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
One Apostate Run Over, Hundreds Repented: Excess, Unthinkability, and Infographics from the War with I.S.I.S.
2018 Adelman, R.A. Journal
Compared to the more spectacular elements of its media repertoire—the slick recruitment campaigns on social media, the artfully composed battlefield footage, the grisly executions—I.S.I.S.’s infographics may seem dull, even trivial. Indeed, these data visualizations have gone largely unremarked, eliciting more bemusement than serious consideration. Against the tendency to discount these images, however, I argue that when I.S.I.S. turns toward charts and diagrams to represent its operations, it launches a stealthy but substantial epistemological challenge to media outlets that depict it as backward and irrational and rely on command of information as an index of Western power. Comparing infographics produced about I.S.I.S. and those produced by the group, I demonstrate that, despite their obvious differences, both types of infographics evince common preoccupations. Like Western news sources, I.S.I.S. creates infographics to map attacks, plot territorial gains, tally and categorize casualties, and track the types of weapons deployed. News media and I.S.I.S. infographics diverge primarily in their affective resonance, as similar information signifies in radically different ways. Ultimately, by producing and circulating these infographics, I.S.I.S. renders simultaneously renders itself more and less intelligible to outsiders: encapsulating its story while confounding prevailing representations as it weaponizes information.
The Viral Mediation of Terror: ISIS, Image, Implosion
2018 Artrip, R.E. Journal
Operations involving the capture, processing, and transmission of terrorist events, campaigns, or images produce effects well beyond the representational/informational functions of media. This article examines several unspoken effects involved in the mediation of terrorism. We analyze the extent to which several mechanisms and operations of western media may be complicit in, if not fundamental to, the global production and administration of terror, particularly at the level of its image and what we call virality. We theorize the ways in which media not only “mediate” terror, but also function to regulate and/or administer it and, in particular, to exacerbate, amplify, and proliferate images and activities of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) across global networks of digital exchange. We argue that key to understanding the strategies and circulating effects of ISIS’s media involvement is the tendency of viral media operations to overproduce, overextend, and oversaturate. The condition of oversaturation denotes a hyperactive global media circuitry that is collapsing under its own weight. This condition reflects a strategic tendency of terror, which underlies all mediatic processing of images deployed by ISIS. It also reveals a vulnerability for terrorist strategy to exacerbate and exhaust the hyperactivity of media, and thus to accelerate the implosive collapse of the globally networked system. We theorize how implicit and unintended effects or outputs of the mediatic processing of terrorist meanings, images, and discourses may work to overstimulate the global system to the point of its reversal, exhaustion, or implosion.
Apocalypse, Later: A Longitudinal Study of the Islamic State Brand
2018 Winter, C. Journal
This article compares two universes of official Islamic State media that were compiled 18 months apart. It explores the nuances of the group’s worldview and illustrates the extent to which external and internal situational exigencies impacted the Islamic State’s brand during its formative years as caliphate. It finds that the organization’s media infrastructure was about half as productive in early 2017 as it had been in mid-2015. The data also show that, even though the group had internationalized its theater of terrorist operations during the time period in question, the brand itself actually contracted to become markedly less globalized in 2016. Finally, the data indicate a substantial thematic rearrangement in the organization’s propaganda, one that saw its story shifting away from the millenarian “utopia” towards military denialism. In sum, the data indicate that the Islamic State propagandists were far less productive by January 2017, and that their aggregate product was less international and less utopian but more militant and more defiant, a shift that suggested a new phase in their political marketing operations, one focused on framing the caliphate as an embattled but still defiant pseudo-state struggling to maintain past momentum.
Arguing with ISIS: Web 2.0, Open Source Journalism, and Narrative Disruption
2018 Sienkiewicz, M. Journal
This paper considers American strategies for countering ISIS social media, focusing on notions of narrative and rational debate in the Web 2.0 era. In addition to chronicling an evolution in American governmental ideas about the online public sphere, the paper looks specifically at the work of Al-Tamimi, an open source journalist who verifies and catalogues original ISIS documentation. Using both textual analyses and long-form interviews with Al-Tamimi as evidence, the paper argues that Al-Tamimi’s archival work serves to disrupt emotionally driven, logically questionable narratives about ISIS, whether they emerge from the group itself or its Western opponents.
Mobilization and Radicalization Through Persuasion: Manipulative Techniques in ISIS’ Propaganda
2018 Rocca, N.M. Journal
This paper explores the recent findings of some empirical research concerning Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS’) communication and tries to synthesize them under the theoretical frame of propaganda’s concept and practices. Many authors demonstrated how ISIS propaganda campaigns, in particular those deployed on cyberspace, proved to be effective in recruiting new members in both western and Muslim countries. However, while most of the researches focused on ISIS’s communication contents and narratives, few works considered other methods and techniques used for actually delivering them. This is a regrettable missing point given the fact that communication’s and neurosciences’ studies demonstrate that not only what is communicated but also the techniques adopted bear important consequences on the receiver’s perceptions and behavior. Therefore, this article analyzes in particular the findings of researches carried out by communication scholars, social psychologists, and neuro-cognitive scientists on ISIS’ persuasive communication techniques and demonstrates their importance for security studies’ analysis of ISIS’ propaganda. It argues that ISIS’ success in mobilizing people and make them prone to violent action relies on—among other factors—its knowledge and exploitation of sophisticated methods of perceptions’ manipulation and behavior’s influence. This, in turn, demonstrates ISIS’ possession of state-like soft power capabilities effectively deployed in propaganda campaigns and therefore calls for a more complex understanding of its agency.
Violent Radicalisation and Far-Right Extremism in Europe
2018 Kallis, A., Zeiger, S., and Öztürk, B. Report
This volume has been made possible by the valuable collaboration between two esteemed organisations, namely SETA and Hedayah. Their collaboration was embodied in the form of a research project that aimed at shedding light on the burning issue of the violent radicalisation and extremism of individuals and groups that belong to - or at least are sympathetic to – the non-mainstream right currents in European countries. In this way, the current volume draws attention to the non-religious dimension of the phenomena of radicalisation and violent extremism and contributes to a relatively small body of works, as opposed to the dominant approach in the
relevant literature which, for the most part, affiliates the phenomena with religious forces and elements. This approach is important since overemphasising one aspect of the phenomena runs the risk of blinding societies and policymakers to the other aspects and, therefore, making them less effective in terms of fending off the negative impacts of the phenomena. This work aims to be conducive to the due recognition of the overlooked aspects of these phenomena and hopefully serve as the first step towards tackling them.
The Language of New Terrorism: Differences in Psychological Dimensions of Communication in Dabiq and Inspire
2018 Vergani, M., and Bliuc, A-M. Journal
We investigate differences in the psychological aspects underpinning Western mobilisation of two terrorist groups by analysing their English-language propaganda. Based on a computerised analysis of the language used in two English-language online magazines circulated by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda (i.e., Dabiq and Inspire), we found significant differences in their language—the ISIS’ language being higher in authoritarianism and its level of religiousness. In a follow-up experimental study, we found that being high in religiousness and authoritarianism predicts more positive attitudes towards the language used by ISIS, but not towards the language used by al-Qaeda. The results suggest that ISIS’ propaganda may be more effective in mobilising individuals who are more authoritarian and more focused on religion than that of al-Qaeda. These findings are consistent with the behaviour observed in recent homegrown terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe.
Images of Death and Dying in ISIS Media: A Comparison of English and Arabic Print Publications
2018 Winkler, C., El-Damanhoury, K., Dicker, A., and Lemieux, A.F. Article
Images of death and dying in the media around the globe have a symbiotic relationship with nation states as they can bolster state control by defining who has the right to take lives in the interests of the community, by identifying enemies of the state, by demonstrating dominance over enemies, and by lending a moral posture to the state’s war efforts. Previously, the growing corpus of research on media’s display of death and about to die images has focused almost exclusively on media outlets that bolster established states on the global stage. By analyzing 1965 death and about to die images displayed in Dabiq, ISIS’s English-language magazine, and al-Naba’, the same group’s Arabic-language newspaper, this study adds an understanding of the messaging strategies deployed by groups striving to challenge, rather than reinforce, existing national boundaries. The findings suggest that while ISIS adopts some standard media practices, it also utilizes unique and audience targeted approaches regarding the frequency of image use, the identify of the corpses, the display of dead bodies, and the presentation of those responsible for the pictured dead bodies in its media campaign.
Violent Extremism and Terrorism Online in 2017: The Year in Review
2018 Conway, M., with Courtney, M. VOX-Pol Publication
The use of the Internet, particularly social media, by violent extremists and terrorists and their supporters received an increasing amount of attention from policymakers, media, Internet companies, and civil society organisations in 2017. In addition to politicians stepping-up their rhetoric regarding the threat posed by consumption of and networking around violent extremist and terrorist online content, prominent and heavily trafficked social media platforms also took a stronger stand on the issue this year, which caused civil liberties organisations considerable disquiet. This report treats developments in the violent extremist and terrorist online scene(s) and responses to them in the 12-month period from 1 December 2016 to 30 November 2017.
GCTF - Zurich-London Recommendations ENG
2018 Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Working Group Report
The Global Counterterrorism Forum published this report to compile a non-exhaustive list of governmental good practices regarding strategic communications and social media aspects in preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism online for GCTF Members – as well as any other interested Government. The good practices expressed in this document were identified in meetings and subsequent discussions with GCTF Members, reflecting their experience in this regard. Moreover, with these recommendations, the GCTF aims to support and complement existing work and initiatives by other international and regional organisations, namely the UN and other relevant stakeholders involved in this context. The good practices are divided into three sections: Section I addresses overarching good practices for preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism online; Section II addresses good practices for content-based responses; and Section III addresses good practices for communications-based responses.
Music of the Islamic State
2018 Lahoud, N., and Pieslak, J. Article
Anashid – Islamic a cappella songs – figure prominently in the propagandaconsumption habits of the 17 jihadists who have caused casualties in the United States since 2013.
#TerroristFinancing: An Examination of Terrorism Financing via the Internet
2018 Tierney, M. Article
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. Article
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
2018 Windsor, L. Article
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
2018 Elder, K.A. Article
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. Article
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. Article
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.