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

Assessing Outcomes of Online Campaigns Countering Violent Extremism A Case Study of the Redirect Method
2018Helmus, C. T., Klein, K.Featured
The number of programs dedicated to countering violent extremism (CVE) has grown in recent years, yet a fundamental gap remains in the understanding of the effectiveness of such programs. This is particularly the case for CVE campaigns, which are increasingly conducted in the online space. The goal of this report is to help CVE campaign planners better evaluate the impact of online efforts. It reviews prior assessments of online CVE campaigns, provides recommendations for future assessments, and provides a case study of one particular CVE campaign — the Redirect Method. A limited evaluation of the Redirect Method process variables suggests that the implementers are able to use advertisements linking to counterextremist videos to effectively expose individuals searching for violent jihadist or violent far-right content to content that offers alternative narratives. Users clicked on these ads at a rate on par with industry standards. However, as is the case with other CVE evaluations, this partial evaluation did not assess the impact of the video content on user attitudes or behavior. The potentially highly radical nature of the Redirect Method's target audience makes evaluation of the campaign particularly complicated and therefore might necessitate the recruitment of former extremists to help gauge audience response. Alternatively, it might be advisable to analyze user comments to understand how a subsample of users respond to the content.
Radikal Online - Das Internet und die Radikalisierung von Jugendlichen: eine Metaanalyse zum Forschungsfeld
2018Knipping-Sorokin, R., Stumpf, T.Featured
Der Beitrag befasst sich mit dem Einfluss des Internets auf Meinungsbildungsprozesse in Gestalt von Radikalisierung Jugendlicher in Deutschland. Dafür wird in einer metaanalytischen
Vorgehensweise das Forschungsfeld zu Online-Radikalisierung im deutschen Forschungsdiskurs, ergänzt durch relevante internationale Befunde, genau sondiert und aufgeschlüsselt. Wie
sich zeigt, ist das bestehende Wissen dazu äußerst bruchstückhaft; lediglich einzelne Facetten wurden im komplexen Zusammenwirken vieler Faktoren eines Radikalisierungsverlaufs bisher
untersucht. Um mehr über die Hintergründe zu Online-Radikalisierung Jugendlicher zu erfahren, besteht die Notwendigkeit eines interdisziplinären und multimethodischen Vorgehens,
zu dem insbesondere die Kulturanthropologie mit ihren Methoden und emischen Perspektiven auf lebensweltliche Zusammenhänge einen wichtigen Beitrag leisten kann. Die vorliegende
Metaanalyse bietet neben einer theoretischen Fundierung und begrifflichen Einordnung eine strukturierte Statusaufnahme und Auswertung der aktuellen Forschungslandschaft
zu der Rolle des Internets auf die Radikalisierung von jungen Menschen. Die Arbeit identifiziert Erkenntnisse und zeigt aktuelle Forschungsdesiderata auf. Die vorliegende Studie bietet
somit einen systematischen Überblick über die deutsche Forschungslandschaft und kann als Grundlage für weitere Forschung auf diesem Bereich genutzt werden.
Countering Online Propaganda and Extremism: The Dark Side of Digital Diplomacy
2018Bjola, C., Pamment, J.Book
Exploring the ‘dark side’ of digital diplomacy, this volume highlights some of the major problems facing democratic institutions in the West and provides concrete examples of best practice in reversing the tide of digital propaganda.
Digital diplomacy is now part of the regular conduct of International Relations, but Information Warfare is characterised by the exploitation or weaponisation of media systems to undermine confidence in institutions: the resilience of open, democratic discourse is tested by techniques such as propaganda, disinformation, fake news, trolling and conspiracy theories. This book introduces a thematic framework by which to better understand the nature and scope of the threats that the weaponization of digital technologies increasingly pose to Western societies. The editors instigate interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration between scholars and practitioners on the purpose, methods and impact of strategic communication in the Digital Age and its diplomatic implications. What opportunities and challenges does strategic communication face in the digital context? What diplomatic implications need to be considered when governments employ strategies for countering disinformation and propaganda? Exploring such issues, the contributors demonstrate that responses to the weaponisation of digital technologies must be tailored to the political context that make it possible for digital propaganda to reach and influence vulnerable publics and audiences.
The Digital Battlefield: A Network Analysis of the Online Activities of the Modern Militia Movement
2018DeLeeuw, J. G.MA Thesis
The goal of this dissertation is to develop a better understanding of how militias use the internet to connect with other militias, their members, and the public. The modern militia movement in the United States experienced a resurgence of late following a rapid decline in the early 2000s. Along with the drop in membership, the interest levels of researchers and law enforcement began to fade and as a result, a significant gap formed in the literature as it relates to our understanding of the groups’ activities.

I address this gap by examining the online activities of the modern militia movement at three levels. Specifically, I examine how militias throughout the United States connect with each other through their official websites, how militias operating at different geographic levels connect with other websites, and how a regional militia uses Facebook to communicate with its members and the public. The three components of this dissertation reveal that the modern militia movement has experienced important changes in its online activity since 2013. Component I examines the breakdown in the nationwide network of militia websites that occurred between 2014 and 2017. Component II reveals the ways the networks surrounding three militia groups changed from 2013 to 2017 and the important role ideology plays in the connections between websites. Component III examines the ways one militia utilized Facebook during an eleven month period, including which content posted by the group had the highest likelihood of generating participation from visitors and the interactions that occurred in the most active discussions among visitors.

Understanding how militias connect with each other and with individuals is an important step towards understanding the modern movement, its goals, and activities. A deeper understanding of these groups and their activities will provide a foundation for future research and assist law enforcement developing response strategies.
Understanding Violent Extremism: Messaging and Recruitment Strategies on Social Media in the Philippines
Violent extremist activity on social media in the Philippines is a relatively new phenomenon in the complex conflict environment that exists in the southern part of the country. The rise of online violent extremism emerged despite the Philippines’ significant strides in the Mindanao peace process. The 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the MILF was a landmark achievement. Yet a number of armed groups rejected the deal, many of which are now engaged in online extremism. The apparent affiliation of these groups with issues beyond Mindanao and the Philippine state signaled a potential new era of conflict in the country. With these concerns as a backdrop, The Asia Foundation and Rappler worked together to explore how young Filipinos interact with social media networks, and look into the prevalence and characteristics of violent extremist messaging and recruitment in the Philippines in 2018.
The Power Of A Good Story
2018Frischlich, L., Rieger, D., Morten, A. and Bente, G.Article
The perceived threat of extremist online propaganda has generated a need for countermeasures applicable to large audiences. The dissemination of videos designed to counter violent extremism (CVE videos) is widely discussed. These videos are often described as “counter-narratives,” implying that narrativity is a crucial factor for their effectiveness. Experimental research testing this assumption is rare and direct comparisons of narrativity effects between propaganda and CVE videos are lacking. To fill this gap, we conducted two experiments (one in a laboratory and one online) in which we confronted German participants with different religious affiliations and from various cultural backgrounds (NStudy 1 = 338 and NStudy 2 = 155) with Islamist extremist or right-wing extremist propaganda videos and with corresponding CVE videos. The results confirmed that narrativity (a) increases persuasive processing of propaganda and CVE videos, (b) fosters amplification intentions regarding these videos, and (c) increases attraction to extremists versus counter-activists. Thus, our studies highlight the crucial role of narrativity in both extremist propaganda and video-based CVE approaches.
Structuring of the Terrorism Problem in the Digital Age: A Systems Perspective
2018Odhiambi Achieng, N., Ochara Muganda, N., Kadymatimba, A.Report
Terrorism is a global challenge of the 21 st century. The Kenya Westgate Mall attack and Garrissa University attacks in 2015 and the Libya suicide bombings, did not only claim the lives of many, but also had great political consequences. The advancements, ease of access and availability of information and communication technologies (ICT) is blamed for the increases in terrorist attacks: for instance, the Internet and especially, social media. This is because through the Internet, terrorist organizations such as ISIS have come up with innovative ways to recruit new members, to train and even disseminate ideologies. However, the terrorist opponents (counter-terrorism organizations) also have developed innovative counter-measures using ICT. Therefore, understanding and structuring terrorism in this digital age has enhanced the complexity in addition to multiple stakeholders involved in terrorism related incidences, intertwined causal-relationships, and the uncertainties in the mode of operandi of the terrorists. In this study, theory of synergetics is applied both as a theoretical and methodological approach to try structure the terrorism problem. Secondary data sources such as journal articles on terrorism related incidences and search terms (i.e. terrorism AND technology, terrorism AND Internet), were used by the researchers' to identify and include relevant documents in the study. Following the inclusion and exclusion criteria, the researchers remained with only 405 documents from which using the qualitative software Nvivo, a word cloud was developed to pictorially visualize the terrorism problem. Thereafter, relying on synergetics and using results from the word cloud, the researchers' were able to create a conceptual model. The findings from the analysis of the conceptual model showed that technology plays a critical role in the fight against terrorism as it appears to be part of each of the various components of synergetics, namely, order parameters, system elements, internal and external constraints, control parameters and environment.
Digital Jihad, Propaganda from the Islamic State
2018Cohen, K., Kaati, L.Report
The purpose of this report is to raise awareness of how the so-called Islamic State (IS) uses digital propaganda to reach followers in the West. Although IS has suffered significant territorial losses, the digital battle is far from over. The big social media platforms are now effective in removing propaganda, but despite this, IS is always finding new ways of producing and spreading its messages. IS ability to adapt to an ever-changing digital landscape is likely to keep the organization alive by enabling communication between supporters worldwide. This report provides an introduction to IS propaganda from different perspectives: the specific language used by IS, the brand IS, the magazines produced by IS and women's role in IS.
Trans-mediatized terrorism: The Sydney Lindt Café siege
2018Ali, S., Khattab, U.Article
This article presents an empirical analysis of the Australian media representation of terrorism using the 2014 Sydney Lindt Café siege as a case in point to engage with the notion of moral panic. Deploying critical discourse analysis and case study as mixed methods, insights into trans-media narratives and aftermath of the terrifying siege are presented. While news media appeared to collaborate with the Australian right-wing government in the reporting of terrorism, social media posed challenges and raised security concerns for the state. Social media heightened the drama as sites were variously deployed by the perpetrator, activists and concerned members of the public. The amplified trans-media association of Muslims with terrorism in Australia and its national and global impact, in terms of the political exclusion of Muslims, are best described in this article in the form of an Islamophobic Moral Panic Model, invented for a rethink of the various stages of its occurrence, intensification and institutionalization.
From Minutes to Months A rapid evidence assessment of the impact of media and social media during and after terror events.
2018Innes, M., Innes, H., Dobreva, D., Chermak, S., Huey, S., McGovern, A.Report
This document reports findings from a Rapid Evidence Assessment conducted on the role of mass and social media during and after terrorist events. It is designed to bring
together and synthesize insights and evidence from the available published research literature to inform future policy and practice development. By promoting understanding of
how different forms of mediated communication shape what happens in the aftermath of terror events, the work seeks to reflect changes in both the conduct of terrorism and the
contemporary information environment. In particular, the spread of social media has had disruptive and transformative impacts upon press and broadcast journalism, and the ways
that terrorist violence is performed.
More Support Needed for Smaller Technology Platforms to Counter Terrorist Content
The present Trends Alert was prepared by CTED in accordance with Security Council resolution 2395 (2017). This reaffirms the essential role of CTED within the United Nations
to identify and assess issues, trends and developments relating to the implementation of Council resolutions 1373 (2001), 1624 (2005) and 2178 (2014) and other relevant
resolutions. CTED Trends Alerts are designed to increase awareness, within the Security Council Counter Terrorism Committee, and among United Nations agencies and policymakers, of emerging trends identified through CTED’s engagement with Member States on their implementation of the relevant Council resolutions. The Alerts also include relevant evidence-based research conducted by members of the CTED Global Research Network (GRN)1 and other researchers.
OK Google, Show Me Extremism: Analysis of YouTube’s Extremist Video Takedown Policy and Counter-Narrative Program
2018Counter Extremism ProjectReport
ISIS and other extremist groups, as well as their online supporters, have continued to exploit and misuse Google’s platforms to disseminate propaganda material, despite the company having repeatedly announced increased measures to combat online extremism.1 On July 21, 2017, Google announced the launch of one such measure––its Redirect Method Pilot Program. The program is intended to target individuals searching for ISIS-related content on YouTube and direct them to counter-narrative videos, which try to undermine the messaging of extremist
groups.2 The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) monitors and tracks ISIS and other terrorist organizations’ material on YouTube. Between August 2 and August 3, 2018, CEP reviewed a
total of 649 YouTube videos for extremist and counter-narrative content. The result of CEP’s searches highlights the extent of the enduring problem of terrorist content on YouTube and
undermines claims touting the efficacy of the company’s efforts to combat online extremism.
Artificial or Human: A New Era of Counterterrorism Intelligence?
2018Ganor, B.Article
A new revolution has begun in counterterrorism—the Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution. The AI revolution has had a significant
impact on many areas of security and intelligence. The use of AI and big data in general, and in the field of intelligence and counterterrorism in particular, has led to intense debates between supporters of the continuation and expansion of the use of this technology and those who oppose it. The traditional delicate balance between effectiveness in the fight against terrorism and the liberal democratic values of society becomes even more crucial when counterterrorism engages in AI and big data technology
Applying Local Image Feature Descriptions to Aid the Detection of Radicalization Processes in Twitter
2018López-Sánchez, D., Corchado, J.Report
This paper was presented at the 2nd European Counter-Terrorism Centre (ECTC) Advisory Group conference, 17-18 April 2018, at Europol Headquarters, The Hague.

The views expressed are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent those of Europol.
All You Need Is “Love” Evading Hate Speech Detection
2018Grondahl, T., Pajola, L., Juuti, M., Conti, M. and Asokan, N.Article
With the spread of social networks and their unfortunate use for hate speech, automatic detection of the latter has become a pressing problem. In this paper, we reproduce seven state-of-the-art hate speech detection models from prior work, and show that they perform well only when tested on the same type of data they were trained on. Based on these results, we argue that for successful hate speech detection, model architecture is less important than the type of data and labeling criteria. We further show that all proposed detection techniques are briŠle against adversaries who can (automatically) insert typos, change word boundaries or add innocuous words to the original hate speech. A combination of these methods is also effective against Google Perspective – a cutting edge solution from industry. Our experiments demonstrate that adversarial training does not completely mitigate the attacks, and using character-level features makes the models systematically more attack-resistant than using word-level features.
Disrupting Daesh: Measuring Takedown of Online Terrorist Material and Its Impacts
2018Conway, M., Khawaja, M., Lakhani, S., Reffin, J., Robertson, A., & Weir, D.VOX-Pol Publication
This article contributes to public and policy debates on the value of social media disruption activity with respect to terrorist material. In particular, it explores aggressive account and content takedown, with the aim of accurately measuring this activity and its impacts. The major emphasis of the analysis is the so-called Islamic State (IS) and disruption of their online activity, but a catchall “Other Jihadi” category is also utilized for comparison purposes. Our findings challenge the notion that Twitter remains a conducive space for pro-IS accounts and communities to flourish. However, not all jihadists on Twitter are subject to the same high levels of disruption as IS, and we show that there is differential disruption taking place. IS’s and other jihadists’ online activity was never solely restricted to Twitter; it is just one node in a wider jihadist social media ecology. This is described and some preliminary analysis of disruption trends in this area supplied too.

Social Media in Africa - A double-edged sword for security and development
2018Cox, K., Marcellino, W., Bellasio, J., Ward, A., Galai, K., Meranto, S., Paoli, P.G.Featured
There is an on-going debate over the role of online activities in the radicalisation process. However, much of this debate has focused on Western countries, particularly in relation to ISIL’s online influence of homegrown terrorism and of foreign fighter travel to Iraq and Syria. Less is known about patterns of online radicalisation in Africa and about the extent to which African national governmental strategies focus on addressing this issue.
To address this gap in knowledge, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) commissioned RAND Europe to explore social media use and online radicalisation in Africa.
Germany's NetzDG: A key test for combatting online hate
2018Echikson, W. and Knodt, O.Article
Germany’s Network Enforcement Act, or NetzDG law represents a key test for combatting hate speech on the internet. Under the law, which came into effect on January 1, 2018, online platforms face fines of up to €50 million for systemic failure to delete illegal content. Supporters see the legislation as a necessary and efficient response to the threat of online hatred and extremism. Critics view it as an attempt to privatise a new ‘draconian’ censorship regime, forcing social media platforms to respond to this new painful liability with unnecessary takedowns.

This study shows that the reality is in between these extremes. NetzDG has not provoked mass requests for takedowns. Nor has it forced internet platforms to adopt a ‘take down, ask later’ approach. At the same time, it remains uncertain whether NetzDG has achieved significant results in reaching its stated goal of preventing hate speech.

This paper begins by explaining the background that led to the development and passage of NetzDG. It examines the reaction to the law by civil society, platforms and the government. It concludes with suggestions, for platforms, civil society and the authorities, on ways to improve the law to be effective in the fight against online hate while keeping the internet open and free.

CEPS acknowledges the Counter Extremism Project’s support for this research. The study was conducted in complete independence. It is based on interviews with regulators, company representatives, and civil society activists. The authors take full responsibility for its findings.
Government Responses to Malicious Use of Social Media
2018Bradshaw, S., Neudert, L. M. and Howard, P. N.Article

Since 2016, at least 43 countries around the globe have proposed or implemented regulations specifically designed to tackle different aspects of influence campaigns, including both real and perceived threats of fake news, social media abuse, and election interference. Some governments are in the early stages of designing regulatory measures specifically for digital contexts so they can tackle issues related to the malicious use of social media. For others, existing legal mechanisms regulating speech and information are already well established, and the digital aspect merely adds an additional dimension to law enforcement.

Our research team conducted an analysis of proposed or implemented regulations and identified a number of interventions. Some measures target social media platforms, requiring them to take down content, improve transparency, or tighten data protection mechanisms. Other measures focus on civil actors and media organisations, on supporting literacy and advocacy efforts, and on improving standards for journalistic content production and dissemination. A third group of interventions target governments themselves, obligating them to invest in security and defence programs that combat election interference, or to initiate formal inquiries into such matters. Finally, a fourth group of interventions take aim at the criminalisation of automated message generation and disinformation.

Netwar in Cyberia: Decoding the Media Mujahidin
2018Fisher, A.Report
At the dawn of mass access to the internet, Douglas Rushkof wrote Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace. In his book, he observed a very special moment in our recent history in which it was possible to imagine the path ahead, before most of what daily users of the internet now
experience even existed.