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.
Fighting Terror Online: The Convergence of Security, Technology, and the Law
|To see the author talk about the book, Fighting Terror Online, click on the link 'The Academic Channel,' under 'Related links' on this webpage.
The unprecedented events that have taken place in recent years have led legislators and governments throughout the world to reconsider and restructure their policies regarding security issues. Today, worldwide attention is being given to a new security threat, in the form of global terrorism. Legal systems are being called upon to provide a response to these threats, in all areas of life, including the online environment.
Among its many tools, global terror also uses advanced technological methods. This fact presents a difficult challenge to policymakers. Therefore, we have chosen to focus this book on the issue of formulating appropriate policy at the interface between security and technology, human rights and economic policy.
The fundamental issue – the tension between security needs and civil rights – is not new. A great deal of experience has been amassed in various countries in this regard, and the question that now arises is whether the existing system of principles and laws, developed on the basis of experience gathered in the "concrete" world, is applicable to the "digital" environment.
This book presents the position that the online environment is a significant and relevant theater of activity in the fight against terror, and will identify the threats, the security needs, and the issues that are unique to this environment. We examine whether the unique characteristics of this environment require new legal solutions, or whether existing solutions are sufficient. Three areas of online activity are identified that require reexamination: security, monitoring, and propaganda. For each of these, we will indicate the issues, examine existing legal arrangements, and offer guidelines for formulating legal policy. There is a demonstrated need to relate to the digital environment as a battlefront, map the new security threats, and thereby hope to provide focus to the pressing discussion on today's legislative and technological agenda.
The Call to Jihad: Charismatic Preachers and the Internet
|A range of psychological, social, and environmental factors render some individuals more susceptible to militant Islam than others. Research also suggests that there are certain “triggers,” which help to explain why it is that only some individuals exposed to the same societal structural influences turn to violence. This article seeks to contribute to future empirical research in this area by studying the significance of certain “charismatic” preachers in this process and examining the role the Internet plays in strengthening the charismatic bond. Difficulties in defining and measuring “charisma” may help in part to explain the paucity of research on this aspect of radicalization but since charismatic authority derives from the bond between preacher and follower, an examination of the activities, strategies, and techniques used to build relationships and win adherents to Salafi-jihadism may provide valuable insights for countering radicalization.|
New Media and Terrorism: Role of the Social Media to Countering Cyber Terrorism and Cyber Extremism for Effective Response
|2016||Deri Laksamana Putra, M.||Article|
|Discourse of terrorism and social media are often discussed the last few years, discussions related to the issue of terrorism is often associated with social media is considered to be one of the tools used to spread the ideology of terrorist networks even recruiting members. Terrorist networks utilizing social media to conduct ideological campaign covertly or overtly and massive. The definition of terrorism employed here is the selective use of fear, subjugation, and Intimidation to disrupt the normal operations of a society. All social system seek ethical and legal norms that satisfy the conditions for continued human survival without giving offence to the major ideological premises on which these respective societies have come to rest. Consequently, while different social systems react differently to terror in accordance with their vision of self interest, no surviving society can be indifferent to the problems raised by terrorism. Terrorist activities have been aiming for and take advantage of ideology and religion for the world community in favor of the claim that their struggle. Genealogy religious radicalism emerged for several reasons. As the pressure of the political regime in power and the failures of the secular ideology of the regime, so the presence of radicalism considered as an alternative ideological only in the fight against oppression and adversity caused by the secular regime so that a group of radicalism assumed that it had no other option but to commit acts of terrorism to counter secular regime. The polarization of political behavior and the fragmentation of political belief are well illustrated in the current rhetoric concerning. Attitudes toward the uses of terror and the functions of terrorist range from a gratuitous belief in terror as the only possible means to bring about social changes to a view of terror and terrorist. The range of views extends from terrorists as the only authentic heroes in notably unheroic age to their demotion as petty criminals who coat their venal act with an ideological gloss.|
The Affinity Between Online and Offline Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: Dynamics and Impacts
|2016||Awan, I. and Zempi, I.||Journal|
|Following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Tunisia in 2015, and in Woolwich, south-east London where British Army soldier Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in 2013, there has seen a significant increase in anti-Muslim attacks. These incidents have occurred offline where mosques have been vandalized, Muslim women have had their hijab (headscarf) or niqab (face veil) pulled off, Muslim men have been attacked, and racist graffiti has been scrawled against Muslim properties. Concurrently, there has been a spike in anti-Muslim hostility online, where Muslims have been targeted by campaigns of cyber bullying, cyber harassment, cyber incitement, and threats of offline violence. Against this background, we examine the nature and impacts of online and offline anti-Muslim hate crime. We draw on our different experiences of conducting research on anti-Muslim hate crime, using two independent research projects in order to consider the affinity between online and offline anti-Muslim hate crime. We argue that, in reality, online/offline boundaries may be more blurred than the terms imply. For victims, it is often difficult to isolate the online threats from the intimidation, violence, and abuse that they suffer offline. Moreover, victims often live in fear because of the possibility of online threats materializing in the “real world.” We conclude that there is a continuity of anti-Muslim hostility in both the virtual and the physical world, especially in the globalized world.|
Assisting practitioners to understand countering violent extremism
|2015||Harris-Hogan, S. and Barrelle, K.||Journal|
|Over the past decade and a half, Western countries have spent vast sums of money on efforts aimed at combating terrorism, both at home and abroad. A significant percentage of these locally implemented counterterrorism initiatives have focused their efforts on combating what many governments now refer to as ‘radicalisation to violent extremism’. However, from its inception the concept of radicalisation to violent extremism, or ‘radicalisation’ as it is more commonly referred to, has been a source of ambiguity and confusion.
Rather than emerging from social science research, the term ‘radicalisation’ first appeared in a May 2004 EU document listing possible root causes conducive to the recruitment of individuals by foreign extremists. An expert group established by the European Commission shortly thereafter, noted that the notion was inherently problematic, and cautioned against the use of the term due to its ambiguity (Coolsaet, 2015, p. 5). However, attacks in Madrid and London thrust the concepts of ‘radicalisation’ and ‘counter radicalisation’ to the centre stage of European counterterrorism policy. The prominence of these UK and European efforts has subsequently seen the concept migrate and rise to prominence in other Western countries including Canada, Australia and eventually the USA.
To this day radicalisation remains a contested and misunderstood term, largely because the concept emphasises the individual (and to some extent the ideology) and ‘significantly de-emphasises the wider circumstances and the context in which it arises' (Sedgwick, 2012, p. 480).
Given the difficulties in designing a solution for a problem which is ill defined, it is hardly surprising that the ambiguity associated with radicalisation has extended to the policy response, today largely referred to as countering violent extremism (CVE).
CVE has coevolved with the debate about radicalisation as a subfield of counterterrorism policy and practice (Holmer, 2013, p. 2). The term (CVE) likely emerged from a policy department which, after determining that concepts such as terrorism and radicalisation were too poorly defined and stigmatised to use, resolved to introduce into the discourse the best new poorly defined term a focus group could generate. The lack of a clear definition of CVE has unsurprisingly resulted in the concept evolving ‘into a catch-all category that lacks precision and focus' (Heydemann, 2014) and seen many programmes conducted under the CVE banner unable to define the specifics of what they ‘are preventing, let alone knowing how or whether … [they] have prevented it' (Horgan, 2014).
Although the resources allocated to CVE are modest compared to those dedicated to more traditional counterterrorism efforts, CVE represents the most significant development in counterterrorism in Western countries seen in the last 10 years (Romaniuk, 2015). However, many governments have thus far struggled to generate effective and practical projects (Ramalingam & Tuck, 2014) and one of the world's leading terrorism experts has noted that ‘we have a rapidly diminishing opportunity to figure out what CVE can be' (Horgan, 2014). The following special issue seeks to assist policy-makers and practitioners to understand what CVE is, and to design effective CVE policies and projects.
This special edition of Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression draws together research conducted by some of the world's leading thinkers on the topic of CVE. All contributors hold extensive experience working closely with CVE policy-makers and practitioners, and the findings contained within the following publications highlight the potential for action-research to assist in the CVE work performed by governments. The first article presents a framework to help understand the concept of CVE, and a system to categorise the breadth of CVE programmes, while the second paper proposes a model which can be utilised to build a balanced and effective CVE strategy. The third examines findings from two studies looking at the difficulties associated with reaching those most in need of assistance, while the final paper analyses a specific CVE effort in detail and measures the impact the project has had on the ground. Below is an overview of the four papers which make up this edition.
Inter-ideological mingling: White extremist ideology entering the mainstream on Twitter
|This case study explores the convergence of white extremist political ideology with mainstream political ideology on the micro-blogging platform Twitter – a phenomenon termed “inter-ideological mingling”. Exploring the spread of white extremism in the digital environment can provide insight into the growth of hate groups in the physical environment. A sample of 4800 tweets was examined through hierarchical cluster analysis and textual analysis. Several pieces of evidence were found supporting inter-ideological mingling. Cluster analysis shows that extremist terms are not isolated from terms found in mainstream political discourse. Textual analysis of individual tweets provides evidence for five strategies of inter-ideological mingling: joining, blending, piggybacking, backstaging, and narrating.|
The Brussels Attacks: Critical Online Communications
|We present a machine learning framework that leverages a mixture of metadata, network, and temporal features to detect extremist users, and predict content adopters and interaction reciprocity in social media. We exploit a unique dataset containing millions of tweets generated by more than 25 thousand users who have been manually identified, reported, and suspended by Twitter due to their involvement with extremist campaigns. We also leverage millions of tweets generated by a random sample of 25 thousand regular users who were exposed to, or consumed, extremist content. We carry out three forecasting tasks, (i) to detect extremist users, (ii) to estimate whether regular users will adopt extremist content, and finally (iii) to predict whether users will reciprocate contacts initiated by extremists. All forecasting tasks are set up in two scenarios: a post hoc (time independent) prediction task on aggregated data, and a simulated real-time prediction task. The performance of our framework is extremely promising, yielding in the different forecasting scenarios up to 93% AUC for extremist user detection, up to 80% AUC for content adoption prediction, and finally up to 72% AUC for interaction reciprocity forecasting. We conclude by providing a thorough feature analysis that helps determine which are the emerging signals that provide predictive power in different scenarios.|
Combating Violent Extremism and Radicalization in the Digital Era
|2016||Khader, M., Neo, L.S., Ong, G., Mingyi, E.T. and Chin, J.||Book|
|Advances in digital technologies have provided ample positive impacts to modern society; however, in addition to such benefits, these innovations have inadvertently created a new venue for criminal activity to generate.
Combating Violent Extremism and Radicalization in the Digital Era is an essential reference for the latest research on the utilization of online tools by terrorist organizations to communicate with and recruit potential extremists and examines effective countermeasures employed by law enforcement agencies to defend against such threats. Focusing on perspectives from the social and behavioral sciences, this book is a critical source for researchers, analysts, intelligence officers, and policy makers interested in preventive methods for online terrorist activities.
In Defense of Honor: Women and Terrorist Recruitment on the Internet
|Until today there have been no women in the core leadership of Al Qaeda (Al Qaeda al
Sulba). While the organization is frequently described as patriarchal and exclusive of
women, women are among its most fervent supporters. A significant recent development
in women’s participation in violent extremism has been the dissemination of radical
ideologies online as recruiters and propagandists. In particular, online female recruiters
shame men to enlist in jihad by demanding that they protect their sisters in Islam from
sexual trespass, particularly by male non-believers. In addition to propagandists, a new
generation of jihadi leaders is looking to women to ensure the survival of the
organization by devising new religious justifications that would allow women to
participate in violent jihadist activities. An ideological schism over women’s
participation in jihad reflects a generational shift within the movement as well as
differences between the core of Al Qaeda and its regional affiliates globally.
Google Based Reactions to ISIS’s Attacks: A Statistical Analysis
|The main purpose of this policy brief is to highlight the risks of radicalization by utilizing statistical analysis. The main question interrogated here is to determine the relation between the level of social reaction and ISIS’s attacks. These reactions are measured through Google Trends of news, web searches, and video ratings. Methodologically, Turkey, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany are picked as the sample countries. In order to derive consistent data from Google’s database, the keywords “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” and its some acronyms such as ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, and DAESH are utilized.
This analysis revealed that Internet media might function as a recognition tool for terrorist organizations considering the fact that following ISIS’s attacks, people of both the target country and other countries progressively search ISIS on Google. Thus, one way or another, ISIS gains reputation and takes the opportunity for radicalization. Furthermore, the level of these searches differs among the aforementioned countries due to specific reasons, which are elaborated in this policy brief.
The Caliphate Is Not a Tweet Away: The Social Media Experience of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
|This article offers a descriptive analysis of the propaganda activities of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb on Internet social media. It examines the group's propaganda actions from its creation in 1998 until the end of 2015 and argues that the use of social media, Twitter in particular, has failed to offer any real remedy to its mediocre propaganda actions. During the period in which its Twitter profiles were active, the organization continued to manifest the same problems, including a shortage of qualified human resources and poor internal coordination, which had prevented it from engaging in efficient propaganda activity previously. The study of the social media experience of the group offers further evidence of the vulnerabilities of this Maghrebi jihadist organization.|
Tweeting Situational Awareness During the Sydney Siege
|This article seeks to investigate the way in which social media can affect terrorist events. Using the 2014 Sydney siege as its primary focus, it will argue that the public’s social media activity, particularly the capacity to engage in ‘reporting’ of live events as they occur, can shift the tactical advantage from counterterrorism officials to the perpetrator. Situational awareness theory will be used to analyse how the public’s Twitter activity during the event had the capacity to enhance the perpetrator’s decision-making and therefore his overall capacity to execute the attack. The article will analyse the Martin Place Siege Joint Commonwealth—New South Wales Review, particularly, Chapter 10, Public Communication. The Review had shortcomings in terms of its failure to fully analyse the role of social media during the Sydney siege and the way in which it impacted upon events. The article therefore seeks to highlight the need for law enforcement and government agencies to take into account developments within social media, which have added a new dimension to terrorist activity. Failure to take account of these developments will diminish the capacity of law enforcement and government to respond effectively to similar events in the future.|
The Use of Social Media by Terrorist Fundraisers and Financiers
|2016||The Camstoll Group||Report|
|Financiers and fundraisers for al-Qaida and Islamic State (ISIS) are active
users of popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter,
YouTube and Instagram, in some cases even after being placed on a
United Nations or US government sanctions list. Terrorist financiers
and fundraisers have utilized social media to attract and direct funding
to procure weapons, pay salaries, strengthen infrastructure and operate
civil and social services. While the amount of funding raised via social
media is far less in comparison to revenues from oil sales or taxation,
al-Qaida and ISIS fundraisers have taken credit for millions of dollars
raised using social media-based campaigns—significant amounts by
Terrorist financiers and fundraisers for al-Qaida and ISIS have relied on
social media services to communicate with colleagues and supporters,
attract new followers globally, and promote aligned causes and
organizations. With their potential to spur viral content growth, social
media services enable fundraisers to more quickly and effectively solicit
support and reach larger audiences.
Social media companies have actively terminated the accounts of
terrorist facilitators—including a number of designated terrorist
fundraisers and financiers—citing violations of their respective terms
of service restrictions that prohibit support for violence or hate speech
[see pg.12]. For example, in early February 2016 Twitter announced the
closure of more than 125,000 accounts “for threatening or promoting
terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS,” noting that social media platforms
are “forced to make challenging judgment calls based on very limited
information and guidance.”1 Facebook has also stepped up its efforts
to remove users who back terror groups, and YouTube has taken down
content and terminated users who post terrorist material.2
Promises Of Paradise? - A Study On Official ISIS-Propaganda Targeting Women
|2016||Tarras-Wahlberg, L.||MA Thesis|
|Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011 close to 30 000 foreign recruits from more than 100countries have migrated to the area of Iraq and Syria in support of the terrorist organization this thesis will refer to as ISIS. Among those traveling is a historically unprecedented number of women. Why women are drawn to violent Islamic extremist groups is rather unexplored. Through a qualitative text analysis of official ISIS-propaganda, this thesis investigates what promises the organization makes to women, examining pull-factors derived from social media studies of female migration to ISIS-held territories. The thesis concludes that women are promised the possibility to fulfill their religious duty, become important state builders, experience deep and meaningful belonging and sisterhood, to live an exciting adventure and find true romance, as well as being increasingly influential is also promised. Official propaganda does not make explicit promises to women of exerting violence. A secondary purpose of the thesis is to assess the potential risk that ISIS-affiliated women returning to the West, pose to society. This thesis further concludes that women who gain limited knowledge of handling weapons and explosives in ISIS-territory are not probable participants in armed terrorist attacks directed towards the West. However, through increased social networks acquired while in Syria or Iraq, women may play an important supporting role in the process of planning, crowdfunding and executing attacks. Based on these findings the thesis provides some gender-specific policy proposals intended to counter the recruitment of women to ISIS.|
The Impact Of Opinion Leadership And External Events On Forum Participants Following ISIS Online
|2016||Thomas, E.N.P.||MA Thesis|
|The study monitors the evolution of perceptions and opinions of the terrorist group the Islamic State (ISIS) during its involvement in Syria and Iraq in 2013-2014. Data is drawn from a web-forum discussing current Islamic affairs that followed ISIS as early as September 2013. These data are used to answer the question of whether or not there are opinion leaders facilitating the discussion of violent extremist material. An interrupted time series and ordinary least squares regression are used to address the research question by determining the most impactful events on the thread, and determining the causal role of opinion leaders on the way users connect. Results indicate that the content and success of discussion are most impacted by the involvement of opinion leaders and media related to a specific ISIS event.|
Al-Qa‘ida's Editor: Abu Jandal al-Azdi's Online Jihadi Activism
|This article deals with the online activism of Abu Jandal al-Azdi, one of the main ideologues of the now-defunct Saudi version of Al-Qa‘ida on the Arabian Peninsula (QAP), whose writings have been all but neglected in publications on this organisation. While rightly seen as only a mediocre religious scholar, I contend that al-Azdi is nevertheless an important ideologue for two reasons: firstly, his religious university education combined with his internet skills propelled him to a position that can perhaps best be described as ‘al-Qa‘ida's editor’: he presented very few (if any) new ideas of his own but collected, selected, and presented others' general and more difficult writings into readily-applicable and easily-digestible chunks of information – now forever present in cyberspace – that was aimed carefully and specifically at his target audience of radical Saudi Islamists; secondly, through the case-study of al-Azdi, I show that anti-Saudi ideas in QAP's discourse – as opposed to pan-Islamism – were more prominent, more openly available and expressed at an earlier time than has hitherto been suggested, and that al-Azdi has been one of the most important ideologues promoting this.|
Pathways to Violent Extremism in the Digital Era
|2013||Edwards, C. and Gribbon, L.||Journal|
|The Internet is often singled out as the key means through which extremists and terrorists are radicalised. Yet, argue Charlie Edwards and Luke Gribbon, research thus far has fallen short of unearthing the actual mechanisms through which this radicalisation takes place. Using examples from a wider study, they explore different ways in which individuals have used the Internet in their processes of radicalisation and point out that policy-makers and researchers need to focus their efforts on understanding not merely the content that is available online, but the ways in which this content is used in the process of radicalisation.|
The Supremacy of Online White Supremacists – an Analysis of Online Discussions by White Supremacists
|2015||Wong, M.A., Frank, R. and Allsup, R.||Journal|
|A content analysis was conducted on five different white supremacist online forums to observe the discourse and types of activities occurring within. In addition, web link analysis was conducted on the forums to identify the presence of external links being posted and discussed by members. We found that members used the forums primarily for information provision, recruitment and networking. Based on these results, we discuss the implications that online hate speech have within offline settings, and the affects these activities have on Canadian citizens in light of the recent repeal of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (1985), the primary tool in Canada with which to deal with hate speech and other activities observed. The insights extracted from this research have provided novel insight into the sentiments and activities of the white supremacist movement online, a relatively unexplored venue of hate speech and propaganda online.|
An Exploratory, Dynamic Application of Social Network Analysis for Modelling the Development of Islamist Terror‐Cells in the West
|2010||Mullins, S. and Dolnik, A.||Journal|
|The present paper represents an exploratory, dynamic and qualitative application of Social Network Analysis (SNA) for modelling the development of Islamist terror cells in the West. Two well‐known case studies are systematically re‐examined using this methodology as a supporting framework for interpreting the sequence of group development from a social psychological perspective. By drawing attention to salient features of evolving network structures, insight is gained into group functioning and underlying social–psychological mechanisms of radicalisation. This article represents a starting point for giving greater methodological and theoretical recognition to the dynamic structural properties of Islamist terrorist groups in the West. It is intended to stimulate discussion and ideas for future, more rigorous research.|
The Janus Face of New Media Propaganda: The Case of Patani Neojihadist YouTube Warfare and Its Islamophobic Effect on Cyber-Actors
|Surfing on the Internet 2.0 revolution, Patani 2.0 has allowed Patani neojihadist militants to access new competitive spaces and create their own imagined online community by penetrating new realms of the Internet. This article discusses the use of new media militant propaganda by Patani militants and how it is Janus faced. It further examines how the Patani 2.0 social interaction enabled by social media such as YouTube leads to group cohesion among certain actors and the formation of a collective identity that is clustered around the notions of Muslim victimization and defensive jihad; and how, at the same time, it reinforces antithetical identities and fosters group identity competition, where one religious group is often pitted against another. As a result, the Janus effect of Patani neojihadist YouTube online propaganda, while it primarily seeks to radicalize, also generates a reactionary, often virulent, anti-Muslim response from the movement's critics.|