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 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.


Full Listing

From Directorate of Intelligence to Directorate of Everything: The Islamic State’s Emergent Amni-Media Nexus
2019 Almohammad, A. and Winter, C. Article
This article, which is based on original interview data gathered from eastern Syria between January and October 2018, examines the emergent dominance of the Islamic State’s Directorate of General Security (DGS). We track how this institution, which is currently operating through a network of diwan-specific security offices grouped under the Unified Security Center (USC), has come to oversee and manage an increasingly wide array of the group’s insurgent activities—including intelligence and military operations and religious and managerial affairs. Focusing in particular on its role in the context of media production—which comprises anything from facilitation and security to monitoring, distribution and evaluation—we illustrate the critical importance of this most elusive directorate, positing that, in its current form, it could stand to facilitate the survival of the Islamic State for months—if not years—to come.
Making Sense of Jihadi Stratcom: The Case of the Islamic State
2019 Winter, C. Article
This article explores why jihadis make propaganda. Through the analytical lens of Bockstette’s 2008 framework for jihadi communication strategies, it assesses two of the Islamic State’s most important doctrinal texts on media jihad—the first, a little-known speech by Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir that was published posthumously in 2010, and the second, a field-guide prepared by the Islamic State’s official publishing house, the Himmah Library, in 2015. After drawing out the core insights, similarities and presuppositions of each text, it discusses the enduring salience of Bockstette’s model on the one hand and these two texts on the other, noting that, while it is imprudent to make policy predictions based on them alone, so too would it be remiss to ignore the strategic insights they contain.
Media and Mass Atrocity: The Rwanda Genocide and Beyond
2019 Thompson, E., Dallaire, R. (foreword) Book
It will have been 25 years since the Rwanda genocide in spring 2019. As more information about the Rwanda genocide becomes available and as the narrative of those events continues to evolve, there is still much to learn from the case study of Rwanda about the role of media in stimulating and responding to mass atrocities. In an era of social media saturation, near-ubiquitous mobile device penetration and dramatic shifts in traditional news media, it is more important than ever to examine the nexus between media and mass atrocity. Advances in information and communications technology have reshaped the media landscape, rendering mass atrocities in distant countries more immediate and harder to ignore. And yet, a cohesive international response to mass atrocities has been elusive. Social media tools can be used to inform and engage, but — in an echo of hate radio in Rwanda — can also be used to demonize opponents and mobilize extremism. With enhanced and relatively inexpensive communications technologies, ordinary citizens around the globe can capture live footage of human rights abuses before journalists have the chance, making social media itself a global actor, affecting the responses of national governments and international organizations to threats against peace and security and human rights. And yet, despite the extended reach that technological advances have afforded traditional news media and social media, the media impact in mass atrocity events is still a complex subject. Specifically, we are left with many troubling questions, still unresolved despite the passage of time since Rwanda. What role do media play in alerting the international community to looming mass atrocity? Could more informed and comprehensive coverage of mass atrocities mitigate or even halt the killing by sparking an international outcry? How do we assess the impact of hate media reporting in a killing spree? What is the role of the media in trying to encourage amelioration of the conflict or post-conflict reconciliation? What do the lessons of Rwanda mean now, in an age of communications so dramatically influenced by social media? Media and Mass Atrocity: The Rwanda Genocide and Beyond grapples with these questions.
Dealing With The Dark Side: The Effects Of Right-wing Extremist And Islamist Extremist Propaganda From A Social Identity Perspective
2019 Rieger, D., Frischlich, L. and Bente, G. Article
Right-wing extremists and Islamist extremists try to recruit new followers by addressing their national (for instance, German) or religious (Muslim) social identity via online propaganda videos. Two studies examined whether capitalizing on a shared group-membership affects the emotional and cognitive response towards extremist propaganda. In both studies, Germans/non-migrants, Muslim migrants and control participants (N = 235) were confronted with right-wing extremist and Islamist extremist videos. Emotional and cognitive effects of students (Study 1) and apprentices (Study 2) were assessed. Results showed a general negative evaluation of extremist videos. More relevant, in-group propaganda led to more emotional costs in both studies. Yet, the responses varied depending on educational level: students reported more negative emotions and cognitions after in-group directed videos, while apprentices reported more positive emotions and cognitions after in-group directed propaganda. Results are discussed considering negative social identities.
Paris And Nice Terrorist Attacks: Exploring Twitter And Web Archives
2019 Schafer, V., Truc, G. and Badouard, R. Article
The attacks suffered by France in January and November 2015, and then in the course of 2016, especially the Nice attack, provoked intense online activity both during the events and in the months that followed. The digital traces left by this reactivity and reactions to events gave rise, from the very first days and even hours after the attacks, to a ‘real-time’ institutional archiving by the National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France) and the National Audio-visual Institute (Institut national de l’audiovisuel). The results amount to millions of archived tweets and URLs. This article seeks to highlight some of the most significant issues raised by these relatively unprecedented corpora, from collection to exploitation, from online stream of data to its mediation and re-composition. Indeed, web archiving practices in times of emergency and crises are significant, almost emblematic, loci to explore the human and technical agencies, and the complex temporalities, of ‘born-digital’ heritage. The cases examined here emphasize the way these ‘emergency collections’ challenge the perimeters and the very nature of web archives as part of our digital and societal heritage, and the guiding visions of its governance and mission. Finally, the present analysis underlines the need for a careful contextualization of the design process – both of original web pages or tweets and of their archived images – and of the tools deployed to collect, retrieve and analyse them.
Detection Of Jihadism In Social Networks Using Big Data
2019 Rebollo, C. S., Puente, C., Palacios, R., Piriz, C., Fuentes, J. P. and Jarauta, J. Article
Social networks are being used by terrorist organizations to distribute messages with the intention of influencing people and recruiting new members. The research presented in this paper focuses on the analysis of Twitter messages to detect the leaders orchestrating terrorist networks and their followers. A big data architecture is proposed to analyze messages in real time in order to classify users according to diferent parameters like level of activity, the ability to infuence other users, and the contents of their messages. Graphs have been used to analyze how the messages propagate through the network, and this involves a study of the followers based on retweets and general impact on other users. Ten, fuzzy clustering techniques were used to classify users in profiles, with the advantage over other classifcations techniques of providing a probability for each profile instead of a binary categorization. Algorithms were tested using public database from Kaggle and other Twitter extraction techniques. The resulting profiles detected automatically by the system were manually analyzed, and the parameters that describe each profile correspond to the type of information that any expert may expect. Future applications are not limited to detecting terrorist activism. Human resources departments can apply the power of profle identification to automatically classify candidates, security teams can detect undesirable clients in the financial or insurance sectors, and immigration officers can extract additional insights with these
ISIS at Its Apogee: The Arabic Discourse on Twitter and What We Can Learn From That About ISIS Support and Foreign Fighters
2019 Ceron, A., Curini, L. and Iacus, S. M. Article
We analyze 26.2 million comments published in Arabic language on Twitter, from July 2014 to January 2015, when Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)’s strength reached its peak and the group was prominently expanding the territorial area under its control. By doing that, we are able to measure the share of support and aversion toward the Islamic State within the online Arab communities. We then investigate two specific topics. First, by exploiting the time granularity of the tweets, we link the opinions with daily events to understand the main determinants of the changing trend in support toward ISIS. Second, by taking advantage of the geographical locations of tweets, we explore the relationship between online opinions across countries and the number of foreign fighters joining ISIS.
Media Persuasian in the Islamic State
2019 Krishan Aggarwal, N. Book
Since the declaration of the War on Terror in 2001, militant groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have used the internet to disseminate their message and persuade people to commit violence. While many books have studied their operational strategies and battlefield tactics, Media Persuasion in the Islamic State is the first to analyze the culture and psychology of militant persuasion.

Drawing upon decades of research in cultural psychiatry, cultural psychology, and psychiatric anthropology, Neil Krishan Aggarwal investigates how the Islamic State has convinced people to engage in violence since its founding in 2003. Through analysis of hundreds of articles, speeches, videos, songs, and bureaucratic documents in English and Arabic, the book traces how the jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi created a new culture and psychology, one that would pit Sunni Muslims against all others after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Aggarwal tracks how Osama bin Laden and al-Zarqawi disagreed over the goal of militancy in jihad before reaching a détente in 2004 and how al-Qaeda in Iraq merged with five other groups to diffuse its militant cultural identity in 2006 before taking advantage of the Syrian civil war to emerge as the Islamic State. Aggarwal offers a definitive analysis of how culture is created, debated, and disseminated within militant organizations like the Islamic State. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and area-studies experts will find a comprehensive, systematic method for analyzing culture and psychology so they can partner with political scientists, policy makers, and counterterrorism experts in crafting counter-messaging strategies against militants.
Social Media: A Source Of Radicalization And A Window Of Opportunity, Lessons From Israel
2019 Wolfowicz, M Presentation
Social Media Mechanisms For Right Wing Political Violence In The 21st Century, Discursive Opportunities, Group Dynamics, And Coordination
2019 Wahlstrom, M. & Tornberg, A. Article
This article maps mechanisms by which online social media activities may contribute to right-wing political violence. High-impact studies on the wave of right-wing and racist violence in the 1990s and early 2000s established that mass media discourse on immigrants and previous violent incidents had a significant influence on the prevalence of radical right violence. This link was captured by Koopmans's and Olzak’s notion of discursive opportunities. However, this was before the dominance of online social networks and social media, which changed the media landscape radically. We argue for broadening and refining the operationalization of the concept of discursive opportunities in social movement studies as well as including in our theoretical models new mechanisms brought about by the new online media. In relation to radical right and anti-immigrant mobilizations in Sweden in the 2010s, we elaborate and exemplify three mechanisms through which activities on social media may affect the incidence of violence: a) having an increasingly co-produced discursive opportunity structure, b) making inter-group dynamics in movement groups and networks trans-local, and c) sharing (rare) practical information and co-ordinating activities.
Branding A Caliphate In Decline: The Islamic State’s Video Output (2015-2018)
2019 Nanninga, P. Report
Although video releases have been central to the Islamic State’s efforts to represent itself to its audiences, an extensive quantitative and qualitative study of these sources over a longer period of time is still lacking. This paper therefore provides an overview and analysis of the entire corpus of official videos released by the Islamic State between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2018. It particularly focuses on how the Islamic State’s decline in Iraq and Syria during this period is reflected in its video output and how the group has responded to its setbacks. The paper demonstrates a strong correlation between the group’s mounting troubles and its video production: the numbers of videos decreased dramatically and their content reflects the Islamic State’s (re)transformation from a territory-based ‘state’ to an insurgent group relying on guerrilla tactics and terrorist attacks. Nevertheless, this paper argues that the Islamic State’s multi-faceted response to its setbacks might ensure the groups’ appeal to its target audience in the years to come.
Do Internet Searches for Islamist Propaganda Precede or Follow Islamist Terrorist Attacks?
2019 Enomoto, C. E. and Douglas, K. Article
Using a Vector-Autoregressive (VAR) model, this paper analyzes the relationship between Islamist terrorist attacks and Internet searches for the phrases such as "join Jihad" or "join ISIS." It was found that Internet searches for "join Jihad" and "taghut" (Arabic word meaning "to rebel") preceded the Islamist terrorist attacks by three weeks over the period January 2014 to December 2016. Internet searches for "kufar" (the derogatory Arabic word for non-Muslims) preceded the attacks that resulted in deaths from the Islamist terrorist groups. Casualties, including those injured and killed by the Islamist groups, were also found to precede Internet searches for "join Jihad" and "ISIS websites." Countermeasures to the usage of social media for terrorist activity are also discussed. As an example, if Internet searches for specific terms can be identified that precede a terrorist attack, authorities can be on alert to possibly stop an impending attack. Chat rooms and online discussion groups can also be used to disseminate information to argue against terrorist propaganda that is being released.
Embodying The Nordic Race: Imaginaries Of Viking Heritage In The Online Communications Of The Nordic Resistance Movement
2019 Kølvraa, C. Article
Kølvraa’s article focuses on the cultural imaginary of the Scandinavian extreme right by analysing the online presence of the so-called Nordic Resistance Movement. He seeks to show how the cultural imaginaries of this National Socialist organization make use of the Scandinavian Viking heritage in three distinct ways. First, to produce a distinctly Nordic form of National Socialism and thus potentially make this ideology palatable to Nordic publics. Second, to differentiate their racially oriented political project from a wider far-right or populist right concern with the defence of European Christian heritage and/or civilization against Islam. And, third, to thematize and perform a certain hyper-masculine identity, especially in the context of martial and sporting competitions arranged by the organization.
Cyberhate: A review and content analysis of intervention strategies
2019 Blaya, C. Article
This paper presents a review of intervention programmes against cyberhate. Over the last decade, the preoccupation over the use of electronic means of communication as a tool to convey hate, racist and xenophobic contents rose tremendously. NGOs, legal professionals, private companies, and civil society have developed interventions but little is known about their impact. For this review we followed the method and protocol from the guidelines from the Cochrane Collaboration Handbook for Systematic Reviews and the Campbell Collaboration Crime and Justice guidelines. The review identified three key intervention areas: law, technology and education through the empowerment of the individuals under the form of counter-speech. No specific intervention towards aggressors was found and most projects focus on prevention or victims through confidence building and skills learning to speak out, report and potentially react in an appropriate way. We did not find any rigorously assessed interventions, which highlights a gap in research and stresses the need for this type of studies. The evaluation of effectiveness of interventions needs to be included in the near future research agenda. Up to now, although intentions are good, we have no evidence that the steps that are undertaken are effective in preventing and reducing cyberhate.
Communications Technology and Terrorism
2019 Mahmood, R. and Jetter, M. Article
By facilitating the flow of information in society, communications technology (CT; e.g., newspapers, radio, television, the Internet) can help terrorists to (i) spread their message, (ii) recruit followers, and (iii) coordinate among group members. However, CT also facilitates monitoring and arresting terrorists. This article formulates the hypothesis that a society’s level of CT is systematically related to terrorism. We introduce a simple theoretical framework, suggesting that terrorism first becomes more attractive with a rise in CT, but then decreases, following an inverted U shape. Accessing data for 199 countries from 1970 to 2014, we find evidence consistent with these predictions: terrorism peaks at intermediate ranges of CT and corresponding magnitudes are sizable. Our estimations control for a range of potentially confounding factors, as well as country fixed effects and year fixed effects. Results are robust to a battery of alternative specifications and placebo regressions. We find no evidence of a potential reporting bias explaining our findings.
Platform Surveillance
2019 Murakami Wood, D. and Monahan, T. Journal
This special responsive issue on “Platform Surveillance” critically assesses the surveillance dimensions and politics of large-scale digital platforms. The issue includes an editorial introduction to the topic and its implications, dozens of articles on specific platforms or platform trends, three book reviews of Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, and an interview with Zuboff about her work.
Feature extraction and selection for automatic hate speech detection on Twitter
2019 Routar de Sousa, J. G. MA Thesis
In recent decades, information technology went through an explosive evolution, revolutionizing the way communication takes place, on the one hand enabling the rapid, easy and almost costless digital interaction, but, on the other, easing the adoption of more aggressive communication styles. It is crucial to regulate and attenuate these behaviors, especially in the digital context, where these emerge at a fast and uncontrollable pace and often cause severe damage to the targets. Social networks and other entities tend to channel their efforts into minimizing hate speech, but the way each one handles the issue varies. Thus, in this thesis, we investigate the problem of hate speech detection in social networks, focusing directly on Twitter. Our first goal was to conduct a systematic literature review of the topic, targeting mostly theoretical and practical approaches. We exhaustively collected and critically summarized mostly recent literature addressing the topic, highlighting popular definitions of hate, common targets and different manifestations of such behaviors. Most perspectives tackle the problem by adopting machine learning approaches, focusing mostly on text mining and natural language processing techniques, on Twitter. Other authors present novel features addressing the users themselves. Although most recent approaches target Twitter, we noticed there were few tools available that would address this social network platform or tweets in particular, considering their informal and specific syntax. Thus, our second goal was to develop a tokenizer able to split tweets into their corresponding tokens, taking into account all their particularities. We performed two binary hate identification experiments, having achieved the best f-score in one of them using our tokenizer. We used our tool in the experiments conducted in the following chapters. As our third goal, we proposed to assess which text-based features and preprocessing techniques would produce the best results in hate speech detection. During our literature review, we collected the most common preprocessing, sentiment and vectorization features and extracted the ones we found suitable for Twitter in particular. We concluded that preprocessing the data is crucial to reduce its dimensionality, which is often a problem in small datasets. Additionally, the f-score also improved. Furthermore, analyzing the tweets’ semantics and extracting their character n-grams were the tested features that better improved the detection of hate, enhancing the f-score by 1.5% and the hate recall by almost 5% on unseen testing data. On the other hand, analyzing the tweets’ sentiment didn’t prove to be helpful. Our final goal derived from a lack of user-based features in the literature. Thus, we investigated a set of features based on profiling Twitter users, focusing on several aspects, such as the gender of authors and mentioned users, their tendency towards hateful behaviors and other characteristics related to their accounts (e.g. number of friends and followers). For each user, we also generated an ego network, and computed graph-related statistics (e.g. centrality, homophily), achieving significant improvements - f-score and hate recall increased by 5.7% and 7%, respectively.
Techniques for analyzing digital environments from a security perspective
2019 Shrestha, A. PhD Thesis
The development of the Internet and social media has exploded in the last couple of years. Digital environments such as social media and discussion forums provide an effective method of communication and are used by various groups in our societies.  For example, violent extremist groups use social media platforms for recruiting, training, and communicating with their followers, supporters, and donors. Analyzing social media is an important task for law enforcement agencies in order to detect activity and individuals that might pose a threat towards the security of the society.

In this thesis, a set of different technologies that can be used to analyze digital environments from a security perspective are presented. Due to the nature of the problems that are studied, the research is interdisciplinary, and knowledge from terrorism research, psychology, and computer science are required. The research is divided into three different themes. Each theme summarizes the research that has been done in a specific area. The first theme focuses on analyzing digital environments and phenomena. The theme consists of three different studies. The first study is about the possibilities to detect propaganda from the Islamic State on Twitter.  The second study focuses on identifying references to a narrative containing xenophobic and conspiratorial stereotypes in alternative immigration critic media. In the third study, we have defined a set of linguistic features that we view as markers of a radicalization.
Halting Boko Haram / Islamic State's West Africa Province Propaganda In Cyberspace With Cybersecurity Technologies
2019 Ogunlana, S. O. Article
Terrorists use cyberspace and social media technology to create fear and spread violent ideologies, which pose a significant threat to public security. Researchers have documented the importance of the application of law and regulation in dealing with the criminal activities in cyberspace. Using routine activity theory, this article assessed the effectiveness of technological approaches to mitigating the expansion and organization of terrorism in cyberspace. Data collection included open-source documents, government threat assessments, legislation, policy papers, and peer-reviewed academic literature and semistructured interviews with fifteen security experts in Nigeria. The key findings were that the new generation of terrorists who are more technological savvy are growing, cybersecurity technologies are effective, and bilateral/multilateral cooperation is essential to combat the expansion of terrorism in cyberspace. The data provided may be useful to stakeholders responsible for national security, counterterrorism, law enforcement on the choice of cybersecurity technologies to confront terrorist expansion in cyberspace.
Online Radicalization Of White Women To Organized White Supremacy
2019 Badalich, S. MA Thesis
Since its early mainstream adoption in the 1990s, the Internet has been leveraged by white supremacist groups to recruit and radicalize individuals. Twenty years later, social media platforms, like YouTube, reddit, and Twitter, continue to further this practice. The attention of researchers has been primarily centered on white supremacist men, and this focus on white men erases white women’s roles as active agents in the spread of white supremacy, skewing our understanding of white supremacy as a whole. This study used digital ethnography and interviews to examine the ways white women are radicalized to organized white supremacy through popular social media platforms YouTube, reddit, and Twitter. The study found white women were radicalized by engaging with posts and joining communities focusing on beauty, anti-feminism or “The Red Pill,” traditionalist gender values or #TradLives, and alt-right politics. White supremacist recruiters leveraged gendered topics and weaponized platform features – likes, sharing, comments, recommendation algorithms, etc. – to cultivate a sense of community. Through involvement with these communities, women were introduced to racialized perspectives on each topic, usually after a catalytic pop culture or newsworthy event, and slowly radicalized to organized white supremacy.