred in late 2016. At the local media bureau level,
increases and decreases have occurred quite frequently.
Since July 2015, 100 Islamic State media operatives have been announced as being martyred:
Among many reasons for the decrease in propaganda production, one revealed by this report is
the number of media personnel who have been killed. In the first quarter of 2016 alone, 20 such
personnel were eulogized in the group’s propaganda.
Islamic State videos (excluding Amaq and Furat Media Establishment) have been increasing in
length since January 2015: In the first five months of 2015, the average length of an Islamic State
video was a little over six minutes. In the first five months of 2018, this number had increased to
approximately 16 minutes 30 seconds. This may suggest a decreased ability to create narrowly
tailored and targeted videos.
The Islamic State’s media bureaus inside of Iraq and Syria present a worrying sign for the future:
During 2016 and after the liberation of parts of Iraq from formal Islamic State control in December
2017, production of ofcial visual products from Iraqi media bureaus declined. Since that point,
however, production coming specifically from Iraq has rebounded slightly, highlighting the group’s
resilience and potential future threat in the region.
The Islamic State’s media bureaus outside of Iraq and Syria are producing more propaganda as
a proportion of the group’s overall ofcial visual output than ever before: Due to both an overall
decline in production of ofcial visual releases inside Iraq and Syria and a small increase among
some bureaus outside of Iraq and Syria, most notably the Khurasan bureau, the Islamic State’s
media bureaus outside of Iraq and Syria have surpassed 20 percent of overall ofcial visual output
in six of the last nine months. This level of non-Iraq and Syria production had not occurred once
in the preceding 32 months.
The theme of Islamic State ofcial visual releases is overwhelmingly military as opposed to non-military:
In the first quarter of 2015, 53 percent of the group’s ofcial visual releases were non-military
in theme. In this first quarter of 2018, this number had fallen to 15 percent.
The Use of Social Media by United States Extremists
2018Jensen M., James P., LaFree G., Safer-Lichtenstein A. and Yates E.Report
Emerging communication technologies, and social media platforms in particular, play an increasingly important role
in the radicalization and mobilization processes of violent and non-violent extremists (Archetti, 2015; Cohen et al.,
2014; Farwell, 2014; Klausen, 2015). However, the extent to which extremists utilize social media, and whether it
influences terrorist outcomes, is still not well understood (Conway, 2017). This research brief expands the current
knowledge base by leveraging newly collected data on the social media activities of 479 extremists in the PIRUS
dataset who radicalized between 2005 and 2016.
1 This includes descriptive analyses of the frequency of social
media usage among U.S. extremists, the types of social media platforms used, the differences in the rates of social
media use by ideology and group membership, the purposes of social media use, and the impact of social media on
foreign fighter travel and domestic terrorism plots.
Delivering Hate : How Amazon’s Platforms Are Used to Spread White Supremacy, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia and How Amazon Can Stop It
2018Partnership for Working Families, ACRE Action CentreReport
Amazon has been called the “everything store,” but today it is much more than just a store, with publishing, streaming,
and web services businesses. Its reach and infuence are unparalleled: Most U.S. online shopping trips begin at Amazon,4
Amazon dominates the U.S. e-book business,5 and the company’s web services division has over 60 percent of the cloud
computing services market.6 All this adds up for Amazon and its owners. The company posted record profts of $1.9 billion
in the last three quarters of 2017,7 and CEO Jef Bezos’s wealth soared to $140 billion in 2018, largely because of the value of
Amazon stock.
8 A close examination of Amazon’s various platforms and services reveals that for growing racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic
movements, the breadth of Amazon’s business combined with its weak and inadequately enforced policies provides a number
of channels through which hate groups can generate revenue, propagate their ideas, and grow their movements. We looked
at several areas of Amazon’s business, including its online shops, digital music platform, Kindle and CreateSpace publishing
platforms, and web services business.
A Tale Of Two Caliphates: Comparing the Islamic State's Internal and External Messaging Priorities
2018Mahlouly, D., and Winter, C.VOX-Pol Publication
In recent years, the media department of the self-proclaimed Islamic State has proven itself to be highly adept at strategic communication. While much research has gone into the group’s digital and online capabilities, there remains a significant gap in the knowledge regarding its in-country propaganda operations and objectives. In recognition of this, the following research paper approaches the issue from a different angle, attempting to better understand how and why the group communicates its brand through the lens of two publications – al-Naba’, its Arabic-language newspaper, which appears to be designed primarily for offline dissemination in the caliphate itself, and Rumiyah, its foreign-language electronic magazine, which has only ever appeared online. Using content analysis to identify and compare each publication’s internal (local) and external (global) media priorities over the four-month period between September and December 2016, we develop an empirical evaluation of the group’s recent forays into targeted outreach.
Mounting a Facebook Brand Awareness and Safety Ad Campaign to Break the ISIS Brand in Iraq
2018Speckhard, A., Shajkovci, A., Wooster, C., and Izadi, NeimaArticle
This article reports on the International Center for Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE’s) most recent Facebook ad
campaign aimed at raising awareness about the realities of living under ISIS and protecting vulnerable potential
recruits from considering joining. During the course of 24 days in December of 2017, ICSVE researchers mounted
the campaign on Facebook using a counter-narrative video produced by ICSVE. The Facebook ad campaign
targeted Iraq, where Facebook is the most widely used social media platform, with ISIS also driving powerful
recruiting campaigns on Facebook and enticing youth into joining. The results were promising in terms of driving
engagement with our counternarrative video materials, leading close to 1.7 million views and hundreds of specific
comments related to both our video content and ISIS in general. In terms of policy implications, in addition to
raising awareness about the dangers of joining ISIS and our Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project, the
campaign served as an important platform to challenge extremist narratives as well as channel doubt, frustration,
and anger into positive exchange of ideas and participation.
Jihadi Beheading Videos and their Non-Jihadi Echoes
2018Koch, A.Article
In recent years, the Islamic State terror organization has become notorious for its evil brutality. The brutal nature
of its propaganda (distributed mostly online) inspires Jihadi sympathizers around the world, encouraging them
to use violence against “the enemies of Islam”. This form of violent behavior has also been adopted and imitated
by others – including non-Muslim individuals and groups – regardless of their geographic location, worldview,
religion, ethnicity, or nationality. Drawing from numerous examples, this article illustrates two processes: first,
the “mainstreaming” of beheadings among Jihadists, and second, the imitation of this method (decapitation)
by individuals motivated by other kinds of extremism.
Studying Jihadists on Social Media: A Critique of Data Collection Methodologies
2018Parekh, D., Amarasingam, A., Dawson, L., Ruths, D.Featured
In this article, we propose a general model of data collection from social media, in the context of terrorism research,
focusing on recent studies of jihadists. By analyzing Twitter data collection methods in the existing research, we
show that the methods used are prone to sampling biases, and that the sampled datasets are not sufficiently filtered
or validated to ensure reliability of conclusions derived from them. Alternatively, we propose some best practices for
the collection of data in future research on jihadist using social media (as well as other kinds of terrorist groups).
Given the similarity of the methodological challenges posed by research on almost all social media platforms, in
the context of terrorism studies, the critique and recommendations offered remain relevant despite the recent shift
of most jihadists from Twitter to Telegram and other forms of social media.
EMPOWERMENT OR SUBJUGATION: An analysis of ISIL’s gendered messaging
2018Lahoud, N.Journal
In recent years, there has been greater recognition
of the interplay of issues of gender equality and
violent extremism (VE), and of peace and security
more broadly. In December 2013, the United Nations
Security Council adopted Resolution 2129 in which
it affirmed ‘the intention to increase its attention
to women, peace and security issues in all relevant
thematic areas of work on its agenda, including in
threats to international peace and security caused
by terrorist acts.’ In October 2014, and in response to
the flow of foreign fighters to fight for the Islamic
State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a statement by the
President of the Security Council highlighted the need
to improve the quality of information and analysis on
the impact of armed conflict on women and girls. In
2015 the Council adopted resolution 2242, explicitly
recognizing the interlinkages between women, peace
and security agenda and issues of preventing violent
extremism. To bolster the knowledge base on this, this
study analyses the ways in which ISIL sought to communicate
its worldview to its readers, and the extent
to which gender equality issues and roles were used
as a recruitment tool and mechanism to maintain
control.
This study explores how ISIL, a group that explicitly
espouses a worldview that promotes women’s
subjugation and sexual slavery could appeal to and
seemingly offer women tools of empowerment. It
analyses the gendered messaging of ISIL through
a systematic examination of the group’s Arabic (alNaba’),
English (Dabiq and Rumiyah) and French (Dar
al-Islam and Rumiyah) magazines that were produced
and posted online from their inception until February
2017, a period that covers ISIL’s governance during
both its territorial ascent and descent. The analysis
shows how the group integrated questions of gender
and masculinity into its governance of both the public
and private spheres.
Although by 2017 ISIL had lost its territorial base, the
group continues to mount operations in and outside
the Levant; and the threat that ISIL and other violent
groups pose to the security of the international community
remains potent. Therefore, the findings of
the paper aim to inform and influence the debates
surrounding prevention and alternative messaging
strategies, as well as initiatives for a more efficient
and effective response to these challenges.
Innovation and terror: an analysis of the use of social media by terror-related groups in the Asia Pacific
2018Droogan, J., Waldek, L., Blackhall, R.Journal
The advent of social media platforms has created an online environment that transcends geographic and political boundaries as well as traditional mechanisms of state-based authority. The decentralised nature of social media and its ability to disseminate content anonymously and to reach wide audiences has afforded violent extremist groups opportunities to further propaganda, recruitment, radicalisation, fundraising and operational planning. This paper examines three violent extremist-related groups operating in Asia Pacific: one ‘classic’ terrorist – Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines; one a dissident political party – Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh; and one a broad ethno-religious separatist movement – the Uyghurs in China. Each study highlights how the adoption of proactive social media strategies affords the group numerous opportunities to maximise their reach, impact and effect. However, the same technological specificities that generate these possibilities also expose the groups to new vulnerabilities and risks.
Using Internet search data to examine the relationship between anti-Muslim and pro-ISIS sentiment in U.S. counties
2018Bail A. C., Merhout F., Ding P.Article
Recent terrorist attacks by first- and second-generation immigrants in the United States and Europe indicate that radicalization may result from the failure of ethnic integration—or the rise of intergroup prejudice in communities where “home-grown” extremists are raised. Yet, these community-level drivers are notoriously difficult to study because public opinion surveys provide biased measures of both prejudice and radicalization. We examine the relationship between anti-Muslim and pro-ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) Internet searches in 3099 U.S. counties between 2014 and 2016 using instrumental variable models that control for various community-level factors associated with radicalization. We find that anti-Muslim searches are strongly associated with pro-ISIS searches—particularly in communities with high levels of poverty and ethnic homogeneity. Although more research is needed to verify the causal nature of this relationship, this finding suggests that minority groups may be more susceptible to radicalization if they experience discrimination in settings where they are isolated and therefore highly visible—or in communities where they compete with majority groups for limited financial resources. We evaluate the validity of our findings using several other data sources and discuss the implications of our findings for the study of terrorism and intergroup relations, as well as immigration and counterterrorism policies.