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
Sub-Saharan African Terrorist Groups’ Use of the Internet
2014 Bertram, S. and Ellison, K. Journal
This article presents the results of a study which measured the web presence of terrorist groups active in Sub Saharan Africa. It also explores the relationship between web technology availability and adoption by terrorist groups and looks at how differentiating between web publishing technologies used by terrorist groups can further develop the study of terrorist cultures and communities online.
Surfacing Contextual Hate Speech Words Within Social Media
2017 Taylor, J. Peignon, M., and Chen, Y. Journal
Social media platforms have recently seen an increase in the occurrence of hate speech discourse which has led to calls for improved detection methods. Most of these rely on annotated data, keywords, and a classification technique. While this approach provides good coverage, it can fall short when dealing with new terms produced by online extremist communities which act as original sources of words which have alternate hate speech meanings. These code words (which can be both created and adopted words) are designed to evade automatic detection and often have benign meanings in regular discourse. As an example, "skypes", "googles", and "yahoos" are all instances of words which have an alternate meaning that can be used for hate speech. This overlap introduces additional challenges when relying on keywords for both the collection of data that is specific to hate speech, and downstream classification. In this work, we develop a community detection approach for finding extremist hate speech communities and collecting data from their members. We also develop a word embedding model that learns the alternate hate speech meaning of words and demonstrate the candidacy of our code words with several annotation experiments, designed to determine if it is possible to recognize a word as being used for hate speech without knowing its alternate meaning. We report an inter-annotator agreement rate of K=0.871, and K=0.676 for data drawn from our extremist community and the keyword approach respectively, supporting our claim that hate speech detection is a contextual task and does not depend on a fixed list of keywords. Our goal is to advance the domain by providing a high quality hate speech dataset in addition to learned code words that can be fed into existing classification approaches, thus improving the accuracy of automated detection.
Syria's Electronic Armies
2015 Ruhfus, J. Video
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.
Systematic Analysis in Counterterrorism: Messages on an Islamist Internet- Forum
2008 Renfer, M.A. and Haas, H.S. Journal
The article describes a systematic approach used by the Swiss Intelligence Service (SAP). The procedure described is illustrated by the authentic case of messages among extremists going on the Website www.islamic-minbar.com, a case that was prosecuted and brought to verdict by the Attorney General of the Swiss Confederation.
Tackling Extremism Online
2016 Russell, J. Video
Jonathan Russell, Head of Policy at Quilliam, talks to Sky News #digitalview about how everyone, not just governments, can help challenge extremist propaganda.

#digitalview, Sky News (23/01/16)

Quilliam is the world’s first counter-extremism think tank set up to address the unique challenges of citizenship, identity, and belonging in a globalised world. Quilliam stands for religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy.
Tackling Illegal Content Online
2017 European Commission Policy
Today, the Commission presents guidelines and principles to increase the proactive prevention, detection and removal of illegal content inciting hatred, violence and terrorism online. The increasing availability and spreading of terrorist material and content that incites violence and hatred online is a serious threat to the security and safety of EU citizens.
Tackling Insurgent Ideologies 2.0: Rapporteurs' Report
2020 Observer Research Foundation Report
As the global political barometer increasingly shifts towards insularity, protectionism and propaganda-driven populism across countries, the CVE community is faced with a varied set of challenges. Whether it is on the question of dealing with returning ISIS FTFs, and preventing their move to different geographical theatres; or combatting majoritarian groups that rally around grievances, race or religion and fuel extreme violence—we need to ask ourselves how much more vulnerable we are today, and identify where the fault lines lie. While addressing these challenges, it is equally necessary to ensure that the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms are balanced as governments address security priorities. It is with the desire to see more global conversation on the manifold ideologies that drive violence and the responsibility of governments, platforms and civil society engaged in CVE initiatives that the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) organised the second iteration of Tackling Insurgent Ideologies, with the theme “Implementing the Christchurch Call: Towards a Global CVE Agenda.” We brought together a diverse group of policymakers, researchers and practitioners involved in the process of developing strategies that deal with the proliferation of radicalism and violence to debate and discuss best practices, learnings and a way forward.
Taking al-Qaeda’s Jihad to Facebook
2010 Batal al-Shishani, M. Journal
Outlines how Facebook is used by jihadists, analyses Facebook by conducting search using keywords such as “jihad”, “al-Qaeda” and “Bin Laden”
Taking North American White Supremacist Groups Seriously: The Scope and Challenge of Hate Speech on the Internet
2018 Cohen-Almagor, R. Article
This article aims to address two questions: how does hate speech manifest on North American white supremacist websites; and is there a connection between online hate speech and hate crime? Firstly, hate speech is defined and the research methodology upon which the article is based is explained. The ways that ‘hate’ groups utilize the Internet and their purposes in doing so are then analysed, with the content and the functions of their websites as well as their agenda examined. Finally, the article explores the connection between hate speech and hate crime. I argue that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that speech can and does inspire crime. The article is based in the main on primary sources: a study of many ‘hate’ websites; and interviews and discussions with experts in the field.
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.
Technological Skills of White Supremacists in an Online Forum: A Qualitative Examination
2014 Holt, T.J. and Bolden, M.S. Journal
Research surrounding radicalization to and use of violence among extremist and terror groups has expanded over the last decade. There are still fundamental questions that must be addressed, particularly regarding the role of the Internet in radicalisation and recruitment as well as general technological skill within extremist groups. Few studies have considered this issue, especially among Far Right groups which have been identified as one of the top threats to public safety within the United States. This exploratory study addresses these issues using a qualitative analysis of a sample of threads from a technology-specific subforum of a widely used web forum in the white nationalist and white power movement. The findings demonstrate that the process of information sharing is distinct from that of more sophisticated deviant and criminal communities on-line, as users readily answer basic technological questions rather than discuss offensive attack techniques. The implications of this study for future research are examined in depth.
Ten “Rs” of Social Reaction: Using Social Media to Analyse the “Post-Event” Impacts of the Murder of Lee Rigby
2016 Innes, M., Roberts, C., Preece, A. and Rogers, D. Journal
This article provides a case study analysis of social reactions to the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013. Informed by empirical data collected by systematic monitoring of social media platforms, the analysis identifies a number of online behaviours with offline effects—labeled the ten “Rs”—that collectively constitute the process of social reaction to the crime. These are defined as: reporting; requesting; responding; recruiting; “risking”; retaliating; rumouring; remembering; reheating; and “resiliencing”. It is argued that the ability to observe these behaviours through the application of qualitative social media analysis has considerable potential. Conceptually, the analysis provides new insight into the complex and chaotic processes of sense-making and meaning attribution that arise in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. It illuminates how patterns of social reaction on social media are nuanced and complicated, with different segments of the public interpreting the same developments very differently. In addition, the findings and the conceptual framework outlined have implications for policy and practice development in terms of establishing a more effective and evidence-based approach to the consequence management of “post-event” conflict dynamics and social reactions.
Terror in Cyberspace Terrorists Will Exploit and Widen the Gap Between Governing Structures and the Public
2002 Stanton, J.J. Journal
There is an inverse relationship between public access to the Internet and the inability of governments and institutions to control information flow and hence state allegiance, ideology, public opinion, and policy formulation. Increase in public access to the Internet results in an equivalent decrease in government and institutional power. Indeed, after September 11, 2001, Internet traffic statistics show that many millions of Americans have connected to alternative news sources outside the continental United States. The information they consume can be and often is contrary to U.S. government statements and U.S. mainstream media reporting. Recognizing this, terrorists will coordinate their assaults with an adroit use of cyberspace for the purpose of manipulating perceptions, opinion, and the political and socioeconomic direction of many nation-states.
Terror in the Dark: How Terrorists Use Encryption, the Darknet, and Cryptocurrencies
2018 Malik, N. Report
This report demonstrates how terrorists and extremists have utilised the Darknet to mask their communication and propaganda efforts, to recruit and radicalise, and to gain material benefits such as illicit goods, including, but not limited to, weapons and fraudulent documents. In addition, this report notes the growing tendency of these individuals to utilise cryptocurrencies for transactions and fundraising, enabling them to evade detection by law enforcement entities.
Terror on Twitter: A Comparative Analysis of Gender and the Involvement in Pro-Jihadist Communities on Twitter
2016 Witmer, E.W. MA Thesis
Social media has become the milieu of choice to radicalize young impressionable minds by terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State. While a plethora of research exists on the recruitment and propaganda efforts by terrorist organizations there is limited number of quantitative studies that observe the relationship of gender and the involvement in online radical milieus. This current research will build upon prior studies through the comparative analysis of 750 unique Twitter accounts supporting the IS and the affiliates of al-Qaeda that were non-randomly sampled between January and September of 2015. The research aimed to address the questions of: 1) whether women that are involved in pro-jihadist communities on Twitter post substantively different amounts of content than men, 2) whether women that are involved in pro-jihadist communities on Twitter post substantively different content than their male counterparts and, 3) whether the gender disparity in level and type of involvement on Twitter differ amongst the supporters of different jihadist organizations. This study found that, while pro-jihadist communities on Twitter continue to be dominated by male participation, female supporters of the IS are more active and post more violent content than women that support any other organization. The intragroup differences found amongst the female supporters suggests that group ideology, recruitment and
propaganda strategies play a role in the level of involvement of women in radical milieus.
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
Terrorism & Internet Governance: Core Issues
2007 Conway, M. Article
Both global governance and the sub-set of issues that may be termed 'internet governance' are vast and complex issue areas. The difficulties of trying to 'legislate' at the global level – efforts that must encompass the economic, cultural, developmental, legal, and political concerns of diverse states and other stakeholders – are further complicated by the technological conundrums encountered in cyberspace. The unleashing of the so-called ‘Global War on Terrorism’ (GWOT) complicates things yet further. Today, both sub-state and non-state actors are said to be harnessing – or preparing to harness – the power of the internet to harass and attack their foes. Clearly, international terrorism had already been a significant security issue prior to 11 September 2001 (hereafter '9/11') and the emergence of the internet in the decade before. Together, however, the events of 9/11 and advancements in ICTs have added new dimensions to the problem. In newspapers and magazines, in film and on television, and in research and analysis, 'cyber-terrorism' has become a buzzword. Since the events of 9/11, the question on everybody's lips appears to be 'is cyber-terrorism next?' It is generally agreed that the potential for a 'digital 9/11' in the near future is not great. This does not mean that IR scholars may continue to ignore the transformative powers of the internet.
Terrorism and (Mass) Communication: From Nitro to the Net
2004 Conway, M. Article
In their seminal contribution to the study of terrorism and the media, Violence as Communication (1982), Alex Schmid and Jenny De Graaf point out that before technology made possible the amplification and multiplication of speech, the maximum number of people that could be reached simultaneously was determined by the range of the human voice and was around 20,000 people. In the nineteenth century, the size of an audience was expanded twenty-five to fifty times. In 1839 the New York Sun published a record 39,000 copies; in 1896, on the occasion of President McKinley’s election, two US papers, belonging to Pulitzer and Hearst, for the first time printed a million copies. William McKinley paid a high price for this publicity. In 1901 he was killed by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, who explained his deed with the words: ‘For a man should not claim so much attention, while others receive none.’ Historically, access to the communication structure was intimately related to power. With the growth of the press, and later television, a situation arose that gave unequal chances of expression to different people. This connection between power and free expression was summed-up by A.J. Liebling who observed that ‘Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.
Terrorism and IT: Cyberterrorism and Terrorist Organisations Online
2003 Conway, M. Chapter
Chapter, "Terrorism and IT: cyberterrorism and terrorist organisations online" in book: Howard, Russell D. and Sawyer, Reid L., (eds.) Terrorism and counterterrorism: understanding the new security environment, readings and interpretations
Terrorism and New Media: the Cyber-Battlespace
2007 Conway, M. Chapter
Chapter, "Terrorism and new media: the cyber-battlespace", in book: Forest, James F., (ed.) Countering terrorism and insurgency in the 21st Century.