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
Identity, Activism and Hatred: Hate Speech against Migrants on Facebook in the Czech Republic in 2015
2016 Hrdina, M. Article
The increased influx of refugees and migrants to the EU in 2015 has been followed by a noticeable presence of online hate speech against migrants in many countries across Europe. The article presents the results of a study of hate speech proliferation on Facebook in the Czech Republic during the summer of 2015. Its goal is to identify the producers of hate speech and determine their social background, explore the main channels of hate speech proliferation, determine the specific groups of migrants targeted by hate speech, put the hate speech in the context of online political communication, and discuss the role of media and politicians in the process of hate speech proliferation. With regard to the works of Castells, Skocpol or Bennett and Segerberg, online hate speech can be perceived as an extreme variety of new, rapidly evolving modes of political communication as such. Social and political activism has been shifting from membership-based organizations and parties towards flexible movements and initiatives with strong emphasis on the logic of identity politics. People may or may not engage in hate speech production as lone independent actors, but they still perceive their actions as part of larger collective efforts. When we focus on hate speech as a form of civic activism or networking, new interesting patterns can emerge.
“You Need to Be Sorted Out With a Knife”: The Attempted Online Silencing of Women and People of Muslim Faith Within Academia
2016 Barlow, C., Awan, I. Article
Academics are increasingly expected to use social media to disseminate their work and knowledge to public audiences. Although this has various advantages, particularly for alternative forms of dissemination, the web can also be an unsafe space for typically oppressed or subordinated groups. This article presents two auto-ethnographic accounts of the abuse and hate academics researching oppressed groups, namely, women and people of Muslim faith, experienced online. In doing so, this article falls into four parts. The first section provides an overview of existing literature, particularly focusing on work which explores the violence and abuse of women and people of Muslim faith online. The second section considers the auto-ethnographic methodological approach adopted in this article. The third section provides the auto-ethnographic accounts of the author’s experiences of hate and abuse online. The final section locates these experiences within broader theoretical concepts, such as silencing, and considers possible implications of such online hate in both an academic context and beyond.
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.
Measuring Online Affects in a White Supremacy Forum
2016 Figea, L., Kaati, L,. and Scrivens, R. Article
Since the inception of the World Wide Web, security agencies, researchers, and analysts have focused much of their attention on the sentiment found on hate-inspired web-forums. Here, one of their goals has been to detect and measure users' affects that are expressed in the forums as well as identify how users' affects change over time. Manual inspection has been one way to do this; however, as the number of discussion posts and sub-forums increase, there has been a growing need for an automated system that can assist humans in their analysis. The aim of this paper, then, is to detect and measure a number of affects expressed in written text on Stormfront.org, the most visited hate forum on the Web. To do this, we used a machine learning approach where we trained a model to recognize affects on three sub-forums: Ideology and Philosophy, For Stormfront Ladies Only, and Stormfront Ireland. The training data consisted of manual annotated data and the affects we focused on were racism, aggression, and worries. Results indicate that even though measuring affects is a subjective process, machine learning is a promising way forward to analyze and measure the presence of different affects on hate forums.
Understanding Online Radicalisation Using Data Science
2016 Al-Saggaf, Y. Journal
What characterises social media radicals? And why some people become attracted to radicalisation? To explore answers to these questions, a number of tweets posted by a group of suspected radicals tweeting in Arabic were analysed using social network analysis and machine learning. The study revealed that these suspected radicals' networks showed significant interaction with others; but this interactivity is only significant quantitatively as the interaction is not reciprocated. With regards to why these suspected radicals became attracted to radicalisation, Topic Modelling revealed these suspected radicals' tweets underpinned a perceived injustice that they believed the Secret Police and the Government inflicted upon them. Overall, the study has shown that data science tools have the potential to inform our understanding of online radicalisation. It is hoped this exploratory study will be the basis for a future study in which the research questions will be answered using a larger sample.
Terror Won’t Kill the Privacy Star – Tackling Terrorism Propaganda Online in a Data Protection Compliant Manner
2016 Ellermann, J. Journal
Reacting to a series of terrorist attacks, the European Union has tasked Europol to establish an Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) to counter terrorist propaganda. The political statement entailed a clear commitment to fundamental rights including data protection. This paper analyses the present and future applicable legal bases and elaborates on challenges connected to the practical implementation of the EU IRU. It also explains why Europol is often referred to as “the most controlled police
agency in the world”. The paper concludes that it is possible to tackle terrorism propaganda online in a
data protection compliant manner
Matti Pohjonen - EU Lunch Briefing Series 08112016
2016 Matti Pohjonen Report
Counter-Radicalization via the Internet
2016 Greenberg, K.J. Article
ISIS and other international terrorist organizations rely on the Internet to disseminate their extremist rhetoric and to recruit people to their cause, particularly through popular online social media applications. Any meaningful counterterrorism strategy must, therefore, account for the ways in which terrorist organizations use the Internet to prey on young, manipulable minds who are drawn to radical ideas and propaganda and to the desire to serve a cause larger than themselves. This article outlines the ways in which extremist organizations use the Internet to ensnare new recruits, analyzes the implications of cyber-recruitment on existing counterterrorism techniques, and suggests ways in which the U.S. government can work with Internet service providers and other major cyber corporations to better address this growing threat.
Social Media; A New Venue to Censor and Prosecute Journalists
2016 Palestinian Center For Development and Media Freedoms ”MADA” Report
Many states and authorities around the world keep an open eye on activity over social media sites (which are considered nowadays as one of the main platforms exercising freedom of opinion and expression) and have dealt with its users with a sense of caution and suspicion. In an effort to censor materials that may threaten them, some authorities have used arrest, interrogation, prosecution and even physical abuse against some users.

This approach has also lead to the banning of certain social media sites for periods or permanently in certain cases. Similarly, this practice of persecuting journalists and activists for their views and material shared on social media platforms has been rampant in Palestine, especially with the widespread use of social media in recent years.

According to the latest statistics of last year 2015, according to a report released through “Social Studio” project initiated by "Concepts" company, to document the status quo of social media in Palestine, results showed that the rate of internet users in Palestine amounted to 50%, furthermore, results also showed that social media users in Palestine amounted to 37%, while the number of "Facebook" users in West Bank and Gaza Strip amounted to 1,780,000 users , in addition to 170 thousand users in Jerusalem chose Arabic language to use Facebook2 ; considered to be as the most prevalent and common social media used in Palestine.
Where are All the Cyber Terrorists? From Waiting for Cyber Attack to Understanding Audiences
2016 Droogan, J. and Waldek, L. Article
This paper presents a review of recent academic scholarship and debates on cyber terrorism, and more broadly of what is known about terrorist's direct use of the Internet as weapon and, less directly, as a communication device. It presents an overview of a field of discourse that has, since its inception, provided a number of foreboding and even doomsday warnings about the future of cyber terrorism, which in the main have failed to come to realization. First, it surveys why these gloomy warnings regarding future proliferation of cyber terrorism have not been born out in practice, and explains that rather than looking for instances of the Internet being used directly as a weapon by terrorists, current debates in academic and policy circles have shifted to trying to measure and ascertain the role that the Internet plays in spreading and supporting extremist discourse to ever wider audiences. It continues by posing a series of questions regarding online audiences that are in need of future research if we are to better understand the role of the Internet in spreading and supporting violent extremist discourse and cultivating terrorism, most importantly the role of audiences as autonomous agents in navigating, reacting and responding to online violent extremist materials.
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
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?
Interpreting Text and Image Relations in Violent Extremist Discourse: A Mixed Methods Approach for Big Data Analytics
2016 O’Halloran, K.L., Tan, S., Wignell, P., Bateman, J.A., Pham, D., Grossman, M. and Moere, A.V. Journal
This article presents a mixed methods approach for analysing text and image relations in violent extremist discourse. The approach involves integrating multimodal discourse analysis with data mining and information visualisation, resulting in theoretically informed empirical techniques for automated analysis of text and image relations in large datasets. The approach is illustrated by a study which aims to analyse how violent extremist groups use language and images to legitimise their views, incite violence, and influence recruits in online propaganda materials, and how the images from these materials are re-used in different media platforms in ways that support and resist violent extremism. The approach developed in this article contributes to what promises to be one of the key areas of research in the coming decades: namely the interdisciplinary study of big (digital) datasets of human discourse, and the implications of this for terrorism analysis and research.
Anti-Semitic Targeting of Journalists During the 2016 Presidential Campaign
2016 Anti-Defamation League Report
Over the course of the 2016 Presidential campaign, an execrable trend has emerged: reporters who voiced even slightly negative opinions about presidential candidate Donald Trump have been targeted relentlessly on social media by the candidate’s self-styled supporters; reporters who are Jewish (or are perceived to be Jewish) have borne the brunt of these attacks. There is evidence that Mr. Trump himself may have contributed to an environment in which reporters were targeted. Indeed, he repeatedly denounced reporters as “absolute scum,” and said of “most journalists” in December 2015, “I would never kill them, but I do hate them. And some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It’s true.” Accordingly, while we cannot (and do not) say that the candidate caused the targeting of reporters, we can say that he may have created an atmosphere in which
such targeting arose.

The social media attacks on journalists were brutal.
Predicting Online Extremism, Content Adopters, and Interaction Reciprocity
2016 Ferrara, E., Wang, W.Q., Varol, O., Flammini, A. and Galstyan, A. Article
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.
“Talk About Terror in Our Back Gardens”: an Analysis of Online Comments about British Foreign Fighters in Syria
2016 da Silvaa, R. and Crilley, R. Journal
The phenomenon of foreign fighters has become a central issue to the ongoing conflict in Syria. This article explores how members of the public answer the question ‘Why do British citizens join the conflict in Syria’ on social media sites and in response to online news articles. Building upon research on everyday narratives of security and terrorism, we analyse 807 comments, and in doing so, we argue that online comments are important in producing the discursive environment for making sense of British foreign fighters and what should be done in response to them. We find that there is a tendency to view British foreign fighters as being purely motivated by religion, and there is also a belief that British foreign fighters should be responded to through exceptional measures. We discuss the implications of such perceptions, and we highlight how problematic misconceptions about Islam and Muslims are not just disseminated through elite and media discourse, but through everyday narratives published by members of the public online.
A Longitudinal Measurement Study of 4chan’s Politically Incorrect Forum and its Effect on the Web
2016 Hine, G.E., Onaolapo, J., De Cristofaro, E., Kourtellis, N., Leontadis, I., Samaras, R., Stringhini, G. and Blackburn, J. Article
Although it has been a part of the dark underbelly of the Internet since its inception, recent events have brought the discussion board site 4chan to the forefront of the world’s collective mind. In particular, /pol/, 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” board has become a central figure in the outlandish 2016 Presidential election. Even though 4chan has long been viewed as the “final boss of the Internet,” it remains relatively unstudied in the academic literature. In this paper we analyze /pol/ along several axes using a dataset of over 8M posts. We first perform a general characterization that reveals how active posters are, as well as how some unique features of 4chan affect the flow of discussion. We then analyze the content posted to /pol/ with a focus on determining topics of interest and types of media shared, as well as the usage of hate speech and differences in poster demographics. We additionally provide quantitative evidence of /pol/’s collective attacks on other social media platforms. We perform a quantitative case study of /pol/’s attempt to poison anti-trolling machine learning technology by altering the
language of hate on social media. Then, via analysis of comments from the 10s of thousands of YouTube videos linked on /pol/, we provide a mechanism for detecting attacks from /pol/ threads on 3rd party social media services.
Identifying Individuals at Risk of Being Radicalised Via the Internet
2016 Seng Neo, L., Dillon, L. and Khader, M. Journal
In an effort to better understand the risk of individuals being radicalised via the internet, this paper re-examines the phenomenon of online radicalisation by focusing on four considerations of interest: individual, online environment, interactions between individual and the online environment, and protective elements. A key premise of the discussion presented is that the different theoretical assumptions and linkages underlying each consideration are not only reconcilable but that together they provide a more comprehensive understanding of assessing risk of radicalisation via the internet than any perspective by itself. Implications for operationalising these four considerations and their associated factors to identify individuals at risk of being radicalised via the internet will also be discussed.
Communication Breakdown: Unraveling the Islamic State's Media Efforts
2016 Milton, D. Report
Despite the destruction and chaos sown on the battlefield by the group that calls itself the Islamic State, one could argue that its propaganda efforts toward supporters, sympathizers, and enemies have also had disruptive results. Whether online or on the ground, the group has sought to use propaganda to magnify the effects of its battlefield successes, minimize the consequences of its failures, recruit new adherents, and increase awareness of its ultimate goals.

Given the focus that the Islamic State places on its media activities, it is important for those fighting the group to have a level of familiarity with the breadth, content, and nature of these activities. The goal of this report is twofold. First, it attempts to examine declassified documents captured from the group’s predecessors to provide a baseline understanding of its present-day media structure and operations. Second, through an examination of over 9,000 Islamic State official media products, this report offers detailed insight into what the group is saying and what a study of its propaganda can tell us about its strengths, weaknesses, and struggles.
#jihad: Understanding Social Media as a Weapon
2016 West, L.J. Journal
This article will argue that social media in the hands of terrorist groups constitutes a weapon, and has become increasingly capable of contributing to the facilitation of consequential harm against identified targets. In doing so it will first clarify the communicative nature of terrorist action and provide an overview of the various contributions made by jihadist strategists to the evolution of terrorist practice, and in particular the re-emergence of the practice of individual terrorism. It will then identify the intersection of individual terrorism and social media and the development and deployment of a system of social media jihad. 2 The article will explain the mechanisms by which terrorist groups exploit and deploy social media platforms, and inflict various harms, with a specific focus on individual and small cell terrorism in Western jurisdictions. Finally, a brief case study analysis of Anwar al-Awlaki will demonstrate the gravity with which governments have conceived of this problem, in part by highlighting the substantiveness of their responses.