Library

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 onlinelibrary@voxpol.eu 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.

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TitleYearAuthorTypeLinks
Terror on Twitter: A Comparative Analysis of Gender and the Involvement in Pro-Jihadist Communities on Twitter
2016 Witmer, E.W. MA Thesis
Social media has become the milieu of choice to radicalize young impressionable minds by terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State. While a plethora of research exists on the recruitment and propaganda efforts by terrorist organizations there is limited number of quantitative studies that observe the relationship of gender and the involvement in online radical milieus. This current research will build upon prior studies through the comparative analysis of 750 unique Twitter accounts supporting the IS and the affiliates of al-Qaeda that were non-randomly sampled between January and September of 2015. The research aimed to address the questions of: 1) whether women that are involved in pro-jihadist communities on Twitter post substantively different amounts of content than men, 2) whether women that are involved in pro-jihadist communities on Twitter post substantively different content than their male counterparts and, 3) whether the gender disparity in level and type of involvement on Twitter differ amongst the supporters of different jihadist organizations. This study found that, while pro-jihadist communities on Twitter continue to be dominated by male participation, female supporters of the IS are more active and post more violent content than women that support any other organization. The intragroup differences found amongst the female supporters suggests that group ideology, recruitment and
propaganda strategies play a role in the level of involvement of women in radical milieus.
Jihad in the Global Village: Al-Qaeda's Digital Radicalization and Recruitment Campaign
2014 Cannata, K. MA Thesis
Following America’s “War on Terror,” al-Qaeda and its affiliates became highly decentralized in terms of organizational and media operations. Though mass media outlets continue to play a significant role in drawing attention to al-Qaeda’s transnational campaign, Salafi Jihadists have recently begun to rely on new media for purposes of legitimization and promotion. The Internet serves as a suitable platform for these groups’ media objectives since it is inherently anonymous and absent of censorship. Most importantly, the Internet facilitates al-Qaeda in reaching a global audience, which is made evident by the growing amount of Salafi Jihadist media that is translated or created for English speakers. The latter change may seem paradoxical to the groups’ anti-Western sentiment, but it underscores an important shift in al-Qaeda’s recruitment strategies. The proliferation of English content promoting the Salafi Jihadist cause may imply that al- Qaeda is shifting its attention towards the Muslim diaspora in the West with the intent to recruit, radicalize, and promote acts of terror.
This study analyzed a variety of online publications that were disseminated by al- Qaeda and similar Salafi Jihadist groups. The sample included speech and video transcripts, digital magazines, and articles that were analyzed for the intent to radicalize readers through the employment of Albert Bandura’s eight mechanisms of moral disengagement. The analysis provided substantial support for the latter claim, indicating that many of the digital publications disseminated by Salafi Jihadist groups are intended to both radicalize and recruit readers through the promotion of moral disengagement.
The Path to Persuasion: An Investigation into how Al-Shabab Constructs their Brand in their Digital Magazine Gaidi Mtaani.
2017 Bulbeck, E. MA Thesis
Branding strategies are becoming increasingly important for terrorist organisations who need
to take a more purposeful approach at imbuing aspirational associations to their organisations
in order secure recruits and funds in an increasingly competitive environment. The creation
and implication of these individual brands are further amplified through the sophisticated
harnessing of ICT and digital media, where the harnessing of novel tactics and digital trends
feed into the increasing use of branding. It is a strategy being employed by numerous terrorist
groups, and a burgeoning research field is rapidly evolving to represent this development.
This study seeks to explore how al-Shabab constructs their brand in their digital magazine
Gaidi Mtaani, using Aristotle's rhetorical triad of ethos, pathos and logos. This study has the
hopes of contributing to comparison studies between Dabiq and Inspire and wider terrorist
branding, terrorism, ICT and communication studies. Understanding the differences between
how some of the most notorious terrorist organizations distinguish themselves will help
counter the rhetoric and brand associations projected through their publications. In order to
answer this research question, this study will consist of a two-part theoretical framework
situated in the concept of branding and rhetoric theory. Rhetoric theory will help this study
understand how al-Shabab communicate and constructs their brand. It will allow for the
analysis of any persuasive communications that express al-Shabab’s brand associations and
help analyse al-Shabab's divisive use of language in order to ultimately promote their brand
and ideas. The empirical data will be analysed through the use of qualitative content analysis.
Imagined Communities and the Radicalization of Second Generation Muslim Women in the United Kingdom
2016 Comeau, K. A. MA Thesis
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) concerns itself with the issue of its citizens becoming radicalized and joining extremist groups. Daesh is one such group that is able to attract people from varying backgrounds to commit violent acts of terror. Moreover, Daesh encourages those in the West to migrate to their controlled territory to participate in the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq. The group relies on women to participate in this migration so that they can marry jihadis and raise the next generation of supporters. This paper examines how Daesh radicalizes these women, specifically second-generation Muslim women in the UK. Daesh uses social media to radicalize recruits and this holds true in their strategy for incorporating women into their self-declared caliphate. Once women have migrated to Daesh-controlled territory, they themselves act as radicalization agents via social media. This paper uses Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities as a way of formulating how Daesh constructs its own community through pseudo-nationalism that is able to radicalize young people in the West who are part of a diasporic group and do not have particularly strong ties to their ancestral culture and religion. To facilitate the radicalization of secondgeneration Muslim women in the UK, Daesh uses social media to establish a particular image of the caliphate through this pseudo-nationalism. This paper uses a case study of Amira Abase, Shamima Begum, and Kadiza Sultana, or the ‘Bethnal Green Girls’, to explore the radicalization of SGMW via social media.
The Digital Battlefield: A Network Analysis of the Online Activities of the Modern Militia Movement
2018 DeLeeuw, 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.
Feature extraction and selection for automatic hate speech detection on Twitter
2019 Routar de Sousa, J. G. MA Thesis
In recent decades, information technology went through an explosive evolution, revolutionizing the way communication takes place, on the one hand enabling the rapid, easy and almost costless digital interaction, but, on the other, easing the adoption of more aggressive communication styles. It is crucial to regulate and attenuate these behaviors, especially in the digital context, where these emerge at a fast and uncontrollable pace and often cause severe damage to the targets. Social networks and other entities tend to channel their efforts into minimizing hate speech, but the way each one handles the issue varies. Thus, in this thesis, we investigate the problem of hate speech detection in social networks, focusing directly on Twitter. Our first goal was to conduct a systematic literature review of the topic, targeting mostly theoretical and practical approaches. We exhaustively collected and critically summarized mostly recent literature addressing the topic, highlighting popular definitions of hate, common targets and different manifestations of such behaviors. Most perspectives tackle the problem by adopting machine learning approaches, focusing mostly on text mining and natural language processing techniques, on Twitter. Other authors present novel features addressing the users themselves. Although most recent approaches target Twitter, we noticed there were few tools available that would address this social network platform or tweets in particular, considering their informal and specific syntax. Thus, our second goal was to develop a tokenizer able to split tweets into their corresponding tokens, taking into account all their particularities. We performed two binary hate identification experiments, having achieved the best f-score in one of them using our tokenizer. We used our tool in the experiments conducted in the following chapters. As our third goal, we proposed to assess which text-based features and preprocessing techniques would produce the best results in hate speech detection. During our literature review, we collected the most common preprocessing, sentiment and vectorization features and extracted the ones we found suitable for Twitter in particular. We concluded that preprocessing the data is crucial to reduce its dimensionality, which is often a problem in small datasets. Additionally, the f-score also improved. Furthermore, analyzing the tweets’ semantics and extracting their character n-grams were the tested features that better improved the detection of hate, enhancing the f-score by 1.5% and the hate recall by almost 5% on unseen testing data. On the other hand, analyzing the tweets’ sentiment didn’t prove to be helpful. Our final goal derived from a lack of user-based features in the literature. Thus, we investigated a set of features based on profiling Twitter users, focusing on several aspects, such as the gender of authors and mentioned users, their tendency towards hateful behaviors and other characteristics related to their accounts (e.g. number of friends and followers). For each user, we also generated an ego network, and computed graph-related statistics (e.g. centrality, homophily), achieving significant improvements - f-score and hate recall increased by 5.7% and 7%, respectively.
Online Radicalization Of White Women To Organized White Supremacy
2019 Badalich, S. MA Thesis
Since its early mainstream adoption in the 1990s, the Internet has been leveraged by white supremacist groups to recruit and radicalize individuals. Twenty years later, social media platforms, like YouTube, reddit, and Twitter, continue to further this practice. The attention of researchers has been primarily centered on white supremacist men, and this focus on white men erases white women’s roles as active agents in the spread of white supremacy, skewing our understanding of white supremacy as a whole. This study used digital ethnography and interviews to examine the ways white women are radicalized to organized white supremacy through popular social media platforms YouTube, reddit, and Twitter. The study found white women were radicalized by engaging with posts and joining communities focusing on beauty, anti-feminism or “The Red Pill,” traditionalist gender values or #TradLives, and alt-right politics. White supremacist recruiters leveraged gendered topics and weaponized platform features – likes, sharing, comments, recommendation algorithms, etc. – to cultivate a sense of community. Through involvement with these communities, women were introduced to racialized perspectives on each topic, usually after a catalytic pop culture or newsworthy event, and slowly radicalized to organized white supremacy.
Responding To The Threat Of Cyberterrorism Through Information Assurance
1999 Ogren, J. G. and Langevin, J. R. MA Thesis
The number of people connecting to the Internet is growing at an astounding rate: estimates range from 100% to 400% annually over the next five years. This unprecedented level of interconnectedness has brought with it the specter of a new threat: cyberterrorism. This thesis examines the impact of this threat on the critical infrastructure of the United States specifically focusing on Department of Defense issues and the National Information Infrastructure (NII). A working definition for cyberterrorism is derived, and a description of the Nation's critical infrastructure is provided. A number of possible measures for countering the threat of cyberterrorism are discussed, with particular attention given to the concept of information assurance.

Information assurance demands that trustworthy systems be developed from untrustworthy components within power-generation systems, banking, transportation, emergency services, and telecommunications. The importance of vulnerability testing (or red-teaming) is emphasized as part of the concept of information assurance. To support this, a cyberterrorist 'red team' was formed to participate in the Marine Corps' Urban Warrior Experiment. The objective of t his thesis is to address the impact of these issues from a Systems Management perspective. This includes taking into account the changes that must occur in order to improve the U.S.' ability to detect, protect against, contain, neutralize, mitigate the effects of, and recover from attacks on the Nation's Critical Infrastructure.
Borderless World, Boundless Threat: Online Jihadists and Modern Terrorism
2010 Hayne, S.O. MA Thesis
This study profiles 20 recent cases of online jihadists who have made the transition to real-world terrorism along a number of characteristics: age, ethnicity, immigration status, education, religious upbringing, socio-economic class, openness about beliefs, suicidal tendencies, rhetoric focus, location, target, terrorist action, offline and online activity, and social isolation or the presence of an identity crisis. The analysis shows that today, it is much less important how al-Qaida or any other jihadist group expresses its ideology, because any individual may self-radicalize and interpret the jihadist social movement in their own way and carry out terrorist attacks based on this understanding. When the jihadist social movement becomes borderless, the threat presented by the terrorists it inspires is no longer limited by the artificial boundaries of the real world. Counterterrorism officials must recognize this and adopt a long-term strategy for combating this movement.
The Foreign Fighter Problem: Analyzing The Impact Of Social Media And The Internet
2015 Scaperotto, A. MA Thesis
The current foreign fighter problem has received significant global media attention. Why and how do individuals from relatively affluent Western countries travel to poor and war torn countries to fight in a foreign war? How do social media and the internet impact the process? Ultimately, fighting in a foreign war requires the will and ability to participate, which in turn requires that an individual overcome significant psychological and physical barriers. The process of overcoming these participation barriers and thus the process of becoming a foreign fighter, hinges on four key factors: transnational ideology, close-knit social groups, and transnational resource networks, and a foreign sponsor facilitates the process by integrating the other three factors. Prior to social media and the internet, this process worked through local networks with face-to-face interaction. With the spread of social media and the internet, these networks and interactions have become increasingly global and virtual, increasing audience numbers but also increasing state ability to intervene. Analyzing globalization’s impact, including what has changed and what has stayed the same, is important to understanding the foreign fighter phenomenon both now and in the future.
Trolling Media: Violent Extremist Groups Recruiting Through Socal Media
2015 Chang, M.D. MA Thesis
With the advent and subsequent growth of several new media technologies, violent extremist groups have incorporated social media into recruiting strategies. How are violent extremist groups using social media for recruiting? This thesis explores several new media technologies—websites, blogs, social media, mobile phones, and online gaming—to determine if violent extremist groups rely on social media for recruiting. By comparing the communication of al Qaeda and ISIS, this thesis concludes that violent extremist groups rely on social media, and they employ a wide range of new media technologies to attract and recruit new members. In some instances, virtual interaction still requires face-to-face communication to adequately recruit someone into a violent extremist group.
A Spatial Analysis Of Boko Haram And Al-Shabaab References In Social Media In Sub-Saharan Africa
2014 Rodriguez Jr., R.M. MA Thesis
This thesis describes the role that social media can play in showing how a terrorist organization can impact people’s conversation via Twitter. The two groups that this thesis focusses on are Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab. We present a new approach to how we can look into how terrorist organization can be analyzed and see what kind of impacts they may have over different cultures. The process used in researching and writing this thesis is we conducted literature search of the social media phenomenon and what social media can provide. We look to build on research by using the social media phenomenon to find what types of impacts terrorist organizations may have over cultures along with seeing how a terrorist event can have an impact over people on social media. This thesis hopes to expand on previous research on the academic uses for social media, as well as add to the expanding role that social media can be used for intelligence purposes.
Just A Click Away: Radicalization In The Net Generation
2015 Frank, B. MA Thesis
The use of the Internet as a vehicle of socialization has exploded in the 21st century and while this presents exciting possibilities, it also comes with troubling ones. Among those who have embraced this new medium are extremist groups, who use the Web as a space in which to communicate, exchange ideas, network and reach new followers. In regards to this last point, it provides them near unlimited opportunities to gain access to potential recruits and converts, raising interesting questions in terms of the dynamics of the radicalization process and how it manifests itself within the confines of this new arena. Through an analysis of postings made to the discussion board of Stormfront.org, this research paper examines whether or not the radicalization process follows the same transformative pattern in the virtual world as has been described in some of the leading academic theories that address this phenomenon in the physical one.
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.
The Online Battleground The Use Of Online Platforms By Extremist Groups And Haktivists To Form Networks And Collective Indentities
2018 Jasmeet, B. MA Thesis
This thesis examines the use of social and virtual media by white supremacists, Islamic extremists and the hacktivist groups that surveil and dispute them. Social media platforms are commonly to use share opinions, have conversations and create followings of like-minded people. Extremist groups have adapted to new technologies to control their communications, allowing them to shape the way in which their messages are seen and understood by a global audience. Hacktivists use similar tactics and sites to gain traction for their movements against those they oppose. The research questions at the center of this project explored the functionality of digital platforms that enable extremist groups and hackers to disseminate their ideologies en masse to a global audience, and how the use of metaphors of war aid in enticing individuals to engage. The platforms were chosen as they facilitated the tracing of communication and interactions between hackers and extremists with those who become participants on those sites. Data collection focused on textual and graphical uploads, tweets, and forum posts on these platforms, as well as the interfaces of the websites through which the groups choose to interact. The data was analyzed using actor-network theory and critical theories of race. The results of this research showed that platforms make possible rapid and widespread dissemination of the beliefs of the hate groups, as well as the circulation of instructions on how to gain traction for their movements. Becoming a part of the networks created by these platforms allows new actors to modify their behaviors to emulate those they are interacting with. Users on the sites shape their identities based on the content they read, as well as the relationships they form with others in their networks. By understanding the way in which the groups use social media platforms to become accessible by their intended audience, it is possible to determine how followers shift from engaging to carrying out orders.
21st Century Radicalization: The Role Of The Internet User And Nonuser In Terrorist Outcomes
2014 Woodring, D.W. MA Thesis
This study examines differences between users and nonusers of information communication technologies (ICTs) within the pre-incident planning processes for domestic terrorist movements operating within the United States. In addition, this study is the first quantitative exploration of the prevalence, types, and purposes of ICT use within terrorist movements, specifically environmental, far-right, and Islamic extremist movements. Using“officially designated” federal terrorism investigations from the American Terrorism Study (ATS), we analyzed extracted evidence of ICT usage among individuals (n =331) engaged in the pre-incident planning processes as members of terrorist movements between 1995-2011. While we find significant differences in terrorist ICT use across terrorist movements, our findings suggest that demographics are not a strong predictor of usage. We find the highest prevalence of usage among Islamic movements. However, evidence of online radicalization or recruitment was found predominantly among environmental movements. We conclude with a discussion of these findings and their implications for counterterrorism policy.
Are U.S. Based 'Jihadi' Inspired Terrorists Transitioning Away From Physical Training Camps To Online Training Camps?
2018 Clayton, A.N. MA Thesis
This thesis is an examination of the backgrounds of twenty-five individuals who conducted a ‘jihad’ inspired terrorist attack within the United States between the years of 2001 and 2016 to determine if terrorists use physical training camps or online training camps as the main method of training to prepare for their attacks. The debate about the existence of online training camps is beneficial to the field of terrorism study. However, the question of what constitutes an online training camp must first be answered before it can be determined if terrorists are using online training camps. This thesis proposes a comprehensive definition for the term ‘online training camp;’ in an attempt to provide an analytical basis for the examination of U.S. based terrorist training to further the academic discussion. Additionally, it is suggested from the empirical examination of U.S.-based terrorist training backgrounds that terrorists appear to be engaging in supplemental self-directed online learning in combination with physical training, rather than a complete abandonment of physical training.
Hard Copy Versus #Hashtag: Examining The Channels Of Terrorist Propaganda
2018 Copello,E. MA Thesis
In recent years, terrorism and radicalization have been a consistent issue that many countries have faced. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been the most recent in a long trail of organizations that have sought to strike terror against the western world. However, ISIS is distinguished from other groups, like Al-Qaeda, in that ISIS supports a complex propaganda machine. Although ISIS is not the first organization to use the social media platform, they are the first to use it with such diversity. The two main channels that ISIS uses to spread their propaganda messages are through social media sites such as Twitter and through online journals such as the Dabiq. Recent research has attempted to determine how recruitment messages are being received and which messages trigger recruitment. It is the goal of this paper to determine which messages are salient, and the psychological constructs that support them. By coding messages for appeals to identity, need for cognitive closure, time pressure, and appeals to ideology, the researchers expect that the two main channels of ISIS propaganda differ in their messages. We hypothesize that Twitter messages will be targeted towards novice ISIS sympathizers, whereas the Dabiq will be focused on already-radicalized individuals who have moved past the introduction of the radical ideology.
IS, A Global Caliphate, And Exceptionalism: An Ideological Criticism Of The Islamic State’s Rhetoric In Dabiq
2017 Cutter, D. MA Thesis
In July of 2014, a spokesperson for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) made a televised announcement that captured the attention of the world – the terrorist organization decided to tweak its name to simply the Islamic State (IS), to indicate its intention of moving beyond Iraq and the Levant and conquering the world. This shift in rhetoric, along with the phenomenon of Muslims and non-Muslims from Western nations leaving their homes, friends, and families behind to join IS, have prompted discussions and debates on what makes this terror group’s message so effective. In the days following IS’s name change, the first issue of its magazine Dabiq was published online through its Al-Hayat Media Center. With versions in English, Arabic, German, French, and more, the magazine gained notoriety for its highproduction value. This study seeks to understand the ideology manifest in IS rhetoric in Dabiq, which makes it so captivating to both sympathizers and agitators alike. This study is an ideological criticism of six of the fifteen issues of Dabiq published; the six issues chosen were all released in relation to catalytic events perpetrated or claimed by the terror group. For instance, the November 2015 Paris attacks or the shooting in San Bernardino, CA, by a ‘radicalized’ couple who pledged allegiance to IS. This study unearthed major themes of political claims, religious appeals, and terrorist actions which IS uses to incite recruitment. This analysis identifies IS’s ideology as one of Political Islamist Terrorism, and concludes with implications concerning exceptionalism and the persuasive appeal of Dabiq.
Online Islamic Organizations And Measuring Web Effectiveness
2004 Minji, D. MA Thesis
Experts estimate that websites maintained by various Islamic extremists have increased to hundreds in recent years. Innovative operational capabilities enabled by Internet technology certainly pose serious challenges to U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. However, greater attention must be given to Islamic organizations that wage information campaigns, perpetuating resentment and discredit against the United States and her allies. While these sites may not openly call for violence, the sharing of common causes and goals with extremist organizations is worrisome. The repudiation of Western systems and global Islamization under the Shariah systems is often a transparent theme. The purpose of this thesis is to evaluate the effectiveness of these websites at attracting and engaging audiences to promote their cause by applying a web performance methodology commonly accepted in the commercial industry.