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.
Online Jihadist Propaganda: 2020 in Review
The Impact of the Internet and Social Media Platforms on Radicalisation to Terrorism and Violent Extremism
Toward an Ethical Framework for Countering Extremist Propaganda Online
Islam on Youtube: Online Debates, Protests, and Extremism
|This book offers empirical insight into the way Muslims reacted online towards various controversial issues related to Islam. The book examines four cases studies: The Muhammed’s cartoons, the burning of the Quran controversies, Fitna and the Innocence of Muslims’ films. The issues of online religion, social movements and extremism are discussed, as many of the cases in question created both uproar and unity among many YouTubers. These case studies – in some instances – led to the expression of extremist views by some users, and the volume argues that they helped contribute to the growth of extremism due to the utilization of these events by some terrorist groups in order to recruit new members. In the concluding chapter, social network and sentiment analyses are presented in order to investigate all the collected comments and videos, while a critical discussion of freedom of expression and hate speech is offered, with special regards to the growing online influence of far right groups and their role in on-going YouTube debates.|
The Anti-Terrorist Advertising Campaigns in the Middle East
|The anti-terror public media campaigns started in Iraq around 2004 and was called ‘Terror has no Religion’ in order to combat the threats of sectarianism and Al-Qaeda. After the withdrawal of the US forces from the country in late 2010, the campaign stopped, but a new and similar one emerged that is called ‘Say no to Terror’ whose advertisements mostly targeted the Saudi public. Several Pan-Arab regional channels like Al-Arabiya and Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) were part of airing its advertisements. This study focuses on the ‘Terror has no Religion’ and ‘Say no to Terror’ campaigns by critically examining their websites and videos to understand the nature of messages sent to the public. Further, the study examines the effectiveness of the two campaigns with special emphasis on ‘Say no to Terror’ by analyzing comments posted on YouTube and discussing the counter campaign. Over 350 videos were found containing counter arguments to ‘Say no to Terror’ campaign, and about 60% of YouTube commentators viewed the campaign negatively, expressing suspicion about its real intentions. The paper concludes that the success of such public service advertisements is doubtful due to the format of the message as well as cultural and political reasons that are linked to the region.|
Understanding Online Radicalisation Using Data Science
|What characterises social media radicals? And why some people become attracted to radicalisation? To explore answers to these questions, a number of tweets posted by a group of suspected radicals tweeting in Arabic were analysed using social network analysis and machine learning. The study revealed that these suspected radicals' networks showed significant interaction with others; but this interactivity is only significant quantitatively as the interaction is not reciprocated. With regards to why these suspected radicals became attracted to radicalisation, Topic Modelling revealed these suspected radicals' tweets underpinned a perceived injustice that they believed the Secret Police and the Government inflicted upon them. Overall, the study has shown that data science tools have the potential to inform our understanding of online radicalisation. It is hoped this exploratory study will be the basis for a future study in which the research questions will be answered using a larger sample.|
Understanding The Expression Of Grievances In The Arabic Twitter-sphere Using Machine Learning
|2019||Al-Saggaf, Y. and Davies, A.||Article|
|The purpose of this paper is to discuss the design, application and findings of a case study in which the application of a machine learning algorithm is utilised to identify the grievances in Twitter in an Arabian context. To understand the characteristics of the Twitter users who expressed the identified grievances, data mining techniques and social network analysis were utilised. The study extracted a total of 23,363 tweets and these were stored as a data set. The machine learning algorithm applied to this data set was followed by utilising a data mining process to explore the characteristics of the Twitter feed users. The network of the users was mapped and the individual level of interactivity and network density were calculated. Findings The machine learning algorithm revealed 12 themes all of which were underpinned by the coalition of Arab countries blockade of Qatar. The data mining analysis revealed that the tweets could be clustered in three clusters, the main cluster included users with a large number of followers and friends but who did not mention other users in their tweets. The social network analysis revealed that whilst a large proportion of users engaged in direct messages with others, the network ties between them were not registered as strong. Borum (2011) notes that invoking grievances is the first step in the radicalisation process. It is hoped that by understanding these grievances, the study will shed light on what radical groups could invoke to win the sympathy of aggrieved people. In combination, the machine learning algorithm offered insights into the grievances expressed within the tweets in an Arabian context. The data mining and the social network analyses revealed the characteristics of the Twitter users highlighting identifying and managing early intervention of radicalisation.|
Youth and Violent Extremism on Social Media: Mapping the Research
|2017||Alava, S., Frau-Meigs, D., and Hassan, G.||Report|
|Does social media lead vulnerable individuals to resort to violence? Many people believe it
does. And they respond with online censorship, surveillance and counter-speech. But what
do we really know about the Internet as a cause, and what do we know about the impact
of these reactions? All over the world, governments and Internet companies are making
decisions on the basis of assumptions about the causes and remedies to violent attacks. The
challenge is to have analysis and responses firmly grounded. The need is for a policy that is
constructed on the basis of facts and evidence, and not founded on hunches – or driven by
panic and fearmongering.
It is in this context that UNESCO has commissioned the study titled Youth and Violent
Extremism on Social Media – Mapping the Research. This work provides a global mapping
of research (mainly during 2012-16) about the assumed roles played by social media in
violent radicalization processes, especially when they affect youth and women. The research
responds to the belief that the Internet at large is an active vector for violent radicalization
that facilitates the proliferation of violent extremist ideologies. Indeed, much research
shows that protagonists are indeed heavily spread throughout the Internet. There is a
growing body of knowledge about how terrorists use cyberspace. Less clear, however, is
the impact of this use, and even more opaque is the extent to which counter measures are
helping to promote peaceful alternatives. While Internet may play a facilitating role, it is not
established that there is a causative link between it and radicalization towards extremism,
violent radicalization, or the commission of actual acts of extremist violence.
The Deceit of internet hate speech: A Study of the narrative and visual methods used by hate groups on the Internet
|2004||Albano, G.M.||MA Thesis|
|Intentional misinformation is a problem that has been documented in a variety of shapes and forms for thousands of years and continues to plague the American landscape. The advent and increasing usage of the Internet have created an additional venue through which intentional misinformation is disseminated, and many groups are taking full advantage of this new communication medium. Because the Internet allows anyone with web publishing skills to disseminate misinformation, it is often difficult for users to judge the credibility of the information. Hate groups understand this phenomenon and are taking full advantage of the Internet by publishing hate sites that promote their extremist ideologies by using language and symbolism that makes the true message difficult to decipher. This study will investigate the methods employed by hate groups to disseminate misinformation to the public.|
Rechtsterrorismus im digitalen Zeitalter
|2020||Albrecht, S. and Fielitz, M.||Report|
|Der Rechtsterrorismus ist im digitalen Zeitalter angekommen. Von Christchurch bis El Paso haben sich neue Ausdrucksformen rechter Gewalt etabliert, deren Täter mehr in digitalen Subkulturen als in rechtsextremen Organisationen zu verorten sind. Die radikalisierenden Tendenzen obskurer Online-Communitys geraten somit stärker in den Fokus der Forschung und fordern das Verständnis von rechtem Terror heraus. Wie verändert sich der Rechtsterrorismus also im digitalen Zeitalter? Mit diesem Beitrag möchten wir diese Frage mit dem Verweis auf die Beziehung von digitalen Hasskulturen und rechtsterroristischer Gewalt beleuchten. Wir argumentieren, dass die Analyse der Gewalttaten nicht ohne das Verständnis digitaler Hasskulturen auskommt, die Menschenfeindlichkeit über ironische Kommunikationsformate normalisiert. Aus ihnen heraus bildet sich eine rechtsterroristische Subkultur, die die ambivalenten Erzeugnisse digitaler Kulturen aufgreift und mit gewaltverherrlichenden Inhalten des Neonazismus verbindet, um eines zu erreichen: Menschen zur Gewalt anzuspornen.|
Cruel Intentions: Female Jihadists in America
|The notion of women in terrorism pushed its way to the forefront of the American mindset on December 2, 2015, when Tashfeen Malik and her husband, Syed Farook, opened fire at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. After the couple killed 14 and injured 22, the growing threat posed by female jihadists in America became immediately apparent to policymakers, law enforcement officials, and the public. Some reports, citing law enforcement officials, claim that Malik pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Facebook the day of the attack.2 IS later praised the couple’s actions in Dabiq, its official English-language magazine, affiliating themselves with the duo.3 Despite these assertions, the FBI’s most recent report has not yet determined a direct link to IS.4 Details about the couple’s path to violence remain buried in an ongoing investigation that may take years to reach the public. In spite of this obstacle, Malik’s case offers exceptional insight into the complex, morphing ventures of jihadist women in America. It is difficult to discern the exact rate at which women participate in jihadist movements in the United States, but the surge in relevant legal cases suggests this figure is on the rise. In the decade following 9/11, only a handful of prominent cases, like that of Aafia Siddiqui5 and Colleen LaRose,6 have shown the threat female jihadists could pose to national security. In recent years, instances of terrorism-related activity perpetrated by women have increased in number. Since 2011, at least 25 known cases of jihadi women with connections to the U.S. have emerged, shedding light on the myriad roles adopted by female jihadists. While few follow in Tashfeen Malik’s footsteps and pursue violent plots, many disseminate propaganda or donate resources to show their support. In some instances, women travel abroad to make direct contributions to a particular group. This report uses a wealth of primary and secondary data to examine the efforts of 25 American jihadi women since 2011.7 The cases offer a tremendous diversity of demographic data, suggesting that an overarching profile of the female jihadist is indiscernible. Moreover, within the dataset, women align themselves with a range of organizations including, but not limited to, IS, al-Shabaab, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda.|
Digital Decay? Tracing Change Over Time Among English-Language Islamic State Sympathizers on Twitter
|Until 2016, Twitter was the online platform of choice for
English-language Islamic State (IS) sympathizers. As a
result of Twitter’s counter-extremism policies - including
content removal - there has been a decline in activity
by IS supporters. This outcome may suggest the company’s
efforts have been effective, but a deeper analysis
reveals a complex, nonlinear portrait of decay. Such observations
show that the fight against IS in the digital
sphere is far from over. In order to examine this change
over time, this report collects and reviews 845,646
tweets produced by 1,782 English-language pro-IS accounts
from February 15, 2016 to May 1, 2017.
A Plan for Preventing and Countering Terrorist and Violent Extremist Exploitation of Information and Communications Technology in America
|Policymakers in the United States know that terrorists and violent extremists exploit information and communications technologies (ICTs), but the government still struggles to prevent and counter these threats. Although the U.S. does not face these challenges alone, the strategies and policies emphasized by some of its greatest allies are not viable or suitable frameworks for domestic policymakers. Since these threats persist, however, the U.S. government must develop a cohesive strategy to prevent and counter-terrorist and violent extremist exploitation of ICTs. The approach should rest on the pillars of pragmatism, proportionality, and respect for the rule of law, and aim to disrupt terrorist and violent extremist networks in the digital sphere. To pursue this objective, the following brief calls for political leaders to create an interagency working group to formalize leadership and conduct a comprehensive assessment of terrorist and violent extremist abuse of ICTs. The evaluation must also weigh the costs and benefits associated with responses to these threats. Then, government officials should work to enhance the capability and coordination of government-led efforts, pursue partnerships with non-governmental entities, and facilitate productive engagements with the technology industry. In short, this approach would allow the government to use legislation, redress, and strategic outreach to empower more players to responsibly prevent and counter terrorist and violent extremist exploitation of ICTs.|
Measuring the Impact of ISIS Social Media Strategy
|2018||Alfifi, M., Kaghazgaran P., Caverlee, J., Morstatter F.||Report|
|Terrorist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have exploited social media such as Twitter to spread their propaganda and to recruit new members. In this work we study the extent to which ISIS is able to spread their message beyond their immediate supporters. Are they operating in their own sphere with limited interaction with the overall community? Or are they well rooted among normal users? We find that three-quarters of the interactions ISIS received on Twitter in 2015 actually came from eventually suspended accounts raising questions about the potential number of ISIS-related accounts and how organic ISIS audience is. Towards tackling these questions, we have created a unique dataset of 17 million ISIS-related tweets posted in 2015. This dataset is available for research purposes upon request.|
A Large-Scale Study Of ISIS Social Media Strategy: Community Size, Collective Influence, And Behavioral Impact
|2019||Alfifi, M., Kaghazgaran, P. and Caverlee, J.||Article|
|The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has received a tremendous amount of media coverage in the past few years for their successful use of social media to spread their message and to recruit new members. In this work, we leverage access to the full Twitter Firehose to perform a large-scale observational study of one year of ISIS social activity. We quantify the size of ISIS presence on Twitter, the potential amount of support it received, and its collective influence over time. We find that ISIS was able to gain a relatively limited portion from the total influence mass on Twitter and that this influence diminished over time. In addition, ISIS showed a tendency towards attracting interactions from
other similar pro-ISIS accounts, while inviting only a limited anti-ISIS sentiment. We find that 75% of the interactions ISIS received on Twitter in 2015 actually came from eventually suspended accounts and that only about 8% of the interactions they received were anti-ISIS. In addition, we have created a unique dataset of 17 million ISIS-related tweets posted in 2015 which we make available for research purposes upon request.
Techniques to detect terrorists/extremists on the dark web: a review
|2022||Alghamdi, H. and Selamat, A.||Article|
With the proliferation of terrorist/extremist websites on the World Wide Web, it has become progressively more crucial to detect and analyze the content on these websites. Accordingly, the volume of previous research focused on identifying the techniques and activities of terrorist/extremist groups, as revealed by their sites on the so-called dark web, has also grown.
This study presents a review of the techniques used to detect and process the content of terrorist/extremist sites on the dark web. Forty of the most relevant data sources were examined, and various techniques were identified among them.
Based on this review, it was found that methods of feature selection and feature extraction can be used as topic modeling with content analysis and text clustering.
At the end of the review, present the current state-of-the- art and certain open issues associated with Arabic dark Web content analysis.
Cheering for Osama: How Jihadists Use Internet Discussion Forums
|2010||Ali Musawi, M.||Report|
|The key aims of this report are: To show how Jihadist movements use web forums to consolidate their existing followers and to recruit new ones; to illustrate how Jihadists, and their online supporters, use theology and ideology to justify their violent actions; and to suggest how western governments can better challenge the worldview and ideology propagated on these forums|
Zoom-ing in on White Supremacy: Zoom-Bombing Anti-Racism Efforts
|I am interested in contributing further knowledge regarding the alt-right, white supremacy, and the Internet by exploring the sinister conducting of Zoom-bombing anti-racist events. Here, I will investigate how white supremacy through the Internet can lead to violence, abuse, and fear that “transcends the virtual world to damage real, live humans beings” via Zoom-bombing, an act that is situated in a larger co-option of the Internet by the alt-right and white supremacists, but has been under theorised as a hate crime.|
Trans-mediatized terrorism: The Sydney Lindt Café siege
|2018||Ali, 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.|
Psychology and morality of political extremists: evidence from Twitter language analysis of alt-right and Antifa
|2019||Alizadeh, M., Weber, I., Cioffi-Revilla, C., Fortunato, S. and Macy, M.||Article|
|The recent rise of the political extremism in Western countries has spurred renewed interest in the psychological and moral appeal of political extremism. Empirical support for the psychological explanation using surveys has been limited by lack of access to extremist groups, while field studies have missed psychological measures and failed to compare extremists with contrast groups. We revisit the debate over the psychological and moral appeal of extremism in the U.S. context by analyzing Twitter data of 10,000 political extremists and comparing their text-based psychological constructs with those of 5000 liberal and 5000 conservative users. The results reveal that extremists show a lower positive emotion and a higher negative emotion than partisan users, but their differences in certainty is not significant. In addition, while left-wing extremists express more language indicative of anxiety than liberals, right-wing extremists express lower anxiety than conservatives. Moreover, our results mostly lend support to Moral Foundations Theory for partisan users and extend it to the political extremists. With the exception of ingroup loyalty, we found evidences supporting the Moral Foundations Theory among left- and right-wing extremists. However, we found no evidence for elevated moral foundations among political extremists.|
Human Rights Assessment: Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism
|2021||Allison-Hope, D., Andersen, L. and Morgan, S.||Report|
|The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) commissioned BSR to conduct a human rights assessment of its strategy, governance, and activities. The purpose of this assessment is to identify actual and potential human rights impacts (including both risks and opportunities) arising from GIFCT’s work and make recommendations for how GIFCT and its participants can address these impacts. BSR undertook this human rights review from December 2020 to May 2021. This assessment combines human rights assessment methodology based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) with consideration of the human rights principles, standards, and methodologies upon which the UNGPs were built. This review was funded by GIFCT, though BSR retained editorial control over its contents.|
From Directorate of Intelligence to Directorate of Everything: The Islamic State’s Emergent Amni-Media Nexus
|2019||Almohammad, A. and Winter, C.||Article|
|This article, which is based on original interview data gathered from eastern Syria between January and October 2018, examines the emergent dominance of the Islamic State’s Directorate of General Security (DGS). We track how this institution, which is currently operating through a network of diwan-specific security offices grouped under the Unified Security Center (USC), has come to oversee and manage an increasingly wide array of the group’s insurgent activities—including intelligence and military operations and religious and managerial affairs. Focusing in particular on its role in the context of media production—which comprises anything from facilitation and security to monitoring, distribution and evaluation—we illustrate the critical importance of this most elusive directorate, positing that, in its current form, it could stand to facilitate the survival of the Islamic State for months—if not years—to come.|
Decoding Hate: Using Experimental Text Analysis to Classify Terrorist Content
|2020||Alrhmoun, A., Maher, S. and Winter, C.||Report|
|This paper uses automated text analysis – the process by which unstructured text is extracted, organised and processed into a meaningful format – to develop tools capable of analysing
Islamic State (IS) propaganda at scale. Although we have used a static archive of IS material, the underlying principle is that these techniques can be deployed against content produced by any number of violent extremist movements in real‑time. This study therefore aims to complement work that looks at technology‑driven strategies employed by social media, video‑hosting and file‑sharing platforms to tackle violent extremist content disseminators.