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
'Like Sheep Among Wolves': Characterizing Hateful Users on Twitter
2018 Ribeiro,M.H., Calais, P.H., Santos, Y.A., Almeida, A.F., and Meira, W. Jr. Article
Hateful speech in Online Social Networks (OSNs) is a key challenge for companies and governments, as it impacts users and advertisers, and as several countries have strict legislation against the practice. This has motivated work on detecting and characterizing the phenomenon
in tweets, social media posts and comments. However, these approaches face several shortcomings due to the noisiness of OSN data, the sparsity of the phenomenon, and the subjectivity of the definition of hate speech. This works presents a user-centric view of hate speech, paving the way for better detection methods and understanding. We collect a Twitter dataset of 100, 386 users along with up to 200 tweets from their timelines with a randomwalk-based crawler on the retweet graph, and select a subsample of 4, 972 to be manually annotated as hateful or not through crowdsourcing. We examine the difference between user activity patterns, the content disseminated between hateful and normal users, and network centrality measurements in the sampled graph. Our results show that hateful users have more recent account creation dates, and more statuses, and followees per day. Additionally, they favorite more tweets, tweet in shorter intervals and are more central in the retweet network, contradicting the “lone wolf” stereotype often associated with such behavior. Hateful users are more negative, more profane, and use less words associated with topics such as hate,
terrorism, violence and anger. We also identify similarities between hateful/normal users and their 1-neighborhood, suggesting strong homophily.
A Dialectical Approach To Online Propaganda: Australia's United Patriots Front Right Wing Politics And Islamic State
2018 Richards, I. Article
This article examines how the United Patriots Front (UPF), an Australian far-right organization, has communicated its ideology with reference to right-wing politics in Australia, Western Europe, and the United States, and through allusions to Islamic State. The investigation uses critical discourse and documentary analysis and a framework derived from the theory of Pierre Bourdieu to analyze textual and audiovisual postings on UPF Facebook pages, YouTube channels, and Twitter accounts. Relevant to the discussion are Bourdieu’s interdependent theories on “doxa” as a condition in which socially constructed phenomena appear self-evident, and “habitus” and “field,” which explain how structures and agents, through their reflexive behavior, become dialectically situated.
“Flexible” capital accumulation in Islamic State social media
2015 Richards, I. Journal
This article explores online social media produced by the neo-jihadist group “Islamic State” (IS) from a political-economic perspective. Using a framework developed by anthropologist David Harvey, it examines how IS social media operates within depoliticised neoliberal environments characterised by “flexible” regimes of capital accumulation. It explicates how IS acquires political-economic capital by evoking “spectacle”, “fashion” and a “commodification of cultural forms”. Drawing from Christian Fuchs’ informational theory, the article also considers the roles of agency and competition in accumulation processes where “knowledge and technology reinforce each other”. By revealing how IS both constitutes and is constituted by its flexible approach to social media, the article seeks to illuminate avenues for better understanding neo-jihadist ideations.
The Spirit of Terrorism in Islamic State Media
2016 Richards, I. Article
In June 2014 the organisation known as ‘Islamic State’ (IS) announced the establishment of a 680km Syrian and Iraqi Caliphate. Since this time, it has exercised large scale massacres of Middle Eastern civilians, executed foreign prisoners, and forced dissenters into sexual and economic slavery (Lister, 2014: 17). To sustain its operational strength and acquisition of territory, the organisation replenishes its expendable armed forces by attracting foreign fighters using propaganda via online communications. Around 22,000 foreign fighters are currently estimated to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for IS (Stern, 2015: 68), and this is number likely to increase in the immediate future. It is also increasingly noted that through online media, IS encourages returned foreign fighters and ‘homegrown’ sympathisers in countries outside of Iraq and Syria to execute attacks on civilian populations. The internationalisation of the threat posed by IS became starkly apparent in 2015 following IS-inspired and in some cases IS-directed attacks on countries including Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, France and Indonesia.
A Philosophical and Historical Analysis of “Generation Identity”: Fascism, Online Media, and the European New Right
2019 Richards, I. Article
This article analyzes ideological and organizational characteristics of the pan-European youth movement, “Generation Identity” (GI), through a philosophical and historical lens. With a synoptic perspective on existing and original research, it outlines an analysis of key GI literature as well as its ideological influences, activist behavior, and media strategies. This research reveals that, like other twentieth and twenty-first century examples of neo-fascism, the movement is syncretic and attempts to legitimize its political aims through reference to historical quasi- and proto-fascist cases, in combination with popular left and right-wing political ideals. A reflection on GI’s activist behavior, on the other hand, demonstrates that the movement is relatively unique in the field of current far-right politics; particularly in the extent to which it draws practical inspiration from the tactics and propagandizing strategies of contemporary left-wing movements. GI’s online presence, including its leaders’ promotion of gamification, also illustrates its distinctive appeal to young, relatively affluent, countercultural and digitally literate populations. Finally, while in many respects GI is characteristic of the “European New Right” (ENR), the analysis finds that its spokespersons’ various promotion of capitalism and commodification, including through their advocacy of international trade and sale of merchandise, diverges from the anti-capitalist philosophizing of contemporary ENR thinkers.
Australian Measures to Counter Violent Extremism Online: A Comparative Perspective on Far-Right and Jihadist Content
2020 Richards, I. Chapter
This chapter illustrates that online and offline measures to counter violent extremism in Australia have targeted jihadism over other forms of extremism. With attention to the open and intensifying state of far-right extremism in Australia, it advocates for increased attention to this situation. It contends that, given the recursive nature of online extremism and its political and international dimensions, material disseminated by far-right and jihadist groups should be addressed from a comparative perspective.
Legal and Security Frameworks for Responding to Online Violent Extremism: A Comparison of Far-right and Jihadist Contexts
2020 Richards, I. and Woods, M. Chapter
In recent years, there has been an intensification of international extremist violence linked in varying degrees to Internet-facilitated radicalisation. This has related to, among other things, a growth in prevalence of politically violent actors, including far-right and jihadist collectives. Extreme political polarisation, sometimes termed the ‘hyper-tribalism’ of those with violent or extreme views, is to some extent reinforced by these entities’ participation in social media. Radicalisation to terrorism is also arguably facilitated by the architectures of social media platforms, which comprise of personalisation algorithms and the re-mediating functions of ‘likes’, ‘shares’, and ‘re-tweets’ (Sunstein 2009; Pariser 2011; Wood 2017). This chapter reflects on characteristics of social media that can be perceived to encourage violent extremism and terrorism, and legal, security, and technological measures that have been developed internationally to prevent and counter online violent extremist expression. With reference to recent terrorism-related trends, it also highlights a disparity in legal measures to address far-right hate speech (Gelber & McNamara 2016; Davey et al. 2018), relative to thoseused to police and restrict online activity related to jihadism (Conway et al. 2018).
Big Data Ethics
2014 Richards, N.M. and King, J.H. Journal
We are on the cusp of a “Big Data” Revolution, in which increasingly large datasets are mined for important predictions and often surprising insights. The predictions and decisions this revolution will enable will transform our society in ways comparable to the Industrial Revolution. We are now at a critical moment; big data uses today will be sticky and will settle both default norms and public notions of what is “no big deal” regarding big data predictions for years to come.
This paper argues that big data, broadly defined, is producing increased powers of institutional awareness and power that require the development of a Big Data Ethics. We are building a new digital society, and the values we build or fail to build into our new digital structures will define us. Critically, if we fail to balance the human values that we care about, like privacy, confidentiality, transparency, identity and free choice with the compelling uses of big data, our Big Data Society risks abandoning these values for the sake of innovation and expediency.
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.
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.
Propaganda in an Insecure, Unstructured World: How Psychological Uncertainty and Authoritarian Attitudes Shape the Evaluation of Right Wing Extremist Internet Propaganda
2017 Rieger, D., Frischlich, L., Bente, G. Journal
The amount of uploaded extremist propaganda on the internet is increasing. In particular, right-wing extremist as well as Islamic extremist groups take advantage of the opportunities presented by the internet to spread their ideas to worldwide masses. Both tackle in-group specific topics and address their audiences in their respective political, national or religious identities. Several factors, such as higher levels of authoritarian value orientations and threatening life situations (such as existential threats or psychological uncertainty) have been found to shape people’s reactions towards radical groups as well as to propaganda. The current study investigated whether the response to extremist propaganda videos (namely, aversion felt for the video and the perceived persuasiveness of the video) is shaped by an individual’s authoritarian attitudes and psychological uncertainty and whether this is a global process or in-group specific. Further, it considered the effects of exposure to extremist propaganda on the identification with one’s in-group. In a laboratory experiment, German students were confronted with a right-wing extremist and an Islamic extremist video after manipulating their level of uncertainty (high vs. low levels of psychological uncertainty).  The results confirmed that the interaction between authoritarianism and psychological uncertainty affected the evaluation of right-wing extremist videos addressing participants’ national in-group. Under conditions of uncertainty, authoritarianism predicted less aversion and a higher persuasiveness of these videos. Further, psychological uncertainty increased the identification with participants’ German nationality, irrespective of authoritarian attitudes. Notably, the effect was in-group bound: The same effect was not found for Islamic extremist propaganda referring to a religious out-group. The results are discussed regarding the potential of propaganda to foster behavioral intentions and engagement in extremist groups in specific threatening situations.
The Role of Propaganda in Violent Extremism and how to Counter it
2017 Ritzmann, A. Report
The 8th Euromed Survey conducted by the European Institute of the Mediterranean touches
upon a number of important and complex issues related to violent extremism in the EuroMediterranean
region, including the question of the context and drivers through which violent
extremism can prosper. Echoing some of the results, this article looks into propaganda as a
tool of extremist ideologies and how to counter it.
Fighting Hate Speech And Terrorist Propaganda On Social Media In Germany
2019 Ritzmann, A. Report
Lessons learned after one year of the NetzDG law.
The EU Digital Services Act (DSA): Recommendations For An Effective Regulation Against Terrorist Content Online
2020 Ritzmann, A., Farid, H. and Schindler, H-J. Policy
In 2020, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Berlin carried out a sample analysis to test the extent to which YouTube, Facebook and Instagram block “manifestly illegal” terrorist content upon notification. Our findings raise doubts that the currently applied compliance systems of these companies achieve the objectives of making their services safe for users. As a result, CEP proposed requirements for effective and transparent compliance regimes with a focus on automated decision-making tools and lessons learned from the regulation of the financial industry. This Policy Paper combines all the relevant lessons learned and gives concrete recommendations on how to make the DSA also an effective regulation against terrorist content online.
Hate Speech Detection on Twitter: Feature Engineering v.s. Feature Selection
2018 Robinson, D., Zhang, Z. and Tepper, J. Article
The increasing presence of hate speech on social media has drawn significant investment from governments, companies, and empirical research. Existing methods typically use a supervised text classification approach that depends on carefully engineered features. However, it is unclear if these features contribute equally to the performance of such methods. We conduct a feature selection analysis in such a task using Twitter as a case study, and show findings that challenge conventional perception of the importance of manual feature engineering: automatic feature selection can drastically reduce the carefully engineered features by over 90% and selects predominantly generic features often used by many other language related tasks; nevertheless, the resulting models perform better using automatically selected features than carefully crafted task-specific features.
Grading The Quality Of ISIS Videos: A Metric For Assessing The Technical Sophistication Of Digital Video Propaganda
2018 Robinson, M .D. & Dauber, C.E. Article
This article offers a method for systematically grading the quality of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) videos based on technical production criteria. Using this method revealed moments when ISIS production capacity was severely debilitated (Fall 2015) and when they began to rebuild (Spring 2016), which the article details. Uses for
this method include evaluating propaganda video output across time and across groups, and the ability to assess kinetic actions against propaganda organizations. This capacity will be critical as Islamic State media production teams will be pushed out of its territory as the State collapses.
Mobilization and Radicalization Through Persuasion: Manipulative Techniques in ISIS’ Propaganda
2018 Rocca, N.M. Journal
This paper explores the recent findings of some empirical research concerning Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS’) communication and tries to synthesize them under the theoretical frame of propaganda’s concept and practices. Many authors demonstrated how ISIS propaganda campaigns, in particular those deployed on cyberspace, proved to be effective in recruiting new members in both western and Muslim countries. However, while most of the researches focused on ISIS’s communication contents and narratives, few works considered other methods and techniques used for actually delivering them. This is a regrettable missing point given the fact that communication’s and neurosciences’ studies demonstrate that not only what is communicated but also the techniques adopted bear important consequences on the receiver’s perceptions and behavior. Therefore, this article analyzes in particular the findings of researches carried out by communication scholars, social psychologists, and neuro-cognitive scientists on ISIS’ persuasive communication techniques and demonstrates their importance for security studies’ analysis of ISIS’ propaganda. It argues that ISIS’ success in mobilizing people and make them prone to violent action relies on—among other factors—its knowledge and exploitation of sophisticated methods of perceptions’ manipulation and behavior’s influence. This, in turn, demonstrates ISIS’ possession of state-like soft power capabilities effectively deployed in propaganda campaigns and therefore calls for a more complex understanding of its agency.
The homogeneity of right-wing populist and radical content in YouTube recommendations
2020 Röchert, D., Weitzel, M. and Ross, B. Article
The use of social media to disseminate extreme political content on the web, especially right-wing populist propaganda, is no longer a rarity in today's life. Recommendation systems of social platforms, which provide personalized filtering of content, can contribute to users forming homogeneous cocoons around themselves. This study investigates YouTube's recommendations system based on 1,663 German political videos in order to analyze the homogeneity of the related content. After examining two datasets (right-wing populist and politically neutral videos), each consisting of ten initial videos and their first and second level recommendations, we show that there is a high degree of homogeneity of right-wing populist and neutral political content in the recommendation network. These findings offer preliminary evidence on the role of YouTube recommendations in fueling the creation of ideologically like-minded information spaces.
A Spatial Analysis Of Boko Haram And Al-Shabaab References In Social Media In Sub-Saharan Africa
2014 Rodriguez Jr., R.M. MA Thesis
This thesis describes the role that social media can play in showing how a terrorist organization can impact people’s conversation via Twitter. The two groups that this thesis focusses on are Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab. We present a new approach to how we can look into how terrorist organization can be analyzed and see what kind of impacts they may have over different cultures. The process used in researching and writing this thesis is we conducted literature search of the social media phenomenon and what social media can provide. We look to build on research by using the social media phenomenon to find what types of impacts terrorist organizations may have over cultures along with seeing how a terrorist event can have an impact over people on social media. This thesis hopes to expand on previous research on the academic uses for social media, as well as add to the expanding role that social media can be used for intelligence purposes.
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.