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
The Kremlin and DAESH Information Activities
2016 Sillanpaa, A., Simons, G., Reynolds, A., and Curika, L. Report
This paper summarizes discussions held on 24 May 2016 in Riga, Latvia, which focused on exploring the Kremlin and DAESH information activities in order to improve our understanding of the nature of these communications and their effect on Western societies. The questions discussed were:

 

How are the communications and messages of DAESH and the Kremlin constructed and disseminated?

Are their methods changing?

Why do such messages appeal to youth, even if they are familiar with Western Values and consumerism?

What are the weakest aspects of our information environment and what can we do to improve?
Reception and Perception of Radical Messages
2016 Mikhael, D., Mhanna, A., Ayoub, N., AbiGhanem, N., and Corbani, M Report
This report represents a first contribution by the Samir Kassir Foundation (SKF) to the ongoing and growing debate on the role of communication in the radicalisation process and the mechanisms to prevent or counter violent extremism (CVE). The primary focus of this research is communication by and about the Islamic State and did not include communication by and about militant Islamist organisations from other ideological and sectarian backgrounds. It is based on qualitative opinion and media consumption research conducted in February and March 2016 with Lebanese audiences in Tripoli, North Lebanon, West Bekaa and among Syrian refugees with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands under contract No. 28141. The project was implemented by a steering committee led by academic and policy consultant Drew Mikhael and comprised of SKF Executive Director Ayman Mhanna, SKF Programs Coordinator Nassim AbiGhanem, academic and senior researcher Nidal Ayoub and social media communication specialist Marie-Thérèse Corbani. The contents of this report are the sole responsibility of the Samir Kassir Foundation and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
Matti Pohjonen - EU Lunch Briefing Series 08112016
2016 Matti Pohjonen Report
Terrorists’ Use of the Internet: Assessment and Response
2016 Conway, M., Macdonald, S., and Mair, D. Report
This report contains findings from the Advanced Research Workshop supported by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme on terrorists’ use of the Internet, held at Dublin City University on 27th-29th June 2016. The event was co-organised by the Cyberterrorism Project and the VOX-POL Network of Excellence. The workshop consisted of a total of 31 presentations, followed by a roundtable discussion during which participants formulated a set of recommendations. 60 delegates attended the symposium, from 13 different countries, including researchers and representatives from NATO HQ, NATO CCD-COE, UNICRI, the European Defence Agency, the Bavarian Police Academy and the Italian Carabinieri. This report provides summaries of each of the presentations and presents the workshop’s final recommendations.
Women and Violent Radicalization
2016 Conseil du statut de la femme Report
As myths, stereotypes and media representations circulate about the several hundred Western women who have gone to Syria and joined the jihadists, it seems to us essential to try to understand the motives and explanatory factors behind the radicalization of these girls and women. What mechanisms and processes lead them to become radicalized and to join such groups?
Who are these women who radicalize to the point of risking their safety and well-being? Above all, how shall we understand the gender dimensions of the current phenomena of violent radicalization?

Until now, documentation of the radicalization of girls and women in Québec, with a gender-differentiated perspective, has been non-existent. We therefore decided that it was essential to do more than offer a summary document, by exploring empirically, across Québec, the radicalization of women who have joined, or tried to join, jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.
Extremist Content and the ICT Sector: A Global Network Initiative Policy Brief
2016 GNI Report
The role of information and communication technology (ICT) companies in responding to alleged terrorist or extremist content has become one of the most challenging issues for freedom of expression and privacy online. In July 2015, GNI launched a policy
dialogue to explore key questions and considerations concerning government efforts to restrict online content with the aim of protecting public safety, and to discuss the human rights implications of such government actions.
Anti-Blasphemy in the Digital Age: When Hardliners Take Over
2016 Fiss, J. Report
Given the rise of media and information technology, the debate over anti-blasphemy laws has become one of international importance. Cutting across different regions and faiths, blasphemy laws have triggered instability, empowered extremists, and increased sectarian violence. With frequently vague wording, they are open to whimsical interpretations, resulting in scores of human rights abuses, and violating international standards of free expression, religion, and belief.

While many religious traditions have taboos against blaspheming the sacred, violence related to allegations of blasphemy is particularly prevalent across Islamic states. In some Islamic states, scores of human rights abuses, committed in the name of fighting blasphemy, constitute obstacles to reform and democracy, and enhance the likelihood of sectarian violence. Blasphemy laws often help majority viewpoints to triumph against those of dissenters. As a result, religious minorities, free-thinkers, and political dissidents in Muslim majority countries are frequently targeted by blasphemy laws, weakening social cohesion and constraining free expression.

Whether online or offline, high-profile allegations of blasphemy have affected foreign relations and have raised new policy stakes for relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world. In the digital age, verbal expressions that were once limited to the immediate geographic vicinity are now broadcast globally at lightning speed. It is thus becoming increasingly important for governments and social media companies to implement policies that protect pluralism and democracy. Social media companies must take action to ensure the protection of both their users and uphold global standards of free speech. The U.S. government also has a duty to encourage pluralism and freedom of expression around the world. There are certain steps the United States should take to oppose anti-blasphemy laws in a broader effort to curb violent extremism and promote the peaceful expression of religious views, which is essential to democratic reform.
Cruel Intentions: Female Jihadists in America
2016 Alexander, A. Report
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 Citizens: Countering Extremism Online
2016 Reynolds, L., Scott, R. Report
The last half century has witnessed a burgeoning information revolution that has transformed our societies beyond recognition. The development of sophisticated computing, the technological reorientation of vast segments of the global workforce, the invention of the internet and most recently the proliferation of social media technology has radically changed the ways we work, live, develop and communicate. Political extremism and violent radicalism have not been excluded from this growing trend, with social media being used as a tool for the recruitment and exploitation of young people by extremist groups.

As a result, the development of digital citizenship in our young people, to help them navigate these new online challenges, has become an urgent need. British schools are responsible for identifying and building resilience against radicalisation as part of their duty of care. Many of the skills required to combat the influence of extremism and the ability of terrorist groups to exploit and manipulate young people are already taught in schools, through existing personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education and citizenship efforts, the British values agenda and the work of individual school leaders and teachers. However, there is a dearth of high-quality resources designed to increase the resilience of young people to extremism and radicalisation in a digital context.

This report summarises the results of a pilot project which seeks to address this gap by developing, testing and evaluating new resources to help schools tackle online radicalisation. Based on the analysis of a survey of existing materials and a best practise review, it presents a digital citizenship intervention, developed by Demos and Bold Creative, designed to build this resilience to extremism, and measures its impact through a pilot study delivered in schools. At a time when the growth of social media combined with the influence of extremism makes it more important than ever, this report adds to the public evidence base regarding counter-extremism interventions in a school context, and contributes to the development of effective education for digital citizens.
Continuity and Change: The Evolution and Resiliance of Al-Shabab's Media Insurgency, 2006-2016
2016 Anzalone, C. Report
The Somali jihadi-insurgent movement Al-Shabab has established itself, since emerging in 2007 after the overthrow of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) umbrella in the wake of the December 2006 Ethiopian invasion and occupation of parts of Somalia, as one of the relatively few jihadi organizations to succeed in the capture, control, and governance of territory for a significant period of time. When Islamic State was masquerading as a «paper state» in 2008 and 2009, Al-Shabab’s leadership was busy constructing a bureaucracy of power, divided into regional and local nodes of authority, designed to implement and maintain insurgent rule over rapidly expanding territories. In establishing itself as a self-proclaimed and seemingly viable alternative governing authority, even if only in the short to medium term, Al Shabab continues to present a major challenge to the internationally recognized but weak and corrupt Somali Federal Government (SFG), the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and the international community. The Somali insurgents, in successfully implementing a form of law and order, however harsh and philistine their interpretation of Islamic law and specifically their imposition of hudud («set») punishments for crimes such as highway robbery, banditry, theft, zina (various forms of fornication), and murder, provided other Sunni jihadi groups with an example of how jihadi-insurgent governance can be enacted in practice.
Private Sector Engagement in Responding to the Use of the Internet and ICT for Terrorist Purposes
2016 ICT for Peace Foundation Report
On the one hand, the companies in question feel a business incentive to create a digital
environment where their users feel safe, and are increasingly compelled by governments to cooperate in blocking, filtering, countering or removing content or accounts on the grounds of public safety or national security concerns. In addition, users expect the companies to be transparent, accountable, respect privacy and freedom of opinion and expression and guarantee remedy, while also ensuring an open, free and secure internet. This reality has led to greater voluntary engagement of the private sector in efforts to respond to terrorist use of the internet and ICT. This engagement includes industry-driven initiatives and participation in multi-stakeholder and public-private fora focusing on normative, technical and organizational issues, as well as engagement with academia.
Religious Appeals in Daesh’s Recruitment Propaganda
2016 The Carter Center Report
The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Daesh) employs a complex online media strategy to recruit targeted demographics. Its success has exacerbated conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere, and has become a concern for the international community. The Carter Center (the Center) is working to counter Daesh’s recruitment propaganda efforts by undertaking in-depth analysis of its recruitment media, including video, print and social media. This report examines the use of Qur’anic verses in 256 of
Daesh’s propaganda videos. The use of these verses in Daesh propaganda are analyzed by frequency, partial or full ayahs, and whether they are Madani or Makki. By examining Daesh’s manipulation of the Qur’anic text to claim religious legitimacy, this analysis can serve as a resource for religious and community leaders’ understanding of Daesh’s recruitment strategies. This is imperative for effective counter-messaging and rejecting Daesh’s misinterpretation of the Qur’an to justify political violence.
The Virtual Caliphate: ISIS's Information Warfare
2016 Gambhir, H. Report
ISIS will likely maintain the capacity to align its military and information operations (IO) in the coming years. Continuing conflicts and the plodding effort to address the underlying conditions where it has taken root will likely help ISIS retain physical sanctuary and command and control capability in Iraq, Syria, and North Africa, even if it loses control of major cities. ISIS’s IO campaign has supported multiple objectives, including control over territory, coercion of populations, and recruitment. This campaign has enabled ISIS’s survival and execution of international terror attacks. It may ultimately usher in a “Virtual Caliphate” – a radicalized community organized online – that empowers the global Salafi-jihadi movement and that could operate independently of ISIS. This “Virtual Caliphate,” the emergence of which becomes more likely the longer ISIS’s physical caliphate exists, would represent a unique challenge to American national security. Other hostile actors, beyond ISIS and the global Salafi-jihadi movement, are also adopting elements of a broader IO campaign, highlighting the requirement for
the U.S. to formulate a determined response. The U.S. possesses inherent advantages, including material resources, military strength and convening power, with which to confront this evolving threat. It also has challenges to overcome, including the lack of a government-wide strategy – supported by the necessary resources and proper bureaucratic organization – to counter enemy IO. The U.S. should continue to counter ISIS and other enemies in this arena by focusing on rolling them back on the ground, degrading their technical capabilities and other means they employ to reach their intended audiences, and helping facilitate the emergence of compelling counter-narratives amenable to American interests.
Shooting the Messenger: Do Not Blame the Internet for Terrorism
2019 Glazzard, A. Report
The internet clearly matters to terrorists, but online content by itself rarely causes people to carry out terrorist attacks. Responses should therefore not be limited to the mass removal of terrorist content from online platforms.
Mapping Extremist Communities: A Social Network Analysis Approach
2020 NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence Report
In the domain of computer science, the last years have witnessed the improvement of social network analysis at scale. One of the most challenging aspects of social network analysis is community detection; analysts use a variety of tools to visualise the spontaneous group structure emerging from interactions and friendship relations in multi-million-user networks. This visualisation, combined with influencer detection and automated text analysis tools such as topic detection, enables the analyst to grasp most of the complexity of a social network. This computer-science-oriented study explores three lines of research concerning online extremism. First, about the emerging narratives and the topics that can be found on open platforms. We show that many actors actively use terror-group related terms; most cannot be directly tied to any specific organisation. A second axis concerns the connections between platforms: the information space has no central point as content is shared across platforms. However, the links reveal clusters of locations: we observe a group of Pakistan-India conflict mentions, and a cluster of US alt-right websites, transforming terrorism into a migration problem. The third axis relates to the social media landscape structure. We rely on a combination of document-level topic modelling and graph analysis to detect and explore the social data, visualising the types of groups that are active on the topic. Among the results, we found a small botnet circulating a pro-Daesh pamphlet and a set of grassroot reactions that managed to moderate a controversial pro-Jihadi post on Reddit.
The Key Lessons Learned from the Use of the Internet by Jihadist Groups
2017 Soriano, M. Report
This work analyzes some of the key lessons learned from the use of the Internet by jihadist groups over the last twenty years: 1) Online activism can be a substitute for commitment to armed jihad. 3) Terrorists are "early adopters" of new technologies, to enjoy spaces of impunity. 4) The investigation of terrorist activities on the Internet becomes increasingly difficult as a result of the adoption of measures of self-protection 5). The terrorist message on the Internet has the capacity to transcend the intentions of its creators.
Countering the Virtual Caliphate Written testimony of: Seamus Hughes Deputy Director, Program on Extremism Center for Cyber and Homeland Security The George Washington University Before the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee
2016 Hughes, S. Report
Mothers To Bombers: The Evolution of Indonesian Women Extremists
2017 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict Report
The arrest of two female would-be suicide bombers in Jakarta in December 2016 shows the desire of Indonesian women for a more active role in violent extremism. It may be a reflection of the pro-ISIS movement’s weakness that male leaders are more willing to oblige them than in the past, but the initiative has come from the women. Indonesian women’s increasing willingness to organise social media groups, set up fund-raising charities and provide various forms of logistical support for the pro-ISIS movement shows that this is not just men exploiting vulnerable women – though that also takes place – but involves women eager to be recognised as fighters in their own right.
Media Jihad: The Islamic State’s Doctrine for Information Warfare
2017 Winter, C Report
Weeks after its capture of Mosul in 2014, the Islamic State set about transforming its strategic trajectory. Through an avalanche of media products, it worked to aggressively insert itself into the global public discourse and, in turn, popularise its brand, polarise adversary populations and drive rivals into the ideological side-lines. This research paper presents new, empirical insight into this troubling phenomenon, which has set a benchmark for insurgent strategic communications the world over. Comprising the translation and analysis of a 55-page document compiled and published by the Islamic State in 2016, it offers a unique window into the mind-set of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s propagandists.
Starting Points For Combating Hate Speech Online
2015 Titley, G., Keen, E., and Földi, L. Report
Young People Combating Hate Speech Online is a project of the Council of Europe’s youth sector running between 2012 and 2015. The project aims to combat racism and discrimination in their online expression of hate speech by equipping young people and youth organisations with the competences necessary to recognize and act against such human rights violations. Central to the project is a European youth media campaign which will be designed and  implemented with the agency of young people and youth organisations. As a preparation for the project, the Council of Europe’s Youth Department commissioned three “mapping” studies about the realities of hate speech and young people and projects and campaigns about it. These studies are published here as a resource for the activists, youth leaders, researchers, partners and decision makers associated to the project and the online campaign. They are truly a starting points: more research is needed, both on the legal and policy implications of hate speech online as on its impact and relation with young people.