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 email@example.com 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.
Social Media in Africa - A double-edged sword for security and development
New EU Proposal on the Prevention of Terrorist Content Online
Social Media and Situation Awareness during Terrorist Attacks: Recommendations for Crisis Communication
Horizons of Hate: A Comparative Approach to Social Media Hate Speech
|2018||Pohjonen, M.||VOX-Pol Publication|
|A comparative approach to social media hate speech. This study compares a Finnish anti-refugee and anti-immigration Facebook group criticised for hate speech and links to the extreme right, with a Finnish anti-racist Facebook group that opposed it, alongside a Facebook group aimed at dialogue between the two.|
A critical-comparative analysis of social media hate speech can help us to assess the dangers of this speech, and can provide the necessary conceptual distance needed to come up with new ideas and strategies that can help to prevent violence.
Dar al-Islam: A Quantitative Analysis of ISIS’s French-Language Magazine
|2018||Sparks, C. A.||Journal|
|This study is a content analysis of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)’s French-language magazine Dar al-Islam. The first seven issues of the magazine are quantitatively examined and broken down into the number of articles, images, and terms used as a means of determining how ISIS targets French-speaking individuals. This study find that ISIS focuses on religious terminology and justifications to rationalize its existence and its fight. Also, despite being a French-language magazine, a majority of the focus is on Middle Eastern groups, not Western groups. Overall, the magazine is similar, but not a carbon copy to ISIS’s English-language magazine, Dabiq.|
What Eye Movements and Facial Expressions Tell Us about User-Friendliness: Testing a Tool for Communicators and Journalists
|2018||Lindholm J., Backholm K., and Högväg J.||Book|
|Technical solutions can be important when key communicators take on the task of making sense of social media flows during crises. However, to provide situation awareness during high-stress assignments, usability problems must be identified and corrected. In usability studies, where researchers investigate the user-friendliness of a product, several types of data gathering methods can be combined. Methods may include subjective (surveys and observations) and psychophysiological (e.g. skin conductance and eye tracking) data collection. This chapter mainly focuses on how the latter type can provide detailed clues about user-friendliness. Results from two studies are summarised. The tool tested is intended to help communicators and journalists with monitoring and handling social media content during times of crises. Book Edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backhoem.|
Social Media and Situation Awareness during Terrorist Attacks: Recommendations for Crisis Communication
|2018||Steensen S., Frey E., Hornmoen H., Ottosen R., Konow-Lund T. M.,||Featured|
|This chapter summarises the findings of a case study on social media activity during the 22 July 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway. Based on these findings and on theories and previous research on the role of social media in situation awareness (SA) configuration during crisis situations, the chapter offers seven recommendations for key communicators in official crisis management and response institutions, journalistic institutions, NGOs and others: (1) acknowledge social media as important and master monitoring and management of features across social media; (2) synchronise communication and establish a standard operating procedure (SOP); (3) establish and make known a joint social media emergency account; (4) participate, interact and take the lead; (5) be aware of non-hashtagged content; (6) implement verification tools and practices and (7) engage with and learn from celebrities. Book edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm|
News Workers’ Reflections on Digital Technology and Social Media after a Terror Event
|2018||Konow-Lund T. M.||Book|
|22 July 2011, saw the biggest domestic terror event in Norway since World War II. On this day, a right-wing terrorist placed a bomb in front of the Norwegian government building, where the prime minister had his office at the time. Later, the same perpetrator dressed up as a policeman and tricked his way into a political youth camp, where 69 mostly young people were killed. The present case study involves the leading national online news provider, VG, whose website, VG Nett, was Norway’s most-read online news site at the time of the attack. The study addresses the research gap of how news workers and managers see the potential of the affordances of digital media during crisis events. Furthermore, the study looks at how two different discourses of professionalism, the occupational and the organisational, informed journalists’ use of technological and social media affordances during this terror event, and at how online journalists and management reflect upon and continue to refine these approaches five years later. This study stresses the importance of a clear understanding of the decision-making processes that actually guide the handling of those affordances during a crisis event. Ultimately, this study questions not the perceived tension between the two discourses of professionalism, but their relative impact upon domestic crisis journalism in the technological realm. Book edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm.|
Social Media in Management of the Terror Crisis in Norway: Experiences and Lessons Learned
|2018||Hornmoen H. , Måseide H. P.||Book|
|The chapter addresses the question of how crisis and emergency communicators in the justice (police) and health sector in Norway reflect on their use – or lack of use – of social media during the terror crisis on 22 July 2011. We examine how these communicators in the years following the crisis have developed their use of social media to optimise their and the public’s awareness of similar crises. Our semi-structured interviews with key emergency managers and responders display how the terrorist-induced crisis in 2011 was a wake-up call for communicators in the police and the health sector. They reflect on the significance, strengths and weaknesses of social media in the management of crises such as this one. Book edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm|
Blood and Security during the Norway Attacks: Authorities’ Twitter Activity and Silence
|2018||Ottosen R., Steensen S.||Book|
|This chapter analyses the Norwegian authorities’ presence on Twitter during the 22 July 2011 terrorist attacks. Twitter activity by two official institutions is analysed in particular, namely, the blood bank at Oslo University Hospital and the Norwegian Police Security Services (PST). Our findings show that the Norwegian authorities were almost completely absent on Twitter during the critical hours of the terrorist attack, and that there was no coordination and synchronisation of communication from the authorities. This official silence allowed the diffusion of speculation and misinformation to take place; these were neither corrected nor addressed, as the analysed PST case shows. In contrast, the blood bank used Twitter to mobilise blood donors to address an acute problem: a shortage of blood to treat casualties. The chapter concludes by offering recommendations to the authorities for future major incidents. Book edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm.|
Victims’ Use of Social Media during and after the Utøya Terror Attack: Fear, Resilience, Sorrow and Solidarity
|This chapter examines how those directly affected by the terror attack on Utøya in Norway on 22 July 2011 used social media to cope with the trauma. Through interviews with eight survivors and a study of their Facebook walls during the first month after the shooting, the chapter sets out to answer how they tell and re-tell the trauma on Facebook. In what way does their re-telling of the terror event give it meaning? With Narrative Therapy as its inspiration, this chapter studies different themes and stories on the Facebook walls, what is told about the event, its effects and responses to it. The meaning derived from the trauma is a story of national unity, democratic values and the redefining of Norway as a multicultural society. As for the perpetrator, he is written out of the story.|
Book edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm
Tweeting Terror: An Analysis of the Norwegian Twitter-sphere during and in the Aftermath of the 22 July 2011 Terrorist Attack
|This chapter analyses the Norwegian Twitter-sphere during and in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Norway on 22 July 2011. Based on a collection of 2.2 million tweets representing the Twitter-sphere during the period 20 July–28 August 2011, the chapter seeks answers to how the micro-blogging services aided in creating situation awareness (SA) related to the emergency event, what role hashtags played in that process and who the dominant crisis communicators were. The chapter is framed by theories and previous research on SA and social media use in the context of emergency events. The findings reveal that Twitter was important in establishing SA both during and in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, that hashtags were of limited value in this process during the critical phase, and that unexpected actors became key communicators.|
Book edited by
Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm
Invisible Empire of Hate: Gender Differences in the Ku Klux Klan's Online Justifications for Violence
|2018||Cohen J. S., Holt J. T.,Chermak M.S, and Freilich D. J.||Article|
|This article presents a systematic linguistic approach to mapping gender differences in the formulation and practice of right-wing ideology. We conducted a set of content- and text-analytical analyses on a 52,760 words corpus from a female-only subforum, dubbed LOTIES (Ladies of the Invisible Empire), compared with a matching corpus of 1.793 million words from a male-only subforum of the Ku Klux Klan's primary website. Using a combination of computational and noncomputational linguistic methods, we show that the wholesome and avowedly prosocial discourse of the female forum is a gateway to Klan activity and, ultimately, to the Klan's ideology through a fear-based “all means are necessary” mindset and violent sentiments. The findings also suggest that the female forum's porousness and emphasis on inclusion and homogeneity may have facilitated the spontaneous “mutation” of the traditional KKK ideology into a generic Far-Right ideology that enjoys broad consensus. Rhetorically, this generic right-wing ideology downplays overt racial and violent elements and eschews theological controversies by relating to Christianity instrumentally as a cultural heritage rather than a religion in the metaphysical sense of the word.|
Race, Religion, or Culture? Framing Islam between Racism and Neo-Racism in the Online Network of the French Far Right
|2018||Froio, C.||VOX-Pol Publication|
|When debates about Islam acquire importance in the public sphere, does the far right adhere to traditional racist arguments, risking marginalization, or does it conform to mainstream values to attain legitimacy in the political system? Focusing on the aftermath of the 2015 terrorist attacks in France, I explore the framing of Islam, discussing how the far right’s nativist arguments were reformulated to engage with available discursive opportunities and dominant conceptions of the national identity. By looking at actors in the protest and the electoral arenas, I examine the interplay between the choice of anti-Islam frames and baseline national values.|
I offer a novel mixed-method approach to study political discourses, combining social network analysis of the links between seventy-seven far-right websites with a qualitative frame analysis of online material. It also includes measures of online visibility of these websites to assess their audiences. The results confirm that anti-Islam frames are couched along a spectrum of discursive opportunity, where actors can either opt to justify opposition to Islam based on interpretations of core national values (culture and religion) or mobilize on strictly oppositional values (biological racism). The framing strategy providing most online visibility is based on neo-racist arguments. While this strategy allows distortion of baseline national values of secularity and republicanism, without breaching the social contract, it is also a danger for organizations that made “opposition to the system” their trademark. While the results owe much to the French context, the conclusions draw broader implications as to the far right going mainstream.
LOVING HATE. ANTI-MUSLIM EXTREMISM, RADICAL ISLAMISM AND THE SPIRAL OF POLARIZATION
|2018||Fielitz, M., Ebner, J. and Quent, M.||Report|
|This report focuses on the interactional dynamics between anti-Muslim extremists and radical|
Islamists in Germany and beyond. It reveals ideological underpinnings, approaches to mobilization
and communication patterns, which all prove to be analogous on both sides, and it places
emphasis on the reciprocity of hate that may serve to intensify processes of individual and group
Our study presents the first systematic analysis of the interplay between both forms of extremism
that plays out on different places on the Internet. It provides direct evidence showing that Islamist
and far-right movements converge at different levels and mutually amplify one another. The analysis
focuses on measuring the online interaction between extremist content, individuals and events.
Overall, over 10,000 Islamist and far-right Facebook posts and over one million German anti-Muslim
tweets between 1 January 2013 and 30 November 2017 were analyzed for this study. Additionally,
we conducted three months of ethnographic research into encrypted pro-IS and pro-Al-Qaeda
groups on Telegram as well as into far-right chat groups.
Pulling Back the Curtain: An Inside Look at the Islamic State’s Media Organization
|The CTC is committed to continuing to search out unique sources of data to provide insight into the|
workings of terrorist organizations and, when possible, making them available to the broader research
community, which will undoubtedly add its own insights and continue to enhance our collective understanding.
To further this end, all of the documents (both the original Arabic as well as English
translations) referred to in this report are being released on the CTC’s website at ctc.usma.edu.5 These
13 documents provide interesting and important insights on four main topics regarding the Islamic
State’s media organization.
The first insight is that these documents offer, for the first time, a conclusive link between the Islamic
State’s central media bureau and Amaq News Agency. More specifically, these documents show that
the central media bureau considered Amaq to be on par with other previously recognized central media
entities such as Al-Naba and Al-Bayan. Furthermore, the Islamic State’s Diwan of Central Media
encouraged local media bureaus to send content to Amaq, going so far as to make cooperation with
Amaq a part of each local media bureau’s monthly evaluation.
The second is that these documents show the emphasis the organization placed on producing diferent
types of products in order to convey a broader narrative about the caliphate. Although examining
the group’s propaganda products after they have been released demonstrates this as well, the level of
detail and effort put in by the group to this end, as highlighted by these documents, is more expansive
than previously acknowledged.
Third, these documents show very clearly how the Diwan of Central Media created rules, evaluations,
and internal memos that were designed to strengthen the centralization of the group’s media bureaucracy,
solidifying the central media organization’s control over what and how the local media bureaus
carried on their propaganda work. This finding runs counter to some discussion on decentralization
as one of the main reasons for the success of the group’s media operations.6
There certainly is an element
of decentralization to the group’s online activities, but these documents show there is a limit
to the group’s willingness to decentralize in the media realm. Indeed, in a document titled “General
Guidance and Instructions,” we find the following counsel:
“We also advise the brothers to avoid innovation because it is mostly the main cause of mistakes.”7
Finally, the documents show that the Islamic State’s media organization exercises self-awareness in
terms of its potential vulnerability. Indeed, the documents provide several insights into how the media
side of the organization recognized that its role in promoting the group meant that the media components
of the group would be in possession of information that could result in harm if it were known or otherwise obtained by the enemy. This led the group to focus on the importance of information
security among media operatives.
The Islamic State’s efforts in each of these four areas provide a more detailed understanding not only
of how the group organized and implemented its media strategy, but also how a militant organization
was able to capture the world’s attention using the art of propaganda. This report proceeds by examining
each of these four areas in turn.
Abu Musab al-Suri Goes Online: Conditions for the Success of Jihadist Online Strategies
|2018||Gresser, M. S.||Journal|
|This paper utilizes Social Movement Theory to analyze the online strategies of al-Qaeda and|
the Islamic State. Applying Social Movement Theory, this paper argues that the relative online successes
of each group can be explained through this theory of radicalization through social engagement. This paper
looks at the writings of al-Qaeda strategist, Abu Musab al-Suri, who envisioned use of the internet
for social engagement, as it considers the implications of a likely increase in jihadist use of the internet.
Radical Islamist English-Language Online Magazines: Research Guide, Strategic Insights, and Policy Response
|2018||Bunker, J.R., Ligouri Bunker, P.||Book|
|This Strategic Studies Institute book provides a comprehensive research guide to radical Islamist English-language online magazines published between April-May 2007 and November 2016, as well as Islamic State eBooks published between November 2012 and November 2015, and a number of assorted radical Islamist news magazines, reports, and pocketbooks. A comparative analysis of Inspire and Dabiq magazine issues are provided along with strategic insights related to al-Qaeda and Islamic State online magazine clusters and their differing strategic approaches as articulated in these magazines. Finally, policy response options, utilizing a targeting schema leveraging the five stages of the magazine life-cycle process: environmental motivators, production, end product, distribution, and outcomes, are discussed.|
Countering Hate Speech on Facebook: The Case of the Roma Minority in Slovakia
|2018||Misˇkolci, J., Kova´cˇova´, L. and Rigova´, E.||Journal|
|This article explores hate speech against the Roma in Slovakia on Facebook between April 2016 and January 2017 and the impact of fact-checking and personal experience strategies in countering hate speech through a quasi-experimental research design. It examines how the Roma were constructed and how discussion participants reacted to our pro-Roma interventions. The research sample consisted of 60 Facebook discussions (with more than 7,500 comments) on Roma-related topics posted by the profiles of various members of the Slovak Parliament and the most popular online news media outlets. Qualitative content analysis revealed that the Roma in Facebook discussions were constructed primarily in a negative sense, as asocial criminals misusing welfare benefits. This study demonstrated that Facebook discussion participants presenting anti-Roma attitudes did not use any research evidence to support their constructions. It also demonstrated that pro-Roma comments encouraged other participants with a pro-Roma attitude to become involved.|
Populism and media policy failure
Far right populist politicians and movements have secured high levels of visibility thanks to often compliant media outlets and unregulated digital platforms. The pursuit of media coverage and the communication of rage are no longer incidental but essential to the growth of reactionary populisms. Yet, while prominent liberal media outlets are ‘aghast’ at events such as the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote, little attention has been paid to the structural conditions and policy frameworks that have facilitated the circulation of clickbait and misinformation, together with the incessant coverage of their leaders, that have been exploited by far right movements. This article identifies four areas of ‘media policy failure’ that have nurtured highly skewed media environments and concludes by calling for a new policy paradigm based around redistribution that aims to reconstruct media systems in order to undermine the appeal of populist forces on the far right.
The Eglyph Web Crawler: ISIS Content on YouTube
|2018||Counter Extremism Project||Report|
|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
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
|2018||INSTITUTE 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.|