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
Jihadism Online: A Study of How al-Qaida and Radical Islamist Groups Use the Internet for Terrorist Purposes
2006 Rogan, H. Report
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.
Deplatforming: Following extreme Internet celebrities to Telegram and alternative social media
2020 Rogers, R. Article
Extreme, anti-establishment actors are being characterized increasingly as ‘dangerous individuals’ by the social media platforms that once aided in making them into ‘Internet celebrities’. These individuals (and sometimes groups) are being ‘deplatformed’ by the leading social media companies such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for such offences as ‘organised hate’. Deplatforming has prompted debate about ‘liberal big tech’ silencing free speech and taking on the role of editors, but also about the questions of whether it is effective and for whom. The research reported here follows certain of these Internet celebrities to Telegram as well as to a larger alternative social media ecology. It enquires empirically into some of the arguments made concerning whether deplatforming ‘works’ and how the deplatformed use Telegram. It discusses the effects of deplatforming for extreme Internet celebrities, alternative and mainstream social media platforms and the Internet at large. It also touches upon how social media companies’ deplatforming is affecting critical social media research, both into the substance of extreme speech as well as its audiences on mainstream as well as alternative platforms.
Islamic State Propaganda and Attacks: How Are They Connected?
2019 Rosenblatt, N., Winter, C. and Basra, R. Article
What is the relationship between the words and deeds of a terrorist group? Despite frequent speculation in media and policy circles, few studies have tested this relationship. This study aims to verify a potential correlation between the volume of propaganda produced by Islamic State (IS)—including statements by the group’s leadership—and the number of attacks carried out in its name. We examine this issue by comparing two datasets: one of all official propaganda produced by the Islamic State in 2016, and another of the completed, failed, and disrupted plots carried out by the group and its supporters in Europe in the same year. We find no strong and predictable correlation between the volume of propaganda Islamic State produces and the number of attacks the group and its supporters carry out. There is no regular rise in IS propaganda output before or after its attacks. In particular, there is no regular rise in attacks after leadership statements. However, the results may have identified differences in how IS central and regional media offices respond to attacks. The findings suggest that rather than merely looking at the volume of IS propaganda, it is necessary to also examine its content. As such, the deliberately broad premise of this study is intended as the first in a series of papers examining the potential relationship between IS propaganda and IS attacks.
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.
Mining Pro-ISIS Radicalisation Signals from Social Media Users
2016 Rowe,M. and Saif, H. Article
The emergence and actions of the so-called Islamic State
of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) has received widespread
news coverage across the World, largely due to their capture
of large swathes of land across Syria and Iraq, and the
publishing of execution and propaganda videos. Enticed by
such material published on social media and attracted to the
cause of ISIS, there have been numerous reports of individuals
from European countries (the United Kingdom and France
in particular) moving to Syria and joining ISIS. In this paper
our aim to understand what happens to Europe-based
Twitter users before, during, and after they exhibit pro-ISIS
behaviour (i.e. using pro-ISIS terms, sharing content from
pro-ISIS accounts), characterising such behaviour as radicalisation
signals. We adopt a data-mining oriented approach
to computationally determine time points of activation (i.e.
when users begin to adopt pro-ISIS behaviour), characterise
divergent behaviour (both lexically and socially), and quantify
influence dynamics as pro-ISIS terms are adopted. Our
findings show that: (i) of 154K users examined only 727 exhibited
signs of pro-ISIS behaviour and the vast majority of
those 727 users became activated with such behaviour during
the summer of 2014 when ISIS shared many beheading
videos online; (ii) users exhibit significant behaviour divergence
around the time of their activation, and; (iii) social homophily
has a strong bearing on the diffusion process of proISIS
terms through Twitter.
Youth Online and at Risk: Radicalisation Facilitated by the Internet
2011 Royal Canadian Mounted Police Report
While the internet provides access to rich educational experiences, great entertainment, and the chance to connect with friends around the clock, it also creates a number of risks that young people, parents, and guardians need to be aware of. There are the commonly known concerns of identity theft, online predators, and cyber-bullying but there is another issue that we need to collectively work to address— Radicalisation to violence. This informational resource strives to increase the awareness of how the internet is being used to radicalise and recruit youth in North America.
Hearing: Countering the Virtual Caliphate: The State Department's Performance
2016 Royce, E. Video
The United States is losing the information war to terrorists like ISIS and Hezbollah. Earlier this year, the administration rebranded the office responsible for counter messaging, but little seems to have changed. A strong, effective information offensive to counter the violent ideology being pushed by ISIS and other terrorists is long overdue. This hearing will give members an opportunity to press the administration’s top public diplomacy official on how the U.S. can be more effective.
Is IS Online Chatter Just Noise?: An Analysis of the Islamic State Strategic Communications
2020 Royo-Vela, M. and McBee, K.A. Article
The objective of this research is to analyze the potential use of strategic communication, and specifically, strategic brand management and online communications directed to a foreign target by the Islamic State (IS). For this purpose, a review of official the IS online media releases was carried out to determine if they reflect characteristics, components, or tools of strategic communication. In this pursuit, a content analysis of a purposive sample of 381 events—photographs, infographics, English written content, and videos—were applied using two independent judges. Statistically relevant results substantiate claims that the IS uses communication strategies and tactics. Descriptive and inferential statistics point out that Delegitimize Opponents, Utopia-Religion, and Military are the three most commonly used themes, in line with the reported IS identity. Also the IS uses breadth of contents, targets, media outlets, and formats, showing content and social media communications such as in online communication. As far as the authors are aware, it is the first content analysis from a strategic communication perspective used to interpret potential branding by the IS. This study is timely, important and lends credibility to the use of communication and marketing terminology by terrorist experts, as well as bridging brand management and strategic communication and terrorism identifying potential targets, messages, channels and tools for counter arguing and positioning.
The Advocacy of Terrorism on the Internet: Freedom of Speech Issues and the Material Support Statutes
2016 Ruane, KA. Report
The development of the Internet has revolutionized communications. It has never been easier to speak to wide audiences or to communicate with people that may be located more than half a world away from the speaker. However, like any neutral platform, the Internet can be used to many different ends, including illegal, offensive, or dangerous purposes. Terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State (IS, also referred to as ISIS or ISIL), Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Al Shabaab, use the Internet to disseminate their ideology, to recruit new members, and to take credit for attacks around the world. In addition, some people who are not members of these groups may view this content and could begin to sympathize with or to adhere to the violent philosophies these groups advocate. They might even act on these beliefs. Several U.S. policymakers, including some Members of Congress, have expressed concern about the influence that terrorist advocacy may have upon those who view or read it. The ease with which such speech may be disseminated over the Internet, using popular social media services, has been highlighted by some observers as potentially increasing the ease by which persons who might otherwise have not been exposed to the ideology or recruitment efforts of terrorist entities may become radicalized. These concerns raise the question of whether it would be permissible for the federal government to restrict or prohibit the publication and distribution of speech that advocates the commission of terrorist acts when that speech appears on the Internet. Significant First Amendment freedom of speech issues are raised by the prospect of government restrictions on the publication and distribution of speech, even speech that advocates terrorism. This report discusses relevant precedent concerning the extent to which advocacy of terrorism may be restricted in a manner consistent with the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech Clause. The report also discusses the potential application of the federal ban on the provision of material support to foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) to the advocacy of terrorism, including as it relates to the dissemination of such advocacy via online services like Twitter or Facebook.
Multimodal Classification of Violent Online Political Extremism Content with Graph Convolutional Networks
2017 Rudinac, S., Gornishka, I. and Worring, M. VOX-Pol Publication
In this paper we present a multimodal approach to categorizing user posts based on their discussion topic. To integrate heterogeneous information extracted from the posts, i.e. text, visual content and the information about user interactions with the online platform, we deploy graph convolutional networks that were recently proven effective in classification tasks on knowledge graphs. As the case study we use the analysis of violent online political extremism content, a challenging task due to a particularly high semantic level at which extremist ideas are discussed. Here we demonstrate the potential of using neural networks on graphs for classifying multimedia content and, perhaps more importantly, the effectiveness of multimedia analysis techniques in aiding the domain experts performing qualitative data analysis. Our conclusions are supported by extensive experiments on a large collection of extremist posts. This research was produced with the aid of VOX-Pol Research Mobility Programme funding and supervision by VOX-Pol colleagues at Dublin City University.
“Electronic Jihad”: The Internet as Al Qaeda's Catalyst for Global Terror
2016 Rudner, M. Journal
The Internet has emerged as a key technology for Al Qaeda and other jihadist movements waging their so-called electronic jihad across the Middle East and globally, with digital multiplier effects. This study will examine the evolving doctrine of “electronic jihad” and its impact on the radicalization of Muslims in Western diaspora communities The study describes Internet-based websites that served as online libraries and repositories for jihadist literature, as platforms for extremist preachers and as forums for radical discourse. Furthermore, the study will then detail how Internet connectivity has come to play a more direct operational role for jihadi terrorist-related purposes, most notably for inciting prospective cadres to action; for recruiting jihadist operatives and fighters; for providing virtual training in tactical methods and manufacture of explosives; for terrorism financing; and for actual planning and preparations for specific terror attacks. Whereas contemporary jihadist militants may be shifting from the World Wide Web to social media, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter for messaging and communications, nevertheless the Internet-based electronic jihad remains a significant catalyst for promoting jihadist activism and for facilitating terrorist operations.
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.
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.
Countering Militant Islamist Radicalisation on the Internet: A User Driven Strategy to Recover the Web
2007 Ryan, J. Book
A strategy to counter violent radicalisation on the Internet must be user driven, empowering Internet users with “cultural intelligence”. Cultural intelligence is essentially shorthand for an understanding of the key pillars of, and vulnerabilities inherent in, militant Islamist rhetoric. What this report calls “Enabling Stakeholders”, such as schools, and religious and community organisations, can disseminate this knowledge, thereby empowering Internet users to choose whether and how to challenge the call to violence.
Modified Frequency-Based Term Weighting Scheme for Accurate Dark Web Content Classification
2014 Sabbah, T. and Selamat, A. Chapter
Security informatics and intelligence computation plays a vital role in detecting and classifying terrorism contents in the web. Accurate web content classification using the computational intelligence and security informatics will increase the opportunities of the early detection of the potential terrorist activities. In this paper, we propose a modified frequency-based term weighting scheme for accurate Dark Web content classification. The proposed term weighting scheme is compared to the common techniques used in text classification such as Term Frequency (TF), Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency (TF-IFD), and Term Frequency- Relative Frequency (tf.rf), on a dataset selected from Dark Web Portal Forum. The experimental results show that the classification accuracy and other evaluation measures based on the proposed scheme outperforms other term weighting techniques based classification.
The Next Generation of Terror
2009 Sageman, M. Article
The world's most dangerous jihadists no longer answer to al Qaeda. The terrorists we should fear most are self-recruited wannabes who find purpose in terror and comrades on the Web. This new generation is even more frightening and unpredictable than its predecessors, but its evolution just may reveal the key to its demise.
A Semantic Graph-Based Approach for Radicalisation Detection on Social Media
2017 Saif, H., Dickinson, T., Kastler, L., Fernandez, M., and Alani, H. Article
From its start, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) has been successfully exploiting social media networks, most notoriously Twitter, to promote its propaganda and recruit new members, resulting in thousands of social media users adopting a pro-ISIS stance every year. Automatic identification of pro-ISIS users on social media has, thus, become the centre of interest for various governmental and research organisations. In this paper we propose a semantic graph-based approach for radicalisation detection on Twitter. Unlike previous works, which mainly rely on the lexical representation of the content published by Twitter users, our approach extracts and makes use of the underlying semantics of words exhibited by these users to identify their pro/anti-ISIS stances. Our results show that classifiers trained from semantic features outperform those trained from lexical, sentiment, topic and network features by 7.8% on average F1-measure.
On the Role of Semantics for Detecting pro-ISIS Stances on Social Media
2016 Saif, H., Fernandez, M., Rowe, M, and Alani, H. Article
From its start, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) has been successfully exploiting social media networks, most notoriously Twitter, to promote its propaganda and recruit new members, resulting in thousands of social media users adopting pro-ISIS stance every year. Automatic identification of pro-ISIS users on social media has, thus, become the centre of interest for various governmental and research organisations. In this paper we propose a semantic-based approach for radicalisation detection on Twitter. Unlike most previous works, which mainly rely on the lexical and contextual representation of the content published by Twitter users, our approach extracts and makes use of the underlying semantics of words exhibited by these users to identify their pro/anti-ISIS stances. Our results show that classifiers trained from words’ semantics outperform those trained from lexical and network features by 2% on average F1-measure.
The Chosen: An Examination Of Extremist Muslim Narratives, Discourse And Ideologies In Cyberspace
2011 SAIFUDEEN, O.A. PhD Thesis
This thesis examines extremist Muslim narratives, discourse, and ideologies over the internet by using content analysis to thematically delineate and reconstruct them for the purpose of discovering the argumentation mechanisms through which they become persuasive and appealing. The research problem is that dominant theories in social sciences and popular literature create 'taken for granted' inferences that relegate extremist ideologies and narratives to the realm of structural contingencies, psychological pathologies, emotive appeal, manipulated religious ideologies, peculiar and unique rationalities or group dynamics. This thesis hypothesizes instead of the existence of a `logical structure` in extremist Muslim narratives. This logical structure is predicated on rationally persuasive arguments (which employ epistemic and instrumental rationality coupled with inductive/deductive reasoning) that appeal to any rational individual but are ultimately leveraged on for morally wrong end-state choices. Unfortunately much of the counter-narratives today seldom address this logical structure and choose to address the more traditional explanations cited above. Themes and argumentation mechanisms stemming from an examination of extremist Muslim narratives in this study demonstrate the presence and workings of this logical structure.
Terrorism Financing with Virtual Currencies – Can Regulatory Technology Solutions Combat this?
2017 Salami, I. Journal
This article considers the terrorism financing risk associated with the growth of Financial Technology (FinTech) innovations and in particular, focuses on virtual currency (VC) products and services. The ease with which cross-border payments by virtual currencies are facilitated, the anonymity surrounding their usage and their potential to be converted into the fiat financial system, make them ideal for terrorism financing and therefore calls for a coordinated global regulatory response. This article considers the extent of the risk of terrorism financing through virtual currencies in ‘high risk’ States by focusing on countries that have been recently associated with terrorism activities. It assesses the robustness of their financial regulatory and law enforcement regimes in combating terrorism financing and considers the extent to which Regulatory Technology (RegTech) and its global standardisation, can mitigate this risk.