Welcome to VOX-Pol’s Online Library, a research and teaching resource, which collects in one place a large volume of publications related to various aspects of violent online political extremism.
Our searchable database contains material in a variety of different formats including downloadable PDFs, videos, and audio files comprising e-books, book chapters, journal articles, research reports, policy documents and reports, and theses.
All open access material collected in the Library is easy to download. Where the publications are only accessible through subscription, the Library will take you to the publisher’s page from where you can access the material.
We will continue to add more material as it becomes available with the aim of making it the most comprehensive online Library in this field.
If you have any material you think belongs in the Library—whether your own or another authors—please contact us at email@example.com and we will consider adding it to the Library. It is also our aim to make the Library a truly inclusive multilingual facility and we thus welcome contributions in all languages.
Syria's Electronic Armies
|Over the last four years as the Syrian uprising has grown into a full-blown civil war, a sinister parallel conflict has been fought out in cyberspace, with combatants wielding bytes and software rather than guns as they have battled for supremacy on Syria's internet frontline.
But the consequences of this secret cyber war have been real and deadly - particularly for opponents of the Assad regime who have been targeted for arrest and torture as a consequence of personal information gleaned from their email traffic.
In some cases even the military plans of crucial rebel offensives had been hacked. But the opposition has been busy too, leaking President Bashar al-Assad's embarrassing personal correspondence and eavesdropping on government troop deployments amid much else.
As a consequence Syria's civil war has become fertile ground for 'hacktivists' from both sides - egged on and in some cases assisted by governments and agencies from outside the region.
In this special investigation for People & Power , Juliana Ruhfus has been finding out why some experts believe Syria's electronic armies have been drawing up the blueprints for all wars of the future, conflicts that transcend traditional physical boundaries but which can be just as significant as those fought with tanks and missiles.
Sectarian Twitter War: Sunni-Shia Conflict and Cooperation in the Digital Age
|Amid mounting death tolls in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, sectarian discourse is
on the rise across the Arab world—particularly in the online sphere, where
extremist voices are amplified and violent imagery and rhetoric spreads rapidly.
Despite this, social media also provides a space for cross-sectarian discourse
and activism. Analysis of over 7 million Arabic tweets from February to August
2015 suggests that violent events and social network structures play key roles
in the transmission of this sectarian and countersectarian rhetoric on Twitter.
Boko Haram and the Discourse of Mimicry: a Critical Discourse Analysis of Media Explanations for Boko Haram’s Improved Video Propaganda Quality
|The Nigeria-based violent non-state actor Boko Haram is increasingly reported on in the news media in relation to the Islamic State, another, more prominent, violent non-state actor. In particular, these comparisons have been drawn within the context of reports on Boko Haram’s recent improvement in video propaganda quality. While the associations with the Islamic State are often warranted, there are broader social consequences when colonial power relations are brought into play. Borrowing an approach from critical discourse analysis, 16 online English-language news articles were read through a postcolonial lens in order to analyse the structural relations of dominance that arise when discussing African non-state actors. The analysis revealed that among the corpus of articles, nine developed a discourse of mimicry, which serves to deny Boko Haram full agency, relegate them to a silenced subaltern status, and ultimately to diminish the sense of threat posed to the dominant geopolitical security paradigm.|
Jean-Paul Laborde (CTED) and Humera Khan (Muflehun) on Terrorism Online - Media Stakeout (17 December 2015)
|2015||Laborde, J.P. and Khan, H.||Video|
|Informal comments to the media by Mr. Jean-Paul Laborde, Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of CounterTerrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and Mrs. Humera Khan, Executive Director of Muflehun, on terrorism online.|
American Foreign Fighters: Implications for Homeland Security
|2015||Phillips, M. and Mesazores, C.||Report|
Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate
|Islamic State stunned the world when it overran an area the size of Britain on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border in a matter of weeks and proclaimed the birth of a new Caliphate. In this timely and important book, Abdel Bari Atwan draws on his unrivalled knowledge of the global jihadi movement and Middle Eastern geopolitics to reveal the origins and modus operandi of Islamic State. Based on extensive field research and exclusive interviews with IS insiders, Atwan outlines the group's leadership structure, as well as its strategies, tactics and diverse methods of recruitment. He traces the Salafi-jihadi lineage of IS, its ideological differences with al-Qa'ida and the deadly rivalry that has emerged between their leaders. Atwan also shows how the group's rapid growth has been facilitated by its masterful command of social media platforms, the 'dark web', Hollywood 'blockbuster'-style videos, and even jihadi computer games, producing a powerful paradox where the ambitions of the Middle Ages have re-emerged in cyber-space.As Islamic State continues to dominate the world's media headlines with horrific acts of ruthless violence, Atwan considers the movement's chances of survival and expansion, and offers indispensable insights on potential government responses to contain the IS threat.|
"Support For Sisters Please": Comparing The Online Roles Of Al-Qaeda Women And Their Islamic State Counterparts
|2016||Peladeau, H.||MA Thesis|
|This study evaluates female roles in pro-jihadist terrorism by examining online content. Data was collected from 36 Twitter accounts of women associated with al-Qaeda (AQ) affiliated groups for a period of six months. The purpose for collecting this data was to: 1) compare how traditional female roles, as constructed within a jihadi-Salafist ideology, are reproduced and challenged on social media; 2) and determine the extent that AQ-affiliated women conform to roles outlined in Huey’s classification of females in pro-Islamic State (IS) Twitter networks. The results of this study reveal that women’s traditional roles in pro-jihadist activities are reproduced on Twitter. Although the women appear to be empowered by the anonymity that Twitter provides, their roles remain largely constrained to those in supportive positions. AQ women mainly use Twitter to share the ideological beliefs of AQ and provide emotional support for fellow AQ members. In comparison with IS, AQ females subscribe to only a portion of the roles outlined in Huey’s classification.|
The Digital Caliphate
|2016||Jovana, V.||MA Thesis|
|Within the short timeframe of a few months, a new terrorist group managed to solidify its presence in the Middle East in order to begin radicalizing and recruiting foreigners to fight jihad and declare an overarching goal of creating a purely Islamic State. DAESH quickly established their brand and a media strategy and became known worldwide for the high production value of their communication operations just as much as for their savage cruelty. The use of media has become vital to its overall success as a terrorist organization. Through targeted propaganda strategies, DAESH has managed to appeal to marginalized foreigners. While the populations of the Western world, largely opposed to DAESH, receive videos of beheadings and barbarity, potential recruits are inundated with images of state-building, charity work, and brotherhood. Concurrently, DAESH has managed to utilize the mainstream media landscape in order to further facilitate anti- Islamic rhetoric and intensify the air of mystery surrounding the organization. Through the sophisticated use of technology, as well as a detailed understanding and exploitation of human behavior and psychology, DAESH has managed to establish themselves as one of the most adept terror organizations, due in large part to the successful intersection of their communication operations with targeted propaganda strategies.|
Hate Speech and Covert Discrimination on Social Media: Monitoring the Facebook Pages of Extreme-Right Political Parties in Spain
|2016||Ben-David, A. and Matamoros Fernández, A.||Article|
|This study considers the ways that overt hate speech and covert discriminatory practices circulate on Facebook despite its official policy that prohibits hate speech. We argue that hate speech and discriminatory practices are not only explained by users’ motivations and actions, but are also formed by a network of ties between the platform’s policy, its technological affordances, and the communicative acts of its users. Our argument is supported with longitudinal multimodal content and network analyses of data extracted from official Facebook pages of seven extreme-right political parties in Spain between 2009 and 2013. We found that the Spanish extreme-right political parties primarily implicate discrimination, which is then taken up by their followers who use overt hate speech in the comment space.|
Media And Information Literacy: Reinforcing Human Rights, Countering Radicalization And Extremism
|2016||Singh, J., Kerr, P. and Hamburger, E.||Report|
|2016 is the first year of the implementation of the sustainable development goals. A renewed emphasis on a Human Rights-Based Approach to all forms of development is apt and timely. While migration and peace building as development challenges are not new to humankind, the world is faced with ongoing wars and conflicts as well as new forms of violent extremism triggering levels of migration, that rival only the one that occurred during the Second World War. As a negative and undesirable consequence, all over the world, there has been a sudden rise in incidents of individuals using hate speech against migrants, forced migration and minority communities or social groups, blaming them for their nations’ struggles. The words used in politics, in the news, in social media, in research studies, national reports and general literature or debate about these human phenomena have consequences. History has shown that rhetorical excesses and unbalanced or biased historical accounts of certain events in relation to any ethnic group, place, culture or religion can give rise to a climate of prejudice, discrimination, and violence. It is these prejudices, discrimination and violence that often compromise individual rights or equal rights to all – the right to cultural and religious expressions, the right to security and peace, the right to freedom of expression, the right to education, the right to information, the right to associate or connect et al. Here, Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” is breached. It is this reasoning and conscience that the acquisition of media and information literacy (MIL) competencies can stir in all peoples. Furthermore, the ideological beliefs and dogmas that we firmly hold emanate from our socialization. Socialization is embedded in information and communication and increasingly taking place through technological platforms, media and all forms of learning environments. When taken together and coupled with the incidents of the use of social media by extremist and violent organizations to radicalize and recruit especially young minds, the relevance of MIL to enable citizens to challenge their own beliefs effectively and critically engage in these topics, and thus the integration of MIL in formal, non-formal and informal settings becomes more urgent. A rights-based approach to media and information literacy and to sustainable development – including countering hate, radicalization and violent extremism - can play a crucial role in perceptions of the “other” by encouraging reporting, research and analysis as well as the design and implementation of development interventions that are objective, evidence-based, inclusive, reliable, ethical and accurate, and by encouraging individuals to take sound actions based on their rights and the rights of others.|
Backgrounds, Experiences and Responses to Online Hate Speech: A Comparative Cross-Country Analysis
|2015||Jubany, O. and Roiha, M.||Report|
|International- and EU-institutions are paying increasing attention to the phenomenon of online hate speech and acknowledge this as a growing problem across and beyond Europe. In this regard, the 2015 ECRI report highlights online hate speech as one of the main trends of the previous year, emphasising that “hate speech through social media is rapidly increasing and has the potential to reach a much larger audience than extremist print media were able to reach previously”. Also, UNESCO has recently focused on this growing issue, mapping and analysing the existing initiatives to combat online hate speech in their comprehensive 2015 report “Countering online hate speech".|
ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa
|2015||Vidino, L. and Hughes, S.||Report|
|While not as large as in many other Western
countries, ISIS-related mobilization in the United States
has been unprecedented.
As of the fall of 2015, U.S.
authorities speak of some 250 Americans who have
traveled or attempted to travel to Syria/Iraq to join the
Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and 900 active investigations
against ISIS sympathizers in all 50 states.
Seventy-one individuals have been charged with
ISIS-related activities since March 2014. Fifty-six have
been arrested in 2015 alone, a record number of
terrorism-related arrests for any year since 9/11. Of
The average age is 26.
86% are male.
Their activities were located in 21 states.
51% traveled or attempted to travel abroad.
27% were involved in plots to carry out attacks on
55% were arrested in an operation involving an
informant and/or an undercover agent.
A small number of Americans have been killed in
ISIS-related activities: three inside the U.S., at least a
The profiles of individuals involved in ISIS-related activities
in the U.S. differ widely in race, age, social class,
education, and family background. Their motivations
are equally diverse and defy easy analysis.
Social media plays a crucial role in the radicalization
and, at times, mobilization of U.S.-based ISIS sympathizers.
The Program on Extremism has identified some
300 American and/or U.S.-based ISIS sympathizers active
on social media, spreading propaganda, and interacting
with like-minded individuals. Some members
of this online echo chamber eventually make the leap
from keyboard warriors to actual militancy.
American ISIS sympathizers are particularly active on
Twitter, where they spasmodically create accounts that
often get suspended in a never-ending cat-and-mouse
game. Some accounts (the “nodes”) are the generators
of primary content, some (the “amplifiers”) just retweet
material, others (the “shout-outs”) promote newly created
accounts of suspended users.
ISIS-related radicalization is by no means limited to
social media. While instances of purely web-driven,
individual radicalization are numerous, in several cases
U.S.-based individuals initially cultivated and later
strengthened their interest in ISIS’s narrative through
face-to-face relationships. In most cases online and
offline dynamics complement one another.
The spectrum of U.S.-based sympathizers’ actual involvement
with ISIS varies significantly, ranging from
those who are merely inspired by its message to those
few who reached mid-level leadership positions within
Documenting the Virtual 'Caliphate'
|The menace presented by Islamic State’s (IS) self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ is uniquely challenging on a
number of levels. Tactically, its military operations demand lateral thinking, since the group exists as a
nebulous, swarming network constantly seeking to expand its reach. Strategically, too, it is pioneering
new insurgent methods, establishing numerous, complex administrative and institutional foundations
in Iraq and Syria that are already deeply rooted and sure to prolong the war for years to come, as the
middle ground between civilian and soldier is systematically destroyed. It is in psychological terms,
though, that IS has truly transformed the state of play. Its vast propaganda operation is unrivalled,
involving devoted media teams from West Africa to Afghanistan who work relentlessly, day and night,
in the production and dissemination of the ‘caliphate’ brand. So far, most of our attempts to
meaningfully mitigate IS’s ability to globally engage have been left floundering.
Numerically speaking, it is an uphill struggle. Though there are some commendable efforts being
undertaken by counter violent extremism practitioners and civil society organisations, they are dwarfed
in size by IS’s media behemoth, which produces on average 38 individual batches of propaganda each
day – videos, photo essays, articles and audio programmes. Apart from practicalities, the counter effort
is, from the offset, structurally impaired from success. Indeed, the cult of the counter-narrative has left
coalition partners working from within a reactive paradigm, something that means it is perpetually on
the back foot when it comes to presenting an alternative to what IS offers.
The difficulties we face in the information war on IS are not something of which we can opt out. Hence,
we need to recognise our weaknesses and circumnavigate the obstacles we face. Arguably the most
damaging of those weaknesses has been a persistent tendency to misunderstand just what it is that IS
is doing – myriad questions have been asked, and most left unanswered.
In the Quilliam Foundation’s latest research into IS propaganda, Senior Researcher Charlie Winter
presents us with a truly ground-breaking window into the mind of the propagandist, demystifying the
media war more than ever before. Between 17 July and 15 August 2015, the Islamic month of Shawwal,
Charlie compiled an exhaustive archive of IS propaganda, creating not just a snapshot of its output, but
a comprehensive, 30-day view of it.
Over the course of the data collection period, he recorded 1146 separate propaganda “events”,
discrete batches of data that were disseminated with a view to bolstering the IS world view, be that
through graphic violence or millenarian scenes of vividly lit fairgrounds. Each event was recorded
according to 7 variables and then grouped by narrative and subcategory, enabling detailed analysis. By
postponing any assessment until the data had been collected in full, Charlie was able to circumvent IS’s
tactical saturation of the Internet and consider its messaging in an aggregated, considered manner. In
so doing, as important trends, iniquities and anomalies that are otherwise impossible to discern become
strikingly apparent, he has presented us with an important tactical and strategic insight into the virtual
When it comes to IS propaganda, it is imperative that we understand it in as granular and nuanced a
manner as possible. Using data to test the hypothesis of the July 2015 report ‘The Virtual ‘Caliphate’:
Understanding Islamic State’s Propaganda Strategy’, Charlie has illuminated the bare bones of the IS
brand. It is high time we recognised that there is no elixir that can deliver us from IS’ information
supremacy, no catch-all counter-narrative to undercut its carefully cultivated and choreographed
image. In this absence, we must instead seek to enrich our understanding. The IS ‘caliphate’ is marketing
itself on an industrial scale. If we are to destroy its brand, we must first be able to fathom its depths.
The Virtual 'Caliphate': Understanding Islamic State's Propaganda Strategy
|For too long, the immensity of Islamic State’s propaganda machine has obscured a rational
understanding of it. The organisation’s media strategists are producing high-definition depictions
of the most abhorrent brutality on an industrial scale, ensuring that jihadism is digitalised and
brought firmly into the 21st century. The days when we saw grainy video footage played on Al
Jazeera and propaganda was limited to stagnant speeches made by terrorist leaders are long gone.
Islamic State has revolutionised jihadist messaging, by jettisoning operational security in the
pursuit of dynamism, so that it can produce propaganda that tells a story, exciting or appalling its
viewers, depending on who they are.
This has not gone unnoticed, it is forever being discussed in the pages of our newspapers and on
the screens of our televisions – ‘high production value’ and ‘high definition’ are the new buzzwords
of today’s terrorism. While they may be appropriate terms, they have stopped us from rationally
assessing the organisation behind the glossy propaganda.
This report seeks to redress that situation, presenting the most extensive analysis of the
organisation’s propaganda strategy to date. It demonstrates that Islamic State’s media operation
is carefully calculated, with jihadist videographers producing bespoke content for a wide range of
audiences. It shows that the group’s brutality is a red herring; that the violence depicted is a result
of the propagandists’ desire to outrage hostile audiences abroad and gratify their supporters at
It is only after we have achieved an understanding of the motivations and objectives that drive the
Islamic State media machine that we can begin to challenge it effectively. How, for example, can
we be expected to develop a counter-narrative without knowing what narratives we are
countering? How can we propose effective counter messaging strategies unless we understand
what and how exactly the messages that we are countering are being disseminated, and to what
With hundreds of citizens from across the world travelling to join Islamic State’s terrorist
bastardisation of the ‘caliphate’, the situation has never been more critical. Extremist supporters
of Islamic State have already carried out attacks in countries around the world, from North
America to Australasia, and the threat of their intensification increases every day. It is imperative
that we – practitioners, policymakers and publics – better understand just how the messages of
indoctrination are delivered and hence what drives these individuals to waste life in the name of
Islamic State’s violent Islamist fantasy.
QUILLIAM CHARLIE WINTER
With this report, Quilliam’s Senior Researcher on Transnational Jihadism, Charlie Winter, has
made a most important contribution to the global effort to counter Islamic State. Through his
systematic research – which, over the course of the ‘caliphate’s’ first full year, involved daily
monitoring of terrorist activity on both Arabic- and English-language social media – he has been
able to critically assess the Islamic State media machine, both up close and from afar.
Through his assessment of Islamic State propaganda in aggregate, after his documenting of well
over a thousand individual propaganda campaigns, Charlie has been able to distil its
unprecedented jihadist brand into six key narratives: brutality, mercy, victimhood, war, belonging
and utopia. With these themes and their relative prevalence in mind, it was possible for him to
determine which audiences Islamic State targets in each of its campaigns: active opponents,
international publics, active members, potential recruits, disseminators, proselytizers and
enlisters. Evidently, the Islamic State propagandists know their game.
This war cannot be won through military and political means alone; it is as much a war of
information and propaganda as anything else and, currently, it is fatally imbalanced to the
advantage of Islamic State.
What this report makes very clear is that we need to respond in kind – relying upon someone else
to produce a panacea to it, a single counter-narrative that is universally appealing to all audiences,
is a fruitless pursuit. If the international community is to effectively approach the Islamic State
crisis, it must do so in a synchronised, comprehensive manner and revolutionise its approach to
Whether it is by matching the approach that Islamic State use or the sheer quantity of the content
they produce – an average of three videos and more than fifteen photographic reports are
circulated per day – we must respond to 21st Century jihadism by ensuring that we too are
operating in the same century.
Global Terrorism and New Media The Post-Al Qaeda Generation
|2011||Seib, P. and Janbek, D.M.||Book|
|Global Terrorism and New Media carefully examines the content of terrorist websites and extremist television programming to provide a comprehensive look at how terrorist groups use new media today.
Based partly on a content analysis of discussion boards and forums, the authors share their findings on how terrorism 1.0 is migrating to 2.0 where the interactive nature of new media is used to build virtual organization and community. Although the creative use of social networking tools such as Facebook may advance the reach of terrorist groups, the impact of their use of new media remains uncertain. The book pays particular attention to terrorist media efforts directed at women and children, which are evidence of the long-term strategy that some terrorist organizations have adopted, and the relationship between terrorists’ media presence and actual terrorist activity. This volume also looks at the future of terrorism online and analyzes lessons learned from counterterrorism strategies.
This book will be of much interest to students of terrorism studies, media and communication studies, security studies and political science.
The Al-Qaeda Media Nexus: The Virtual Network Behind the Global Message
|This brief study surveys a representative sample of Arabic- language jihadist* media from July 2007 and attempts to answer two simple, yet crucial, questions: What does the structure of jihadist media tell us about the relationship between Al-Qaeda central and the movements that affiliate themselves with it? And what can the priorities of jihadist media tell us about the operational priorities of Al-Qaeda and affiliated movements?|
Propaganda 2.0: Psychological Effects of Right‐wing and Islamic Extremist Internet Videos
|2013||Rieger, D., Frischlich, L. and Bente, G.||Book|
|This book deals with the psychological effects of extremist propaganda videos. It particularly asks the question how young adults in Germany respond to right- wing as well as Islamic extremist videos which can be found on the Internet today. This is not a book about terrorism, but about the potential conditions which might facilitate a climate of receptivity for radical messages in a young mass audience with diverging cultural and educational background and different attitudes and values.|
A Content Analysis of Persuasion Techniques Used on White Supremacist Websites
|2005||Weatherby, G.A. and Scoggins, B.||Journal|
|The Internet has made it possible for people to access just about any information they could possibly want. Conversely, it has given organizations a vehicle through which they can get their message out to a large audience. Hate groups have found the Internet particularly appealing, because they are able to get their uncensored message out to an unlimited number of people (ADL 2005). This is an issue that is not likely to go away.|
Framing the Troubles Online: Northern Irish groups and website strategy
|Can the Internet really make a difference for groups who wish to either support or challenge a peace process? This book explores the ways in which civil and uncivil groups in Northern Ireland use the Internet during a period of conflict transformation, with a particular emphasis on their framing of their positions in respect of the acceptability of political violence and their attitudes to the peace process. In this way it represents the first comparative study of how Loyalist and Republican ideologies are projected in the online sphere. The book considers whether there are any qualitative differences between the online framing of terrorist-linked groups and the constitutional parties in the region. These research issues are addressed through the analysis of Loyalist and Republicans websites in 2004 and 2005, a period before the advent of Web 2.0 in which these websites were the only visible presence of these actors in cyberspace. The book concludes by considering the implications of these website strategies for community relations in Northern Ireland today. The websites of rival residents’ groups are examined to determine whether the Internet is a safe environment in which these groups can foster better cross-community relations, and perhaps even bridging social capital, across sectarian interfaces. This book will be of interest to students and scholars of political communication, Northern Ireland, the Internet and civil society.|
Jihadism Online: A Study of How al-Qaida and Radical Islamist Groups Use the Internet for Terrorist Purposes
|The Internet is of major importance to the global jihadist movement today. It facilitates ideological cohesion and network-building within a geographically scattered movement, and all levels of the jihadist network are present on the Internet. The jihadist websites differ enormously in nature and are run relatively independently of each other. However, many sites are inter-related in the sense that they frequently redistribute and circulate the same material. This indicates that despite a large number of sites, the scope of new material that appears on these sites every day is not necessarily very large. Concerning the functions of the jihadist Internet, it fulfils different objectives, most importantly of communicative character. The much feared cyber terrorism, i.e. destructive attack on information systems, does not, so far, seem to be a main objective for the jihadist use of the Internet.|