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

A comparative analysis of right-wing radical and Islamist communities’ strategies for survival in social networks (evidence from the Russian social network VKontakte)
2019 Myagkov, M., Shchekotin, E.V., Chudinov, S.I. and Goiko, V.L. Article
This article presents a comparative analysis of online communities of right-wing radicals and Islamists, who are considered to be numerous and dangerous extremist groups in Russian society. The online communities were selected based on the content posted on the largest Russian social networking site VKontakte. The goal of this article is to determine the strategy and tactics employed by extremist online communities for survival on social networking sites. The authors discovered that both right-wing radical and Islamist groups employ similar behavioural techniques, with the mimicry of ideologically neutral content as the most common. In addition, every extremist community also applies some unique methods. For example, if there is a risk of being blocked, right-wing radicals tend to shift their activity and communication to the other internet-based platforms that are not under state control; however, Islamists prefer to suddenly change the content of their communities (i.e. by using secondary mimicry).
A Comparative Approach To Social Media Extreme Speech: Online Hate Speech As Media Commentary
2019 Pohjonen, M. Article
By exploring lessons learned from Ethiopia and Finland, this article challenges two assumptions about online hate speech research. First, it challenges the assumption that the best way to understand controversial concepts such as online hate speech is to determine how closely they represent or mirror some underlying set of facts or state of affairs online or in social media. Second, it challenges the assumption that academic research should be seen as separate from the many controversies that surround online hate speech debates globally. In its place, the article proposes the theory of “commentary” as a comparative research framework aimed at explaining how the messy and complex world of online and social media practices is articulated as hate speech over other ways of imagining this growing problem in global digital media environments.
A comparison of ISIS foreign fighters and supporters social media posts: an exploratory mixed-method content analysis
2019 Dillon, L., Neo, L. S. and Freilich, J. D. Article
This paper compares the social media posts of ISIS foreign fighters to those of ISIS supporters. We examine a random sample of social media posts made by violent foreign fighters (n = 14; 2000 posts) and non-violent supporters (n = 18; 2000 posts) of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) (overall n = 4,000 posts), from 2009 to 2015. We used a mixed-method study design. Our qualitative content analyses of the 4,000 posts identified five themes: Threats to in-group, societal grievances, pursuit for significance, religion, and commitment issues. Our quantitative comparisons found that the dominant themes in the foreign fighters’ online content were threats to in-group, societal grievances, and pursuit for significance, while religion and commitment issues were dominant themes in the supporters’ online content. We also identified thematic variations reflecting individual attitudes that emerged during the 2011–2015 period, when major geopolitical developments occurred in Syria and Iraq. Finally, our quantitative sentiment-based analysis found that the supporters (10 out of 18; 56%) posted more radical content than the foreign fighters (5 out of 14; 36%) on social media.
A Content Analysis of Persuasion Techniques Used on White Supremacist Websites
2005 Weatherby, G.A. and Scoggins, B. Journal
The Internet has made it possible for people to access just about any information they could possibly want. Conversely, it has given organizations a vehicle through which they can get their message out to a large audience. Hate groups have found the Internet particularly appealing, because they are able to get their uncensored message out to an unlimited number of people (ADL 2005). This is an issue that is not likely to go away.
A Critical Analysis of the Jihadi Discourse through Online Magazines with Special Reference to ‘Wyeth’ Magazine
2019 Neelamalar, M. and Mangala Vadivu, V. Article
‘Jihadism’ (also known as the jihadi movement) is a popular term that signifies the Islamic terror movement which thrives on extremist ideologies and violence. In addition to the conventional practices, the online medium is currently being employed for disseminating these extremist ideologies across the globe. Radicalisation and recruitment of geographically dispersed individuals as ‘jihadists’ for supporting Islamic terror activities tend to be the primary intent for using the digital platforms as the medium of communication in this context. One such initiative by the Lashkar-e-Taiba of Jammu and Kashmir was the release of the ‘Wyeth: The Resistance in Flow’, an e-magazine which was launched on April 2018. The first issue which was posted with an open access option was primarily designed to influence the Indian youth population through the radical interpretations of Islam. Hence, it is crucial to analyse and understand the jihadi discourse of the Wyeth magazine in order to curb and counter-attack such initiatives at its initial phase. For this purpose, the present study aims to examine the content of the Wyeth magazine and analyse the basic traits of the jihadi propaganda and its potential to aid in the self-radicalisation process.
A Critical Analysis of the Role of the Internet in the Preparation and Planning of Acts of Terrorism
2015 Holbrook, D. Journal
ABSTRACT- The purpose of this paper is to offer a critical assessment of the way in which the internet and online material features as part of the process individuals embark on to plan acts of terrorism. The paper begins by evaluating concepts used to describe the role of the internet in the context of terrorism and political violence before analysing a single case study in detail in order to explore particular nuances that emerge which shed light on the relationship between perpetrator on the one hand and online content and behaviour on the other. The case study, in turn, is developed into a conceptual appraisal of terrorist use of the internet. The paper concludes by exploring the important distinction between the “theoretical” application of online learning as set out in terrorist propaganda and the hurdles that individuals face in practice.
A Critical Reflection On the Construction of the Cyberterrorist Threat in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
2018 Mott, G. PhD Thesis
Cyberterrorism has not occurred. Furthermore, the definitional parameters of cyberterrorism have not been conclusively defined by either policymakers or academia. However, in 2010 the threat posed by the terrorist application of cyber weaponry to target British critical national infrastructure became a ‘Tier One’ threat to the UK. This thesis is the first comprehensive mapping and analysis of the official British construction of the threat of cyberterrorism between 12th May 2010 and 24th June 2016. By using interpretive discourse analysis, this thesis identifies ‘strands’ from a comprehensive corpus of policy documents, statements and speeches from Ministers, MPs and Peers. This thesis examines how the threat of cyberterrorism was constructed in the UK, and what this securitisation has made possible. In addition, this thesis makes novel contributions to the Copenhagen School’s ‘securitisation theory’ framework. Accordingly: this thesis outlines the framework for a ‘tiered’, rather than monolithic audience; refines the ‘temporal’ and ‘spatial’ conditioning of a securitisation with reference to the unique characteristics of cyberterrorism; and lastly, details the way in which popular fiction can be ascribed agency in securitising moves to ‘fill in’ a lack of case studies of threat with gripping vicarious fictional narratives. It is identified that the 2010 British Coalition Government’s classification of cyberterrorism as a ‘Tier One’ threat created a central strand upon which a discursive securitisation was established. Despite the absence of a ‘cyberterrorist’ incident across the period under scrutiny, the securitisation did not recede. The threat posed by cyberterrorism was articulated partially within a ‘New Terrorism’ frame, and it was deemed by Ministers, MPs and Lords to be a threat that was likely to escalate in both severity and possibility over time. A notable finding is the positioning of the securitisation against a particular ‘cyberterrorist’ identity epitomised by social actors using cyberspace, rather than the tangible environments of cyberspace.
A Day in the 'Swamp': Understanding Discourse In The Online Counter-Jihad Nebula
2015 Lee, B. Journal
The counter-jihad scene can be understood variously as a collection of parties, pundits, and movements all linked by a common belief that the West is being subjected to takeover by Muslims. In this article, I seek to improve academic understanding of this collection of movements, parties, and ideas by analyzing the discourse presented by a collection of online advocates whom I describe as the counter-jihad nebula. The findings suggest a need to at least partially re-evaluate the role of the nebula within the wider counter-jihad scene as well as the relationship between the wider counter-jihad scene and mainstream political discourse as expressed through various media outlets.
A Dialectical Approach To Online Propaganda: Australia's United Patriots Front Right Wing Politics And Islamic State
2018 Richards, I. Article
This article examines how the United Patriots Front (UPF), an Australian far-right organization, has communicated its ideology with reference to right-wing politics in Australia, Western Europe, and the United States, and through allusions to Islamic State. The investigation uses critical discourse and documentary analysis and a framework derived from the theory of Pierre Bourdieu to analyze textual and audiovisual postings on UPF Facebook pages, YouTube channels, and Twitter accounts. Relevant to the discussion are Bourdieu’s interdependent theories on “doxa” as a condition in which socially constructed phenomena appear self-evident, and “habitus” and “field,” which explain how structures and agents, through their reflexive behavior, become dialectically situated.
A Discourse In Conflict: Resolving The Definitional Uncertainty Of Cyber War
2017 Hughes, D. MA Thesis
Since emerging in academic literature in the 1990s, definitions of ‘cyber war’ and cyber warfare’ have been notably inconsistent. There has been no research that examines these inconsistencies and whether they can be resolved. Using the methodology of discourse analysis, this thesis addresses this research need. Analysis has identified that the study of cyber war and cyber warfare is inherently interdisciplinary. The most prominent academic disciplines contributing definitions are Strategic Studies, Security Studies, Information and Communications Technology, Law, and Military Studies. Despite the apparent definitional uncertainty, most researchers do not offer formal definitions of cyber war or cyber warfare. Moreover, there is little evidentiary basis in literature to distinguish between cyber war and cyber warfare. Proximate analysis of definitions of cyber war and cyber warfare suggests a high level of inconsistency between dozens of definitions. However, through deeper analysis of both the relationships between definitions and their underlying structure, this thesis demonstrates that (a) the relationships between definitions can be represented hierarchically, through a discourse hierarchy of definitions; and (b) all definitions share a common underlying structure, accessible through the application of a structural definition model. Crucially, analysis of definitions via these constructs allows a foundational definition of cyber war and cyber warfare to be identified. Concomitantly, use of the model identifies the areas of greatest interdefinitional inconsistency and the implications thereof and contributes to the construction of a taxonomy of definitions of cyber war and cyber warfare. Considered holistically, these research outputs allow for significant resolution of the inconsistency between definitions. Moreover, these outputs provide a basis for the emergence of dominant functional definitions that may aid in the development of policy, strategy, and doctrine.
A Genosonic Analysis of ISIL and US Counter-Extremism Video Messages
2017 Bean, H., and Nell Edgar, A. Journal
Analyses of extremist video messages typically focus on their discursive content. Using the case of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), this study instead draws upon the emerging subfield of genosonic analysis to understand the allure of extremist videos, as well as the ineffectiveness of US video messages designed to ‘counter violent extremism’ (CVE). Through a genosonic analysis of three high-profile ISIL videos and five popular US State Department CVE videos, the study advances two concepts – sonorous communality and sonic unmaking – to help explain ISIL’s appeal. The lack of equivalent dimensions in US CVE videos renders them sonically sterile in comparison to those of ISIL. The implications of this analysis for scholarship and practice conducted at the intersection of media, war and conflict are discussed.
A Genosonic Analysis of ISIL and US Counter-Extremism Video Messages
2017 Bean, H., and Edgar, A.N. Journal
Analyses of extremist video messages typically focus on their discursive content. Using the case of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), this study instead draws upon the emerging subfield of genosonic analysis to understand the allure of extremist videos, as well as the ineffectiveness of US video messages designed to ‘counter violent extremism’ (CVE). Through a genosonic analysis of three high-profile ISIL videos and five popular US State Department CVE videos, the study advances two concepts – sonorous communality and sonic unmaking – to help explain ISIL’s appeal. The lack of equivalent dimensions in US CVE videos renders them sonically sterile in comparison to those of ISIL. The implications of this analysis for scholarship and practice conducted at the intersection of media, war and conflict are discussed.
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.
A Longitudinal Measurement Study of 4chan’s Politically Incorrect Forum and its Effect on the Web
2016 Hine, G.E., Onaolapo, J., De Cristofaro, E., Kourtellis, N., Leontadis, I., Samaras, R., Stringhini, G. and Blackburn, J. Article
Although it has been a part of the dark underbelly of the Internet since its inception, recent events have brought the discussion board site 4chan to the forefront of the world’s collective mind. In particular, /pol/, 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” board has become a central figure in the outlandish 2016 Presidential election. Even though 4chan has long been viewed as the “final boss of the Internet,” it remains relatively unstudied in the academic literature. In this paper we analyze /pol/ along several axes using a dataset of over 8M posts. We first perform a general characterization that reveals how active posters are, as well as how some unique features of 4chan affect the flow of discussion. We then analyze the content posted to /pol/ with a focus on determining topics of interest and types of media shared, as well as the usage of hate speech and differences in poster demographics. We additionally provide quantitative evidence of /pol/’s collective attacks on other social media platforms. We perform a quantitative case study of /pol/’s attempt to poison anti-trolling machine learning technology by altering the
language of hate on social media. Then, via analysis of comments from the 10s of thousands of YouTube videos linked on /pol/, we provide a mechanism for detecting attacks from /pol/ threads on 3rd party social media services.
A Look At Jihadists Suicide Fatwas: The Case Of Algeria
2010 Prucha N. Article
Responding to critical questions on the al-Hebah Forum in 2007, the leading chief ideologue of AQIM, Abu 'l-Hassan Rashid, provides a chilly look on the jihadists practical understanding and definition of deploying suicide-bombers and the potential of killing innocent Muslim bystanders during such operations. The 2007 document is based on comprising Arabic sources that have been over the years disseminated and amended by the means of the internet. The article intends to provide an assessment of alleged Islamic principles used for such attacks and draws on a comprising database of jihadist writings and videos. Rashid cites and builds his arguments on writings that can be in the meantime termed as common understanding and knowledge by most sympathizers on- and offline. By including AQIM videos the article intends to further analyze the practical incorporation of the language and notion of the jihadists as portrayed and disseminated by AQ’s video outlets.
A Multimodal Mixed Methods Approach for Examining Recontextualisation Patterns of Violent Extremist Images in Online Media
2018 Tan, S., O'Halloran, K.L., Wignell, P., Chai., K., Lange, R. Journal
This paper uses a multimodal mixed methods approach for exploring general recontextualisation patterns of violent extremist images in online media. Specifically, the paper reports on the preliminary findings of a preliminary study which investigates various patterns in the reuse of images which appear in ISIS’s official propaganda magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah by others across various public online media platforms (e.g. news websites, social media news aggregates, blogs). Using a mixed methods approach informed by multimodal discourse analysis, and combined with data mining and information visualisation, the study addresses questions such as which types of images produced and used by ISIS in its propaganda magazines recirculate most frequently in other online media over time, on which types of online media these images reappear, and in which contexts they are used and reused on these websites, that is that is, whether the tone of the message is corporate (formal) or personal (informal). Preliminary findings from the study suggest different recontextualisation patterns for certain types of ISIS-related images of over time. The study also found that the majority of violent extremist images used in the sample analysis appear to circulate most frequently on Western news and politics websites and news aggregate platforms, in predominantly formal contexts.
A New Approach to Counter Radicalization
2014 US Council on Foreign Relations Video
US Council on Foreign Relations panel discussion on approaches to countering radicalisation. Panel members include Peter Neumann of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, a VOX-Pol partner. Originally recorded on 18 May 2011 and uploaded by the Council on Foreign Relations on April 1, 2011
A Philosophical and Historical Analysis of “Generation Identity”: Fascism, Online Media, and the European New Right
2019 Richards, I. Article
This article analyzes ideological and organizational characteristics of the pan-European youth movement, “Generation Identity” (GI), through a philosophical and historical lens. With a synoptic perspective on existing and original research, it outlines an analysis of key GI literature as well as its ideological influences, activist behavior, and media strategies. This research reveals that, like other twentieth and twenty-first century examples of neo-fascism, the movement is syncretic and attempts to legitimize its political aims through reference to historical quasi- and proto-fascist cases, in combination with popular left and right-wing political ideals. A reflection on GI’s activist behavior, on the other hand, demonstrates that the movement is relatively unique in the field of current far-right politics; particularly in the extent to which it draws practical inspiration from the tactics and propagandizing strategies of contemporary left-wing movements. GI’s online presence, including its leaders’ promotion of gamification, also illustrates its distinctive appeal to young, relatively affluent, countercultural and digitally literate populations. Finally, while in many respects GI is characteristic of the “European New Right” (ENR), the analysis finds that its spokespersons’ various promotion of capitalism and commodification, including through their advocacy of international trade and sale of merchandise, diverges from the anti-capitalist philosophizing of contemporary ENR thinkers.
A Plan for Preventing and Countering Terrorist and Violent Extremist Exploitation of Information and Communications Technology in America
2019 Alexander, A. Report
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.
A Quantitative Approach To Understanding Online Antisemitism
2018 Finkelstein, J., Zannettou, S., Bradlyn, B. and Blackburn, J. Article
A new wave of growing antisemitism, driven by fringe Web communities, is an increasingly worrying presence in the socio-political realm. The ubiquitous and global nature of the Web has provided tools used by these groups to spread their ideology to the rest of the Internet. Although the study of antisemitism and hate is not new, the scale and rate of change of online data has impacted the efficacy of traditional approaches to measure and understand this worrying trend. In this paper, we present a large-scale, quantitative study of online antisemitism. We collect hundreds of million comments and images from alt-right Web communities like 4chan’s Politically Incorrect board (/pol/) and the Twitter clone, Gab. Using scientifically grounded methods, we quantify the escalation and spread of antisemitic memes and rhetoric across the Web. We find the frequency of antisemitic content greatly increases (in some cases more than doubling) after major political events such as the 2016 US Presidential Election and the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Furthermore, this antisemitism appears in tandem with sharp increases in white ethnic nationalist content on the same communities. We extract semantic embeddings from our corpus of posts and demonstrate how automated techniques can discover and categorize the use of antisemitic terminology. We additionally examine the prevalence and spread of the antisemitic “Happy Merchant” meme, and in particular how these fringe communities influence its propagation to more mainstream services like Twitter and Reddit. Taken together, our results provide a data-driven, quantitative framework for understanding online antisemitism. Our open and scientifically grounded methods serve as a framework to augment current qualitative efforts by anti-hate groups, providing new insights into the growth and spread of antisemitism online.