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 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.


Full Listing

Routing the Extreme Right: Challenges for Social Media Platforms
2020 Conway, M. Article
Between 2014 and 2017, the Islamic State maintained vibrant communities on a range of social media platforms. Due to aggressive account and content takedown policies by the major platforms, these visible communities are now almost non-existent. Following the March 2019 Christchurch attack, the question as to why major platforms cannot rout the extreme right in the same way has repeatedly arisen. In this article, Maura Conway explores why this is not as straightforward as it may seem.
The temporal evolution of a far-right forum
2020 Kleinberg, B., van der Vegt, I. and Gill, P. Article
The increased threat of right-wing extremist violence necessitates a better understanding of online extremism. Radical message boards, small-scale social media platforms, and other internet fringes have been reported to fuel hatred. The current paper examines data from the right-wing forum Stormfront between 2001 and 2015. We specifically aim to understand the development of user activity and the use of extremist language. Various time-series models depict posting frequency and the prevalence and intensity of extremist language. Individual user analyses examine whether some super users dominate the forum. The results suggest that structural break models capture the forum evolution better than stationary or linear change models. We observed an increase of forum engagement followed by a decrease towards the end of the time range. However, the proportion of extremist language on the forum increased in a step-wise matter until the early summer of 2011, followed by a decrease. This temporal development suggests that forum rhetoric did not necessarily become more extreme over time. Individual user analysis revealed that super forum users accounted for the vast majority of posts and of extremist language. These users differed from normal users in their evolution of forum engagement.
Hasskrieger: Der neue globale Rechtsextremismus
2020 Schwarz, K. Book
Von Christchurch bis Halle: Wie sich der Rechtsterrorismus neu erfindet
Radikale und extreme Rechte vernetzen sich längst nicht mehr nur durch geheime Treffen. Sie sind ganz offen im Internet unterwegs, über alle nationalen Grenzen hinweg. Ihr Umgang mit der digitalen Infrastruktur ist versiert. Ihre Mittel: Strategiepapiere, Guerilla-Marketing und organisierte Hasskampagnen. An die Stelle straff organisierter Gruppen treten immer öfter lose Netzwerke. Viele radikalisieren sich, ein Teil von ihnen greift zur Gewalt, einige von ihnen töten. Karolin Schwarz, Journalistin und Expertin für rechte Propaganda im Internet, zeigt, wie sich Rechtsextremismus organisiert und eine neue Form des globalen Terrorismus entsteht, dessen Gewalt zum Ausbruch kommt. Parallel tragen rechtspopulistische Regierungen und totalitäre Regime Lüge und Hetze über das Netz nach Europa – eine unheilvolle Allianz. Schwarz macht deutlich: Gesellschaft, Justiz und Politik sind keineswegs wehrlos. Dafür müssen sie rechte Strategien und Technologien aber kennen und verstehen.
Mapping the online presence and activities of the Islamic State’s unofficial propaganda cell: Ahlut-Tawhid Publications
2020 Lakomy, M. Article
This paper, which takes the form of a case study, aims to contribute to the debate on activities of the Islamic State’s unofficial media bureaus. Based on tools of open source intelligence, as well as a limited content analysis, it maps the online presence and activities of Ahlut-Tawhid Publications (AHP). Its means of distributing pro-Daesh content in the surface web as well as its general impact are discussed. It also deliberates on the interconnectedness of AHP with other online propaganda cells supporting the self-proclaimed “Caliphate.” This paper argues that this group was part of the ongoing online campaign of the Islamic State in the World Wide Web in 2018 and 2019. It maintained quite an impressive and long-lasting online presence, combining the potential of the most popular microblogs, hosting services and social media with the flexibility of standalone websites. In contrast to the most recognized propaganda cells of Daesh, such as al-Hayat Media Centre or Amaq News Agency whose productions have been quickly detected and removed from the mainstream webpages for years, AHP kept a low profile for the most part of 2018. In effect, it benefited from its relative anonymity and for months operated a network of pro-IS distribution channels throughout Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 environments. This ceased to be the case in 2019, when most of them were incapacitated (banned) by law enforcement or abandoned. It is clear that the attention given to proliferating propaganda through the surface web decreased at this time, probably in favor of the Telegram communication software, as the discovered statistics suggest. The only active (still updated) locations—partially related to Ahlut-Tawhid Publications—belonged to the Bengali Ansar network. It has to be stressed, however, that AHP failed to spark increased attention of Internet users.
Cyber Swarming, Memetic Warfare and Viral Insurgency: How Domestic Militants Organize on Memes to Incite Violent Insurrection and Terror Against Government and Law Enforcement
2020 Goldenberg, A. and Finkelstein, J. Report
In this briefing, we document a recently formed apocalyptic militia ideology which, through the use of memes—coded inside jokes conveyed by image or text—advocates extreme violence against law enforcement and government officials. Termed the 'boogaloo', this ideology self-organizes across social media communities, boasts tens of thousands of users, exhibits a complex division of labor, evolves well-developed channels to innovate and distribute violent propaganda, deploys a complex communication network on extremist, mainstream and dark Web communities, and articulates a hybrid structure between lone-wolf and cell-like organization. Like a virus which awakens from dormancy, this meme has emerged with startling speed in merely the last 3–4 months.
Cyber Swarming, Memetic Warfare and Viral Insurgency: How Domestic Militants Organize on Memes to Incite Violent Insurrection and Terror Against Government and Law Enforcement
2020 Goldenberg, A. and Finkelstein, J. Report
The Report you are about to read, “Cyber Swarming: Memetic Warfare and Viral Insurgency,” represents a breakthrough case study in the capacity to identify cyber swarms and viral insurgencies in nearly real time as they are developing in plain sight. The result of an analysis of over 100 million social media comments, the authors demonstrate how the “boogaloo meme,” “a joke for some, acts as a violent meme that circulates instructions for a violent, viral insurgency for others.” Using it, like turning off the transponders on 9/11, enables the extremists to hide in plain sight, disappearing into the clutter of innocent messages, other data points. It should be of particular concern, the authors note, for the military, for whom “the meme’s emphasis on military language and culture poses a special risk.”

Because most of law enforcement and the military remain ignorant of “memetic warfare,” the authors demonstrate, extremists who employ it “possess a distinct advantage over government officials and law enforcement.” As with the 9/11 terrorists, “they already realize that they are at war. Public servants cannot afford to remain ignorant of this subject because as sites, followers, and activists grow in number, memes can reach a critical threshold and tipping point, beyond which they can suddenly saturate and mainstream across entire cultures.” This Report is at once an urgent call to recognize an emerging threat and a prescription for how to counter it. As such, it offers that rarest of opportunities: the chance to stop history from repeating itself.
Tackling Insurgent Ideologies 2.0: Rapporteurs' Report
2020 Observer Research Foundation Report
As the global political barometer increasingly shifts towards insularity, protectionism and propaganda-driven populism across countries, the CVE community is faced with a varied set of challenges. Whether it is on the question of dealing with returning ISIS FTFs, and preventing their move to different geographical theatres; or combatting majoritarian groups that rally around grievances, race or religion and fuel extreme violence—we need to ask ourselves how much more vulnerable we are today, and identify where the fault lines lie. While addressing these challenges, it is equally necessary to ensure that the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms are balanced as governments address security priorities. It is with the desire to see more global conversation on the manifold ideologies that drive violence and the responsibility of governments, platforms and civil society engaged in CVE initiatives that the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) organised the second iteration of Tackling Insurgent Ideologies, with the theme “Implementing the Christchurch Call: Towards a Global CVE Agenda.” We brought together a diverse group of policymakers, researchers and practitioners involved in the process of developing strategies that deal with the proliferation of radicalism and violence to debate and discuss best practices, learnings and a way forward.
Framing War: Visual Propaganda, the Islamic State, and the Battle for East Mosul
2020 Winter, C. Article
This article explores how propaganda can be used to construct counter-factual visual narratives at times of war. Specifically, it examines how the Islamic State communicated its way through the 100-day-long battle for east Mosul, which was launched by the coalition and its allies in October 2016. Drawing on Jacques Ellul’s 1962 theory of propaganda, it uses qualitative content analysis to decipher the 1,261 media products published online by the group during the first phase of its defence of the city. The author contends that, even though it was resoundingly defeated there by January, the global legacy of this battle, which was used as a testing ground for a series of potent innovations in insurgent strategic communication, will endure long into the future.
Togetherness after terror: The more or less digital commemorative public atmospheres of the Manchester Arena bombing’s first anniversary
2020 Merrill, S., Sumartojo, S., Closs Stephens, A. and Coward, M. Article
This article examines the forms and feelings of togetherness evident in both Manchester city centre and on social media during the first anniversary of the 22 May 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. To do this, we introduce a conceptual framework that conceives commemorative public atmospheres as composed of a combination of ‘more or less digital’ elements. We also present a methodological approach that combines the computational collection and analysis of Twitter content with short-term team autoethnography. First, the article addresses the concept of public atmospheres before introducing the case study and outlining our methodology. We then analyse the shifting moods of togetherness created by the official programme of commemorative events known as Manchester Together and their digital mediatisation through Twitter. We then explore a grassroots initiative, #LoveMCRBees, and how it relied on the materialisation of social media logics to connect people. Overall, we demonstrate how public atmospheres, as constituted in more and less digital ways, provide a framework for conceptualising commemorative events, and how togetherness is reworked by social media, especially in the context of responses to terrorism.
The Social Structure of Extremist Websites
2020 Bouchard, M., Davies, G., Frank, R., Wu, E. and Joffres, K. Chapter
In this study, we select the official websites of four known extremist groups and map the networks of hyperlinked websites forming a virtual community around them. The networks are constructed using a custom-built webcrawler (TENE: Terrorism and Extremism Network Extractor) that searches the HTML of a website for all the hyperlinks inserted directing to other websites (Bouchard et al., 2014). Following all of these hyperlinks out of the initial website of interest produces the network of websites forming a community that is more or less cohesive, more or less extensive, and more or less devoted to the same cause (Bouchard and Westlake, 2016; Westlake and Bouchard, 2016). The extent to which the official website of a group contains many hyperlinks towards external websites may be an indicator of a more active community, and it may be indicative of a more active social movement.
Countering terrorist narratives and preventing the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes - Open meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee
2020 UN Web TV: The United Nations Live & On Demand Video
The objective of the proposed open meeting is to assist the Committee to encourage States to better align their efforts in the area of countering terrorist narratives with the Framework and the guidelines contained in Council resolution 2354 (2017). Specifically, participants will be encouraged to:
1. Share information on trends and developments in terrorist narratives and effective measures to counter them, as well as on ways to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of such measures;
2. Discuss the benefits of a whole-of-society approach to countering terrorist narratives that involves a broad range of actors, including Governments, as well as youth; families; women; religious, cultural, and educational leaders; and other concerned civil society actors;
3. Share information on the benefits of countering terrorist narratives by amplifying positive and credible alternatives for audiences vulnerable to terrorist narratives;
4. Identify and analyse key aspects of the exploitation of information and communications technologies (ICT), including the Internet and social media, to disseminate terrorist narratives
5. Discuss ways to strengthen public-private sector engagement in countering terrorist narratives, both online and offline, including with respect to the TaT initiative and the work of the GIFCT
6. Share good practices in, and knowledge of, Member States’ compliance with the relevant international legal standards, including international human rights law, in this context, with respect in particular to the rights to freedom of expression and privacy
7. Encourage continued research into the drivers of terrorism and violent extremism in order to develop more focused counter-narrative programmes.
Understanding the Incel Community on YouTube
2020 Papadamou, K., Zannettou, S., Blackburn, J., De Cristofaro, E., Stringhini, G. and Sirivianos, M. Article
YouTube is by far the largest host of user-generated video content worldwide. Alas, the platform also hosts inappropriate, toxic, and/or hateful content. One community that has come into the spotlight for sharing and publishing hateful content are the so-called Involuntary Celibates (Incels), a loosely defined movement ostensibly focusing on men's issues, who have often been linked to misogynistic views. In this paper, we set out to analyze the Incel community on YouTube. We collect videos shared on Incel-related communities within Reddit, and perform a data-driven characterization of the content posted on YouTube along several axes. Among other things, we find that the Incel community on YouTube is growing rapidly, that they post a substantial number of negative comments, and that they discuss a broad range of topics ranging from ideology, e.g., around the Men Going Their Own Way movement, to discussions filled with racism and/or misogyny. Finally, we quantify the probability that a user will encounter an Incel-related video by virtue of YouTube's recommendation algorithm. Within five hops when starting from a non-Incel-related video, this probability is 1 in 5, which is alarmingly high given the toxicity of said content.
Raiders of the Lost Kek: 3.5 Years of Augmented 4chan Posts from the Politically Incorrect Board
2020 Papasavva, A., Zannettou, S., De Cristofaro, E., Stringhini, G. and Blackburn, J. Article
This paper presents a dataset with over 3.3M threads and 134.5M posts from the Politically Incorrect board (/pol/) of the imageboard forum 4chan, posted over a period of almost 3.5 years (June 2016-November 2019). To the best of our knowledge, this represents the largest publicly available 4chan dataset, providing the community with an archive of posts that have been permanently deleted from 4chan and are otherwise inaccessible. We augment the data with a few set of additional labels, including toxicity scores and the named entities mentioned in each post. We also present a statistical analysis of the dataset, providing an overview of what researchers interested in using it can expect, as well as a simple content analysis, shedding light on the most prominent discussion topics, the most popular entities mentioned, and the level of toxicity in each post. Overall, we are confident that our work will further motivate and assist researchers in studying and understanding 4chan as well as its role on the greater Web. For instance, we hope this dataset may be used for cross-platform studies of social media, as well as being useful for other types of research like natural language processing. Finally, our dataset can assist qualitative work focusing on in-depth case studies of specific narratives, events, or social theories.
Echo Chambers Exist! (But They're Full of Opposing Views)
2020 Bright, J., Marchal, N., Ganesh, B. and Rudinac, S. Article
The theory of echo chambers, which suggests that online political discussions take place in conditions of ideological homogeneity, has recently gained popularity as an explanation for patterns of political polarization and radicalization observed in many democratic countries. However, while micro-level experimental work has shown evidence that individuals may gravitate towards information that supports their beliefs, recent macro-level studies have cast doubt on whether this tendency generates echo chambers in practice, instead suggesting that cross-cutting exposures are a common feature of digital life. In this article, we offer an explanation for these diverging results. Building on cognitive dissonance theory, and making use of observational trace data taken from an online white nationalist website, we explore how individuals in an ideological 'echo chamber' engage with opposing viewpoints. We show that this type of exposure, far from being detrimental to radical online discussions, is actually a core feature of such spaces that encourages people to stay engaged. The most common 'echoes' in this echo chamber are in fact the sound of opposing viewpoints being undermined and marginalized. Hence echo chambers exist not only in spite of but thanks to the unifying presence of oppositional viewpoints. We conclude with reflections on policy implications of our study for those seeking to promote a more moderate political internet.
Weaponizing white thymos: flows of rage in the online audiences of the alt-right
2020 Ganesh, B. Article
The alt-right is a growing radical right-wing network that is particularly effective at mobilizing emotion through digital communications. Introducing ‘white thymos’ as a framework to theorize the role of rage, anger, and indignation in alt-right communications, this study argues that emotive communication connects alt-right users and mobilizes white thymos to the benefit of populist radical right politics. By combining linguistic, computational, and interpretive techniques on data collected from Twitter, this study demonstrates that the alt-right weaponizes white thymos in three ways: visual documentation of white victimization, processes of legitimization of racialized pride, and reinforcement of the rectitude of rage and indignation. The weaponization of white thymos is then shown to be central to the culture of the alt-right and its connectivity with populist radical right politics.
An Approach for Radicalization Detection Based on Emotion Signals and Semantic Similarity
2020 Araque, O. and Iglesias, C.A. Article
The Internet has become an important tool for modern terrorist groups as a means of spreading their propaganda messages and recruitment purposes. Previous studies have shown that the analysis of social signs can help in the analysis, detection, and prediction of radical users. In this work, we focus on the analysis of affect signs in social media and social networks, which has not been yet previously addressed. The article contributions are: (i) a novel dataset to be used in radicalization detection works, (ii) a method for utilizing an emotion lexicon for radicalization detection, and (iii) an application to the radical detection domain of an embedding-based semantic similarity model. Results show that emotion can be a reliable indicator of radicalization, as well as that the proposed feature extraction methods can yield high-performance scores.
Interactive Search and Exploration in Discussion Forums Using Multimodal Embeddings
2020 Gornishka, I., Rudinac, S. and Worring, M. Article
In this paper we present a novel interactive multimodal learning system, which facilitates search and exploration in large networks of social multimedia users. It allows the analyst to identify and select users of interest, and to find similar users in an interactive learning setting. Our approach is based on novel multimodal representations of users, words and concepts, which we simultaneously learn by deploying a general-purpose neural embedding model. The usefulness of the approach is evaluated using artificial actors, which simulate user behavior in a relevance feedback scenario. Multiple experiments were conducted in order to evaluate the quality of our multimodal representations and compare different embedding strategies. We demonstrate the capabilities of the proposed approach on a multimedia collection originating from the violent online extremism forum Stormfront, which is particularly interesting due to the high semantic level of the discussions it features.
Digital Extremisms: Readings in Violence, Radicalisation and Extremism in the Online Space
2020 Littler, M. and Lee, B. (Eds.) Book
This book explores the use of the internet by (non-Islamic) extremist groups, drawing together research by scholars across the social sciences and humanities. It offers a broad overview of the best of research in this area, including research contributions that address far-right, (non-Islamic) religious, animal rights, and nationalist violence online, as well as a discussion of the policy and research challenges posed by these unique and disparate groups. It offers an academically rigorous, introductory text that addresses extremism online, making it a valuable resource for students, practitioners and academics seeking to understand the unique characteristics such risks present.
Examining the Online Expression of Ideology among Far-Right Extremist Forum Users
2020 Holt, T. J., Freilich, J.D. and Chermak, S. M. Article
Over the last decade, there has been an increased focus among researchers on the role of the Internet among actors and groups across the political and ideological spectrum. There has been particular emphasis on the ways that far-right extremists utilize forums and social media to express ideological beliefs through sites affiliated with real-world extremist groups and unaffiliated websites. The majority of research has used qualitative assessments or quantitative analyses of keywords to assess the extent of specific messages. Few have considered the breadth of extremist ideologies expressed among participants so as to quantify the proportion of beliefs espoused by participants. This study addressed this gap in the literature through a content analysis of over 18,000 posts from eight far-right extremist forums operating online. The findings demonstrated that the most prevalent ideological sentiments expressed in users’ posts involved anti-minority comments, though they represent a small proportion of all posts made in the sample. Additionally, users expressed associations to far-right extremist ideologies through their usernames, signatures, and images associated with their accounts. The implications of this analysis for policy and practice to disrupt extremist movements were discussed in detail.
Extreme Digital Speech: Contexts, Responses and Solutions
2020 Ganesh, B. and Bright, J. (Eds.) VOX-Pol Publication
Extreme digital speech (EDS) is an emerging challenge that requires co-ordination between governments, civil society and the private sector. In this report, a range of experts on countering extremism consider the challenges that EDS presents to these stakeholders, the impact that EDS has and the responses taken by these actors to counter it. By focusing on EDS, consideration of the topic is limited to the forms of extreme speech that take place online, often on social media platforms and multimedia messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Furthermore, by focusing on EDS rather than explicitly violent forms of extreme speech online, the report departs from a focus on violence and incorporates a broader range of issues such as hateful and dehumanising speech and the complex cultures and politics that have formed around EDS.