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
Digital Caliphate: Islamic State, Modernity and Technology
2021 Gajić, A. and Despotović, L. Article
This paper observes some of the most distinguished characteristics of the Islamic State related to the use of modern technology and tries to drawn some important conclusions between the terrorist’s quasi state, modernity and technology. After the examination of the functioning of IS at the peak of its powers between 2014 and 2017, the analysis turns to terrorists’ various online activities. All of them are showing the Islamic State’s reliance on modern technology, especially IT, as one of the most important aspects of its terrorist activities that greatly contributed not only to the effectiveness, but to the essential definition of first modern terrorist quasi-state. The second part of the paper deals with the Islamic State`s fully reliance on technology in its own legitimization (both among Islamist rivals and “infidels”). The celebration and the fascination with modern technology as main IS characteristics make it different from other Islamist terrorist groups, and trying to establish relations between modernity and terrorism based on religious fundamentalism. The paper also tries to find answers to the question whether IS’s ultra-modern techno approach is responsible for its transformation from a classical fundamentalist terrorist group into some kind of modern political ideology and a social movement with totalitarian and murderous characteristics.
Violent Extremism and Terrorism Online in 2021: The Year in Review
2022 Conway, M., Watkin, A.L., and Looney, S. VOX-Pol Publication
This report treats developments in the violent extremist and terrorist online scene(s) in the 12-month period from 1 December 2020 to 30 November 2021. It accomplishes this by surveying, describing, and integrating the findings of relevant articles and reports produced by academics, thinktanks, civil society, and governmental organisations; high quality media coverage; and the first hand experience and primary research of the authors.
This report treats developments in the violent extremist and terrorist online scene(s) in the 12-month period from 1 December 2020 to 30 November 2021. It accomplishes this by surveying, describing, and integrating the findings of relevant articles and reports produced by academics, thinktanks, civil society, and governmental organisations; high quality media coverage; and the firsthand experience and primary research of the authors.
A Context Aware Embedding for the Detection of Hate Speech in Social Media Networks
2021 Kavatagi, S. and Rachh, R. Article
Proliferation of social media platforms in recent past has resulted into upsurge in the number of users. Advent of these sites have paved way for the users to easily express share and communicate. In such a scenario, it is imperative to analyze the content and identify nasty content so as to avoid unpleasant situations. Machine learning techniques are extensively used for this purpose. In this paper, we propose a language model for the identification of hate speech in twitter data. Distil-BERT, a context aware embedding model along with Support Vector Machine (SVM) for the classification of hate speech has been used. SVM with a 10-fold cross validation and linear kernel has been found to provide better accuracy as compared to existing models. Results show that accuracy is improved with the use of context aware embedding model.
The Online Extremist Ecosystem: Its Evolution and a Framework for Separating Extreme from Mainstream
2021 Williams, H.J., Evans, A.T., Mueller, E.E., Downing, B. and Ryan, J. Book
In this Perspective, the authors introduce a framework for internet users to categorize the virtual platforms they use and to understand the likelihood that they may encounter extreme content online. The authors first provide a landscape of the online extremist "ecosystem," describing how the proliferation of messaging forums, social media networks, and other virtual community platforms has coincided with an increase in extremist online activity. Next, they present a framework to describe and categorize the platforms that host varying amounts of extreme content as mainstream, fringe, or niche. Mainstream platforms are those for which only a small portion of the content would be considered inappropriate or extreme speech. Fringe platforms are those that host a mix of mainstream and extreme content—and where a user might readily come across extreme content that is coded or obscured to disguise its violent or racist underpinning. Niche platforms are those that openly and purposefully cater to an extreme audience.
Who Should Regulate Extremist Content Online?
2021 Reed, A. and Henschke, A. Chapter
As liberal democracies grapple with the evolution of online political extremism, in addition to governments, social media and internet infrastructure companies have found themselves making more and more decisions about who gets to use their platforms, and what people say online. This raises the question that this paper explores, who should regulate extremist content online? In doing so the first part of the paper examines the evolution of the increasing role that social media and internet infrastructure companies have come to play in the regulating extremist content online, and the ethical challenges this presents. The second part of the paper explores three ethical challenges: i) the moral legitimacy of private actors, ii) the concentration of power in the hands of a few actors and iii) the lack of separation of powers in the content regulation process by private actors.
“We are Generation Terror!”: Youth‑on‑youth Radicalisation in Extreme‑right Youth Groups
2021 Rose, H. and A.C. Report
Young people – politicised, active and highly connected – are no longer just passive consumers of online terrorist content by adult groomers but are themselves propaganda creators, group organisers, peer recruiters, extremist financers and terrorist convicts. This process, called “youth‑on‑youth radicalisation”, emphasises the agency that young people have in a digital era in which the information hierarchy is increasingly flattened. Noting the formation of several new young extreme‑right groups and a series of terrorist convictions across Western Europe, this paper takes first steps to investigate the specific nature of this emerging threat.
Preventing Violent Extremism Through Media and Communications
2021 Freear, M. and Glazzard, A. Report
This Whitehall Report compares two P/CVE programmes in Kenya and Lebanon that independently came to the same conclusion: to counter the multiplicity of factors drawing young people into violent extremism, communications and media tools should be recast to serve the needs of young people, rather than treat them as an audience.
Can the Right Meme? (And How?): A Comparative Analysis of Three Online Reactionary Meme Subcultures
2021 Stall, H., Prasad, H. and Foran, D. Report
This report analyses memes propagated among three online socio‐political groups drawn from sample datasets pulled from social media sites often used by adherents of each group. These groups include those connected to the India‐based Hindutva, US‐based neo‐Nazis and those engaging in pro‐Rittenhouse communications in late 2020. The authors chose the groups based on similarities in their ideological goals, race‐based nationalism and their close association with political violence in their respective countries.
Propaganda and Radicalization: The Case of Daesh in Iran
2021 Kadivar, J. Article
The process of becoming radicalized and joining extremist groups like Daesh, in countries with a Shi’a majority, such as Iran, is a controversial topic that has not received sufficient attention in the literature. This study examines Daesh’s media content in Farsi and seeks to provide an analysis of Daesh’s main messages, which have the primary objective of profoundly impacting their target audiences in Iran. This study collected data from 16 Iranian members of Daesh to discover how they were radicalized and why they decided to join Daesh. This study seeks to understand whether the media and Daesh’s propaganda are indeed the key reasons behind the radicalization of Daesh’s Iranian members and the creation of others’ perception of their mindsets against Iran and its Shi’a population, and to discover other possible factors that play a role in the radicalization process. While Daesh media and messages hold salience in relation to the Daeshization of some, studying such complex socio-political issues is rooted in an amalgamation of different personal, social, political, economic, and cultural push and pull factors. Such phenomena cannot, therefore, be reduced to only one of the mentioned elements.
Fascist cross-pollination of Australian conspiracist Telegram channels
2021 Gill, G. Article
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about trauma and uncertainty for vast swathes of the world population, including in Australia. One effect of this has been the growth of COVID-19 conspiracy theories, and general conspiracism. This article explores efforts by fascists and neo-Nazis to exploit the rise in conspiratorial thinking for recruitment and dissemination of their ideas. Five Australian conspiracist Telegram channels are studied for signs of fascist cross-pollination, and it is found that users with fascist sympathies attempt to influence the channels’ discourse through appeals to purported ideological and situational commonalities.
The Enemy of My Enemy Is Not My Friend: Arabic Twitter Sentiment toward ISIS and the United States
2021 Romney, D., Jamal, A.A., Keohane, R.O. and Tingley, D. Article
A counter-intuitive finding emerges from an analysis of Arabic Twitter posts from 2014 to 2015: Twitter participants who are negative toward the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) are also more likely to hold negative views of the United States. This surprising correlation is due to the interpretations of two sets of users. One set of users views the United States and ISIS negatively as independent interventionist powers in the region. The other set of users negatively links the United States with ISIS, often asserting a secretive conspiracy between the two. The intense negativity toward the United States in the Middle East seems conducive to views that, in one way or another, cause citizens to link the United States and ISIS in a conspiratorial manner.

A partir de un análisis de publicaciones en árabe en Twitter correspondientes al período 2014–2015, surge una conclusión contraria a la intuición: Quienes participan en Twitter y tienen una actitud negativa con respecto al Estado Islámico de Irak y el Levante (EIIL) también tienen más probabilidades de ostentar una opinión negativa con respecto a los Estados Unidos (EE. UU.). Esta sorprendente correlación se debe a las interpretaciones de dos grupos de usuarios. Uno de dichos grupos tiene una visión negativa de los EE. UU. y del EIIL, ya que los considera poderes intervencionistas independientes en la región. El otro grupo de usuarios establece una vinculación negativa entre los EE. UU. y el EIIL, y suele afirmar que existe una conspiración secreta entre los dos. La intensa negatividad con respecto a los Estados Unidos en el Oriente Medio parece propiciar opiniones que, de una u otra manera, hacen que los ciudadanos establezcan una vinculación conspirativa entre los EE. UU. y el EIIL.

Une conclusion contre-intuitive ressort d'une analyse des publications Twitter en arabe de 2014–2015: les participants à Twitter qui ont une opinion négative de l’État islamique en Irak et au Levant sont également plus susceptibles d'avoir une opinion négative des États-Unis. Cette corrélation surprenante est due aux interprétations de deux ensembles d'utilisateurs. Un ensemble d'utilisateurs voit négativement les États-Unis et l’État islamique en Irak et au Levant puisqu'il les considère comme des puissances interventionnistes indépendantes dans la région. L'autre ensemble d'utilisateurs les associe négativement en affirmant souvent qu'il existe une conspiration secrète entre eux deux. L'intense négativité à l’égard des États-Unis au Moyen-Orient semble propice à des points de vue qui, d'une manière ou d'une autre, amènent les citoyens à établir un lien conspirationniste entre les États-Unis et l’État islamique en Irak et au Levant.
MODERATING EXTREMISM: THE STATE OF ONLINE TERRORIST CONTENT REMOVAL POLICY IN THE UNITED STATES
2021 Clifford, B. Report
By reviewing studies of how today’s terrorist and extremist groups operate on social media in conjunction with an overview of U.S. government regulation of terrorist content online, this report finds that stricter U.S. regulation of social media providers may not be the most effective method of combating online terrorist and extremist content.
The Iron March Forum and the Evolution of the “Skull Mask” Neo-Fascist Network
2021 Upchurch, H.E. Report
The backbone of the “skull mask” transnational neo-fascist accelerationist network—whose nodes include terror groups such as Atomwaffen, the Base, and Feuerkrieg Division—is a group of organizations that grew out of Iron March, a neo-fascist web forum that was active from 2011 to 2017. The history of the Iron March network shows that violent extremist movements can develop from online communities even in the absence of a territorial base and without regular in-person contact between members. Iron March provided a closed social space where young neo-fascists who did not fit in well in established neo-fascist organizations could create a transnational collective identity. Eventually, Iron March users sought each other out in person and created local groups that remained networked together by virtue of their common origin in the community created on the web forum. The network’s transition from activism to terrorism was facilitated by the introduction of violent ritualistic initiation practices derived from the writings of the Order of Nine Angles, which helped to habituate members to violence as well as to create a sense of shared membership in a militant elite.
Transnational Terrorism and the Internet
2021 Do, Q-T., Gomez-Parra, N. and Rijkers, B. Report
Does the internet enable the recruitment of transnational terrorists? Using geo-referenced population census data and personnel records from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant—a highly tech-savvy terrorist organization— this paper shows that internet access has facilitated the organization’s recruitment of foreign fighters from Tunisia. The positive association between internet access and Daesh recruitment is robust to controlling for a large set of observable and unobservable confounders as well as instrumenting internet access rates with the incidence of lightning strikes.
An Explorative Study into the Importance of Defining and Classifying Cyber Terrorism in the United Kingdom
2021 Jangada Correia, V. Article
Terrorism, crime, and war are all familiar notions; however, the way in which these have been altered through cyberspace is not yet fully, nor unanimously, understood through definitions, theories, and approaches. Although the threat level of terrorism in the UK has lowered to moderate, the threat posed by cyber terrorism has nonetheless heightened throughout the COVID pandemic due to the greater necessity and presence of technology in our lives. This research aimed to highlight the necessity for a unanimous cyber terrorism definition and framework and further aimed to determine what perceptions are held by the general public regarding cyber terrorism through a mixed methods approach. The literature review confirms that there is an absence of a unanimously agreed upon definition of cyber terrorism, and furthermore that the existing academic definitions are not compatible with UK legislation. In addition, the literature review highlights an absence of a cyber terrorism framework that classifies what kind of terrorist activity is cyber enabled or cyber dependent. Quantitative data from the online survey find a couple of significant effects implying the necessity for greater diversity amongst stakeholders which could potentially enhance the detection and prevention of terrorism in the UK. The qualitative data find that although there is some agreement amongst the sample population in views held towards cyber terrorism, some misconceptions are nonetheless present which could have implications on the general public’s ability to identify and report cyber terrorist activity. Overall, the findings from the literature review and the primary data collection aid in developing a cyber terrorism definition that is compatible with UK legislative definitions, and further aids in developing a terrorist activity framework that succinctly highlights the inextricable links between traditional, cyber enabled, and cyber-dependent terrorism.
Temporal Behavioural Analysis of Extremists on Social Media: A Machine Learning Based Approach
2021 Lutfi, S., Yasin, R., El Barachi, M., Oroumchian, F., Imene, A. and Mathew, S.S. Article
Public opinion is of critical importance to businesses and governments. It represents the collective opinion and prevalent views about a certain topic, policy, or issue. Extreme public opinion consists of extreme views held by individuals that advocate and spread radical ideas for the purpose of radicalizing others. while the proliferation of social media gives unprecedented reach and visibility and a platform for freely expressing public opinion, social media fora can also be used for spreading extreme views, manipulating public opinions, and radicalizing others. In this work, we leverage data mining and analytics techniques to study extreme public opinion expressed using social medial. A dataset of 259,904 tweets posted between 21/02/2016 and 01/05/2021 was collected in relation to extreme nationalism, hate speech, and supremacy. The collected data was analyzed using a variety to techniques, including sentiment analysis, named entity recognition, social circle analysis, and opinion leaders' identification, and results related to an American politician and an American right-wing activist were presented. The results obtained are very promising and open the door to the ability to monitor the evolution of extreme views and public opinion online.
Linguistic Patterns for Code Word Resilient Hate Speech Identification
2021 Calderón, F.H., Balani, N., Taylor, J., Peignon, M., Huang, Y.H. and Chen, Y.S. Article
The permanent transition to online activity has brought with it a surge in hate speech discourse. This has prompted increased calls for automatic detection methods, most of which currently rely on a dictionary of hate speech words, and supervised classification. This approach often falls short when dealing with newer words and phrases produced by online extremist communities. These code words are used with the aim of evading automatic detection by systems. Code words are frequently used and have benign meanings in regular discourse, for instance, “skypes, googles, bing, yahoos” are all examples of words that have a hidden hate speech meaning. Such overlap presents a challenge to the traditional keyword approach of collecting data that is specific to hate speech. In this work, we first introduced a word embedding model that learns the hidden hate speech meaning of words. With this insight on code words, we developed a classifier that leverages linguistic patterns to reduce the impact of individual words. The proposed method was evaluated across three different datasets to test its generalizability. The empirical results show that the linguistic patterns approach outperforms the baselines and enables further analysis on hate speech expressions.
Online Radicalisation: Moving beyond a Simple Dichotomy
2021 Herath, C. and Whittaker, J. Article
Online radicalisation to terrorism has become a pervasive policy concern over the last decade. However, as a concept it lacks clarity and empirical support. In this article, we add an empirical and theoretical lens to this problem by analysing the trajectories of 231 Islamic State terrorists. We use cluster analyses to create typologies of individuals’ different online and offline antecedent behaviours, including the ways in which they engaged in networks with co-ideologues and how they prepared for their events. The findings suggest four types of pathway within our dataset: 1) The “Integrated” pathway which has high network engagement both online and offline, mostly made up of individuals that plotted as part of a group; 2) The “Encouraged” pathway contains individuals that acted more in the online domain at the expense of offline; 3) Terrorists in the “Isolated” pathway are defined by a lack of interaction across either domain; 4) The “Enclosed” pathway encompassed actors that displayed greater offline network activity, but still utilised the Internet for planning their activity. These typologies help to move beyond the dichotomy of online or offline radicalisation; there remain few individuals that either exclusively use the Internet or do not use it at all. Rather, we can conceptualise Internet usage on a spectrum in which these four typologies all sit.
Short of Suspension: How Suspension Warnings Can Reduce Hate Speech on Twitter
2021 Yildirim, M.M., Nagler, J., Bonneau, R. and Tucker, J.A. Article
Debates around the effectiveness of high-profile Twitter account suspensions and similar bans on abusive users across social media platforms abound. Yet we know little about the effectiveness of warning a user about the possibility of suspending their account as opposed to outright suspensions in reducing hate speech. With a pre-registered experiment, we provide causal evidence that a warning message can reduce the use of hateful language on Twitter, at least in the short term. We design our messages based on the literature on deterrence, and test versions that emphasize the legitimacy of the sender, the credibility of the message, and the costliness of being suspended. We find that the act of warning a user of the potential consequences of their behavior can significantly reduce their hateful language for one week. We also find that warning messages that aim to appear legitimate in the eyes of the target user seem to be the most effective. In light of these findings, we consider the policy implications of platforms adopting a more aggressive approach to warning users that their accounts may be suspended as a tool for reducing hateful speech online.
Of Heroes and Enemies: Visual Polarization in the Propaganda Magazines of the Islamic State
2021 Aguilera-Carnerero, C. Chapter
Since the Islamic State proclaimed the Caliphate in 2014, the terrorist organization has been prominent due to the high-quality and efficient distribution of its propaganda, especially in the main online social media platforms. Two of their most popular vehicles for indoctrination and recruitment, the e-magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah, perfectly embody the philosophy of an organization constructed upon a multi-semiotic polarized discourse in which the antagonism between enemies and heroes is stated in many different ways. Using multimodal critical discourse analysis and visual framing as our main theoretical frameworks, this chapter analyses the semiotic structure of the images of foes and allies in the aforementioned magazines to show their essential role within the propaganda machine of the Islamic State, designed to achieve two main interconnected goals: the legitimation of their actions and, through this, the adherence of new fighters to their cause.