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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
#TerroristFinancing: An Examination of Terrorism Financing via the Internet
|This article describes how the internet has come to play a central role in terrorist financing endeavours. Online channels allow terrorist financiers to network with like-minded individuals, in order to increase support, raise funds, and move wealth across the international system. For instance, the Islamic State, Hezbollah, and other groups have become adept at using these channels to finance their activities. Therefore, increased examination is required of the ways in which terrorists use the internet to raise and move funds. This study assesses some of the current trends and risks associated with online terrorist financing. Some policy options are also outlined, in order to reduce the threat of terrorist financing via the internet moving into the future.|
Capitalizing on the Koran to Fuel Online Violent Radicalization: A Taxonomy of Koranic References in ISIS’s Dabiq
|2018||Frissen, T., Toguslu, E., Van Ostaeyen, P., and d'Haenens, L.||Journal|
|The current study set out to investigate to what extent ISIS is bolstering its jihadist ideology on a ‘cut-and-paste’ or ‘cherry-picked’ version of Islam in their renowned online propaganda magazine Dabiq. The main objective was to examine in a systematic and quantitative way to what extent ISIS utilizes the Koran in an atomistic, truncated and tailored manner to bolster its religious legitimacy. A total of 15 issues of Dabiq and 700 Koranic references were scrutinized. By means of a quantitative analysis we developed an innovative taxonomy of Koranic chapters and verses (i.e. surahs and ayat, respectively) on the basis of their appearance in Dabiq. Our large-scale data analysis provide consistent empirical evidence for severe decontextualization practices of the Koran in three ways: (1) a thin, Medinan-dominated religious layer, (2) ayah mutilation, and (3) clustered versus exclusive mentions. Limitations and implications for future research, policy makers and CVE initiatives are discussed.|
The Language of Radicalization: Female Internet Recruitment to Participation in ISIS Activities
|Why do young Muslim women radicalize and undertake high-risk political behaviors, and what factors influence their sociopolitical transformation? The process of radicalization happens because of individual, social, and political dynamics, and is facilitated by the availability of computer-mediated communication. Some young Muslim women keep detailed records of their radicalization process via social media, which we use to understand their sociopolitical transformation. By evaluating their language, we can better understand how their personal, social, and political development unfolds. This paper is a case study examining the words of one young Muslim woman, Aqsa Mahmood, who moved from her home in Scotland to join the ISIS fighters in Syria. Her Tumblr blog provides a linguistic, political, and ideological record of the process of her radicalization. We identify linguistic patterns in her blog posts that can help to develop and reveal a typology of the language of female radicalization.|
Propaganda for Kids: Comparing IS-Produced Propaganda to Depictions of Propaganda in The Hunger Games and Harry Potter Film Series
|The Harry Potter and The Hunger Games films are wildly popular with adolescents and adults alike, despite touching on themes that parallel the horrors in our own world’s geopolitical climate. The Islamic State (IS) promotes its own messages of violence, brutality, and even utopia through sophisticated propaganda disseminated via social media. This article discusses the extent to which propaganda depicted in Harry Potter and The Hunger Games approximates—in content and/or medium—that produced by IS in recent years. Propaganda in the Harry Potter films, largely produced in written form, resembles propaganda of the past, whereas propaganda in The Hunger Games makes use of contemporary mediums and techniques that resemble that which originates from IS. It is worthwhile to explore whether fiction provides audiences with a realistic portrayal of propaganda, as it may assist viewers in turning a critical eye toward the themes and technologies that are used in their own world to disseminate propaganda.|
Antisemetic content on Twitter
|2018||Community Security Trust||Report|
|This report presents an analysis of the
production and propagation of online
antagonistic content related to Jews
posted on Twitter between October 2015
and October 2016 in the UK.
Black-boxing the Black Flag: Anonymous Sharing Platforms and ISIS Content Distribution Tactics
|2018||Shehabat, A. and Mitew, T.||Journal|
|The study examines three anonymous sharing portals employed strategically by the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) to achieve its political ends. This study argues that anonymous sharing portals such as Sendvid.com, Justpast.it, and Dump.to have been instrumental in allowing individual jihadists to generate content, disseminate propaganda and communicate freely while routing around filtering practiced by popular social media networks.The study draws on Actor Network Theory (ANT) in examining the relationship between ISIS jihadists and the emergence of anonymous sharing portals. The study suggests that, even though used prior to the massive degrading operation across social media, anonymous sharing portals were instrumental in allowing ISIS to maintain its networking structure in the face of coordinated disruption.|
Watching ISIS: How Young Adults Engage with Official English-language ISIS Videos
|2018||Cottee S., and Cunliffe, J.||Journal|
|Research on jihadist online propaganda (henceforth JOP) tends to focus on the production, content and dissemination of jihadist online messages. Correspondingly, the target of JOP – that is, the audience – has thus far attracted little scholarly attention. This article seeks to redress this neglect by focusing on how audiences respond to jihadist online messaging. It presents the findings of an online pilot survey testing audience responses to clips from English-language ISIS videos. The survey was beset at every stage by ethical, legal and practical restrictions, and we discuss how these compromised our results and what this means for those attempting to do research in this highly sensitive area.|
Counter Conversations: A Model for Direct Engagement with Individuals Showing Signs of Radicalisation Online
|2018||Davey, J., Birdwell, J., and Skellet, R.||Report|
|This report outlines the results of a programme trialling
a methodology for identifying individuals who are
demonstrating signs of radicalisation on social media,
and engaging these individuals in direct, personalised
and private ‘counter-conversations’ for the purpose of
de-radicalisation from extremist ideology and
disengagement from extremist movements. This is
the first programme globally which has trialled the
delivery of online interventions in a systematised
and scaled fashion.
The Mediums and the Messages: Exploring the Language of Islamic State Media through Sentiment Analysis
|2018||Macnair, L. and Frank, R.||Article|
|This study applies the method of sentiment analysis to the online media released by the Islamic State (IS) in order to distinguish the ways in which IS uses language within their media, and potential ways in which this language differs across various online platforms. The data used for this sentiment analysis consist of transcripts of IS-produced videos, the text of IS-produced online periodical magazines, and social media posts from IS-affiliated Twitter accounts. It was found that the language and discourse utilised by IS in their online media is of a predominantly negative nature, with the language of videos containing the highest concentration of negative sentiment. The words and phrases with the most extreme sentiment values are used as a starting point for the identification of specific narratives that exist within online IS media. The dominant narratives discovered with the aid of sentiment analysis were: 1) the demonstrated strength of the IS, 2) the humiliation of IS enemies, 3) continuous victory, and 4) religious righteousness. Beyond the identification of IS narratives, this study serves to further explore the utility of the sentiment analysis method by applying it to mediums and data that it has not traditionally been applied to, specifically, videos and magazines.|
Tweet... If You Dare: How Counter-Terrorism Laws Restrict Freedom of Expression in Spain
|Social media users, journalists, lawyers
and musicians have been prosecuted
under Article 578 of the Spanish
Criminal Code, which prohibits “glorifying
terrorism” and “humiliating the victims
of terrorism”. Although this provision
was first introduced in 2000, it is only in
recent years, following its amendment
in 2015, that prosecutions and convictions
under Article 578 have sharply risen.
The result is increasing self-censorship
and a broader chilling effect on freedom
of expression in Spain.
Islamic State’s English-language Magazines, 2014-2017: Trends & Implications for CT-CVE Strategic Communications
|Islamic State (IS) has used English-language magazines as a crucial component of its propaganda strategy, particularly targeting Muslims living in the West. This paper provides a quick reference guide to IS’s English-language magazines released between June 2014 and September 2017 examining key themes and propaganda strategies deployed across three issues of Islamic State News, four issues of Islamic State Report, fifteen issues of Dabiq and thirteen issues of Rumiyah. It concludes by highlighting four trends and their implications for CT-CVE strategic communications practitioners. First, IS use a mix of rational- and identity-choice appeals to provide its various target audiences with a ‘competitive system of meaning’ which CT-CVE strategic communication efforts must seek to dismantle with careful campaign and message design. Second, over the period of 2014-17 IS appears to have deployed a thematic ‘hedging’ strategy characterised by certain messaging themes being prioritised over others during periods of boom versus bust. By identifying the signatures of IS’s use of propaganda ‘hedging’, CT-CVE practitioners can be better prepared to confront current and future challenges from IS propagandists. Third, IS’s English-language magazines must be understood within the context of trends across its broader propaganda effort. To effectively address this multifaceted threat, CT-CVE practitioners would benefit from applying the KISMI (Keep It Simple Maximise Impact) principle of rolling-out a strategic communications campaign. Finally, the appearance of instructional material in IS propaganda highlights the need for post-incident CT-CVE strategic communication plans to undermine the strategic logic of so-called “inspired” attacks.|
Cultivating Trust and Perceptions of Source Credibility in Online Counternarratives Intended to Reduce Support for Terrorism
|2018||Braddock, K., and Morrison, J.F.||Journal|
|Terrorism researchers have long sought to identify methods for challenging terrorist ideologies. The construction and dissemination of counternarratives has begun to receive substantial attention as a means of doing so. However, the effectiveness of this approach is contingent on message targets’ trust in the counternarrative's content and source. This article draws from literatures on trust and online source credibility to offer preliminary guidelines for cultivating trust in counternarratives and their sources. By encouraging trust in this manner, practitioners can reduce the likelihood that their counternarratives will be dismissed by their intended audiences—a perpetual challenge to strategic messaging geared towards countering violent extremism.|
Encouraging Counter-Speech by Mapping the Contours of Hate Speech on Facebook in India
|2018||Mirchandani, M., Goel, O., and Sahai, D.||Report|
|Efforts at Countering Violent Extremism (or CVE in internationally
accepted terminology) online have become an important focus for all social
networks. CVE targets violent, extremist ideologies at their core, tackling
them via alternate narratives that focus on peace-building through
community interaction. It has thus become an invaluable tool to supplement
counterterrorism strategies worldwide.
A Tale Of Two Caliphates: Comparing the Islamic State's Internal and External Messaging Priorities
|2018||Mahlouly, D., and Winter, C.||VOX-Pol Publication|
|In recent years, the media department of the self-proclaimed Islamic State has proven itself to be highly adept at strategic communication. While much research has gone into the group’s digital and online capabilities, there remains a significant gap in the knowledge regarding its in-country propaganda operations and objectives. In recognition of this, the following research paper approaches the issue from a different angle, attempting to better understand how and why the group communicates its brand through the lens of two publications – al-Naba’, its Arabic-language newspaper, which appears to be designed primarily for offline dissemination in the caliphate itself, and Rumiyah, its foreign-language electronic magazine, which has only ever appeared online. Using content analysis to identify and compare each publication’s internal (local) and external (global) media priorities over the four-month period between September and December 2016, we develop an empirical evaluation of the group’s recent forays into targeted outreach.
Loners, Colleagues, or Peers? Assessing the Social Organization of Radicalization
|2018||Holt, T.J., Feilich, J.D, Chermak, S.M., Mills, C., and Silva J.||Journal|
|This study explores the utility of a sociological model of social organization developed by Best and Luckenbill (1994) to classify the radicalization processes of terrorists (i.e., extremist perpetrators who engaged in ideologically motivated acts of violence) who are usually categorized as loner or lone wolf attackers. There are several organizational frameworks used to define or classify violent acts performed by individuals who may or may not have ties to extremist groups, but these studies largely ignore the role of social relationships in radicalization and the extent to which they inform our knowledge of terror. To address this gap, we apply the Best and Luckenbill model of social organization using a qualitative analysis of three case studies of four lone actor or small cell terrorists. The findings demonstrate lone actors are not always true loners in the context of radicalization, and highlights the ways that the Internet and social ties foster the radicalization processes of terror.|
'Sometimes You Just Have to Try Something' - A Critical Analysis of Danish State-Led Initiatives Countering Online Radicalisation
|This research paper argues that Danish online radicalisation policies are driven by logics of urgency (the threat is imminent) within a limited realm of discursive possibilities (the threat is securitised) which blur the lines between state and civil society as well as state and private sector interactions. Potential political implications bring into play questions about the democratic values that are perceived as safeguarded by these policies. The Danish case shows that we (as citizens, policy makers and researchers) must engage in further discussions on dynamics between the current threat perception of online radicalisation and policies addressing such a threat. My argument is constructed from a discourse analysis of official documents as of 2016-2017 on countering and preventing violent extremism and an analysis of the political logics driving a state-level conceptualisation of online radicalisation through interviews with government officials. The two-part analysis is theoretically based on Securitisation from the Copenhagen School in combination with Critical Terrorism Studies to create a critically inspired approach that remains within existing structures of Danish politics. This is done to engage with the current political landscape characterised by a securitisation of specific forms of online content associated with the Islamic State as an Other. Online radicalisation is herein constructed as a multidimensional threat towards a societal Self referring to the physical safety of citizens and a value based ‘way of life’. The decentralised structure of the internet allows communication flows that enable radicalisation to be understood as an inter-sectoral threat where multiple elements of the referent object are threatened simultaneously. This threat perception challenges government officials in developing and implementing policies to address the threat of the Other while safeguarding the democratic values of the Danish Self.|
Terror in the Dark: How Terrorists Use Encryption, the Darknet, and Cryptocurrencies
|This report demonstrates how terrorists and extremists have utilised the Darknet to mask their communication and propaganda efforts, to recruit and radicalise, and to gain material benefits such as illicit goods, including, but not limited to, weapons and fraudulent documents. In addition, this report notes the growing tendency of these individuals to utilise cryptocurrencies for transactions and fundraising, enabling them to evade detection by law enforcement entities.|
Who Are the Online Extremists Among Us? Sociodemographic Characteristics, Social Networking, and Online Experiences of Those Who Produce Online Hate Materials
|2018||Costello, M. and Hawdon, J.||Journal|
|What are the factors associated with the production of online hate material? Past research has focused on attributes associated with seeing and being targeted by online hate material, but we know surprisingly little about the creators of such material. This study seeks to address this gap in the knowledge, using a random sample of Americans, aged 15–36. Descriptive results indicate that nearly one-fifth of our sample reported producing online material that others would likely interpret as hateful or degrading. We utilize a logistic regression to understand more about these individuals. Results indicate that men are significantly more likely than women to produce online hate material. This fits with the broader pattern of men being more apt to engage in deviant and criminal behaviors, both online and offline. Other results show that the use of particular social networking sites, such as Reddit, Tumblr, and general messaging boards, is positively related to the dissemination of hate material online. Counter to expectations, the use of first-person shooter games actually decreased the likelihood of producing hate material online. This could suggest that violent videogames serve as outlet for aggression, and not a precursor. In addition, we find that individuals who are close to an online community, or spend more time in areas populated by hate, are more inclined to produce hate material. We expected that spending more time online would correlate with the production of hate, but this turned out not to be true. In fact, spending more time online actually reduces the likelihood of doing so. This result could indicate that individuals who spend more time online are focused on a particular set of tasks, as opposed to using the Internet to disseminate hate.|
Anti-refugee Mobilization in Social Media: The Case of Soldiers of Odin
|In the wake of the international refugee crisis, racist attitudes are becoming more publicly evident across the European Union. Propelled by the attacks in Köln on New Year’s Eve 2015 and harsher public sentiments on immigration, vigilante gangs have emerged in various European cities. These gangs mobilize through social media networks and claim to protect citizens from alleged violent and sexual attacks by refugees. This article analyzes how racist actors use social media to mobilize and organize street politics targeting refugees/immigrants. The aim is to explore the relation between social media and anti-refugee mobilization in a time of perceived insecurity and forced migration. The study uses the vigilante network Soldiers of Odin as a specific case, looking at (1) how they communicate through social media, (2) how they are represented in the large “alternative” space of right-wing online sites, and (3) how they are represented in traditional mainstream news. Using a critical adaption of Cammaerts’ theory of “mediation opportunity structure,” the article explicates the (inverted) rationale of racist online networks. Using quantitative and qualitative content analysis, both social media content and traditional news media are examined. The results show that although racist actors succeed in utilizing many of the opportunities embedded in social media communication and protest logic, they are also subject to constraints, such as a lack of public support and negative framing in news media. The article calls for more research on the (critical) relationship between uncivil engagement and social media networks.|
Studying Jihadists on Social Media: A Critique of Data Collection Methodologies
|2018||Parekh, D., Amarasingam, A., Dawson, L., Ruths, D.||Featured|
|In this article, we propose a general model of data collection from social media, in the context of terrorism research,
focusing on recent studies of jihadists. By analyzing Twitter data collection methods in the existing research, we
show that the methods used are prone to sampling biases, and that the sampled datasets are not sufficiently filtered
or validated to ensure reliability of conclusions derived from them. Alternatively, we propose some best practices for
the collection of data in future research on jihadist using social media (as well as other kinds of terrorist groups).
Given the similarity of the methodological challenges posed by research on almost all social media platforms, in
the context of terrorism studies, the critique and recommendations offered remain relevant despite the recent shift
of most jihadists from Twitter to Telegram and other forms of social media.