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
A Comparative Analysis Of Right-wing Radical And Islamist Communities' Strategies For Survival In Social Networks: Evidence From The Russian Social Network Vkontakte
2019 Myagkov, M., Shchekotin, E. V., Chudinov, S. I. and Goiko, Y. L. Article
This article presents a comparative analysis of online communities of right-wing radicals and Islamists, who are considered to be numerous and dangerous extremist groups in Russian society. The online communities were selected based on the content posted on the largest Russian social networking site VKontakte. The goal of this article is to determine the strategy and tactics employed by extremist online communities for survival on social networking sites. The authors discovered that both right-wing radical and Islamist groups employ similar behavioural techniques, with the mimicry of ideologically neutral content as the most common. In addition, every extremist community also applies some unique methods. For example, if there is a risk of being blocked, right-wing radicals tend to shift their activity and communication to the other Internet-based platforms that are not under state control; however, Islamists prefer to suddenly change the content of their communities (i.e. by using secondary mimicry).
Charlie Hebdo, 2015: 'Liveness' And Acceleration Of Conflict In A Hybrid Media Event
2019 Valaskivi, K., Tikka, M. and Sumiala, J. Article
In this article, the authors examine the intensification of liveness and its effects in the Charlie Hebdo attacks that took place in Paris in January 2015. In their investigation they first re-visit the existing theoretical literature on media, event and time, and discuss in particular the relationship between media events and the idea of liveness. They then move on to the empirical analysis of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and demonstrate the aspects of intensified liveness in the circulation of selected tweets. The analysis is based on a multi-method approach developed for the empirical study of hybrid media events. In conclusion, the authors argue that the liveness, experienced and carried out simultaneously on multiple platforms, favours stereotypical and immediate interpretations when it comes to making sense of the incidents unfolding before the eyes of global audiences. In this condition, incidents are interpreted ‘en direct’, but within the framework of older mnemonic schemes and mythologization of certain positions (e.g. victims, villains, heroes) in the narrative. This condition, they claim, further accelerates the conflict between the different participants that took part in the event.
New Technology in the Hands of the New Terrorism
2019 Goertz, S. and Streitparth, A. E. Chapter
This chapter examines the technological opportunities of the digital age and the Internet for a multidirectional exchange of Jihadi ideas, ideology, strategy and tactics. Myriads of social networks on the Internet serve as platforms for Jihadi disputes, which shows that the Internet and telecommunication technology of the twenty-first century are of central importance for new terrorism. Currently, the World Wide Web and its numerous media channels are the most important and most commonly and frequently used communication and propaganda platforms of the Islamist and Jihadi milieu. The Internet allows free cross-border and real-time communication and interaction as well as the reception of (supposedly authentic) reports on the fate of individual Jihadis and developments in far-off conflict regions. These technological achievements of the twenty-first century have enabled the (imagined) worldwide Umma to interconnect and pose a historically new potential for Jihadi actors of new terrorism to mobilise and radicalise Muslims on a global scale.
The Online Caliphate: Internet Usage And ISIS Support In The Arab World
2019 Piazza, J., A. and Guler, A. Article
Experts argue that the internet has provided expanded opportunities for violent extremist groups to propagandize and recruit. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, is an exemplar in that it has heavily invested in an online presence and uses online communities and social media to attract and retain supporters. Does ISIS’s online presence translate into a higher probability that individuals in its target audience will become supporters? In this study, we analyze over 6,000 individuals in six Arab countries to find if those that use the internet to follow political news or to express political views are more likely to support ISIS. We find that respondents who get their news online are significantly more likely to support ISIS than those who follow the news on television or print media. Moreover, those who use online fora for political expression are also more likely to express support for ISIS. Indeed, individuals who engage in online political discussion are more likely to support ISIS than those who engage in conventional political activity, though less than those who engage in contentious political behaviors such as attending a political protest. We conclude with a brief discussion of the academic and policy implications of these findings.
Beyond The "Big Three": Alternative Platforms For Online Hate Speech
2019 European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020) Report
In recent years, most international studies on hate speech online have focused on the three platforms traditionally considered the most influential: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. However, their predominance as the biggest international social networks is no longer uncontested. Other networks are on the rise and young users especially lose interest in the ‘old’ platforms. In April 2019, Instagram had more active accounts globally than Twitter and came fifth in terms of global page impressions, after Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube. Additionally, recent studies into the social media use of minors and young adults showed that Instagram is more important than Facebook to users younger than 30 in several countries. Since hate groups and extremists move their propaganda to the channels where they can reach their target audience most easily, it is important to take those changes in the social media landscape into consideration. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are all parties to the Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online, established by the European Commission in 20164, agreeing to take stronger and swifter action against hate speech on their platforms. Google+ has also joined the Code of Conduct in 2018. However, as the network was shut down in April 2019, it is no longer included in this analysis. As hate speech moderation increases on the major social media platforms, hate groups and extremists turn to other networks where community guidelines against hate speech are less strictly enforced. Some of those alternative platforms, like VK.com or Gab.ai, have acquired a broad international audience and are considered ‘safe havens’ by far-right or right-wing extremist activists. Other platforms have a more local audience or are only relevant in specific countries. This analysis offers an overview of the most prevalent social media platforms and websites used for disseminating hate speech in the countries of the sCAN project partners.
Emotional Effects Of Terroristic Communication: Between Professional Propaganda And Media Coverage
2019 Johann, M. and Oswald, M. Article
Like no other terroristic organization, the Islamic State anchors forms of direct communication in its communication strategy. Although classical mass media still serve as multipliers in order to spread fear, modern terrorists increasingly focus on social media to address relevant recipients. Spreading their messages via mass media, terroristic communicators have to accept balancing media coverage: the classical media framing. With forms of direct communication however they are able to set own strategic communicator frames and narratives. The question arises whether these messages have different effects on recipients than corresponding media reports. In this article we analyze the effects of different forms of terroristic communication on the recipients’ emotions using an experimental design. The results indicate that strategic communicator frames are able to reinforce negative emotions. However, it could be observed that the recipients’ political knowledge and thematic interest are able to reduce the terrorists’ main target: fear.
Regulating Terrorist Content On Social Media: Automation And The Rule Of Law
2019 Macdonald, S., Correia, S. G. and Watkin, A. L. Article
Social-media companies make extensive use of artificial intelligence in their efforts to remove and block terrorist content from their platforms. This paper begins by arguing that, since such efforts amount to an attempt to channel human conduct, they should be regarded as a form of regulation that is subject to rule-of-law principles. The paper then discusses three sets of rule-of-law issues. The first set concerns enforceability. Here, the paper highlights the displacement effects that have resulted from the automated removal and blocking of terrorist content and argues that regard must be had to the whole social-media ecology, as well as to jihadist groups other than the so-called Islamic State and other forms of violent extremism. Since rule by law is only a necessary, and not a sufficient, condition for compliance with rule of values, the paper then goes on to examine two further sets of issues: the clarity with which social-media companies define terrorist content and the adequacy of the processes by which a user may appeal against an account suspension or the blocking or removal of content. The paper concludes by identifying a range of research questions that emerge from the discussion and that together form a promising and timely research agenda to which legal scholarship has much to contribute.
Exploring The Capabilities Of Prevent In Addressing Radicalisation In Cyberspace Within Higher Education
2019 Sandford, L. Article
The Counter Terrorism and Security Act (2015) introduced a binding duty on public sector bodies in the United Kingdom (UK), including education, to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. The Prevent duty has become widely controversial in the Higher Education (HE) sector with questions as to whether it contravenes academic freedom and freedom of speech.
This research seeks to identify how Prevent may be applied to cyberspace to reduce risk of students being radicalised online at universities. Through semi-structured interviews (N= 16) with individuals working in Prevent and HE, attention is given to the capability of monitoring and filtering website content, which must be considered by universities as part of Prevent compliance. In addition, non-technical methods of reducing radicalisation in cyberspace are explored. Consideration is given to building students’ resilience to challenging information they see online through developing counter-narrative content for social media platforms. With students developing counter-narrative content themselves, specifically addressing vulnerability drivers to radicalisation, universities can enhance compliance with Prevent and create counter extremist content which can be used in cyberspace both in and outside of HE.
The Neurocognitive Process Of Digital Radicalization: A Theoretical Model And Analytical Framework
2019 Howard, T., Poston, B. and Benning, S. D. Article
Recent studies suggest that empathy induced by narrative messages can effectively facilitate persuasion and reduce psychological reactance. Although limited, emerging research on the etiology of radical political behavior has begun to explore the role of narratives in shaping an individual’s beliefs, attitudes, and intentions that culminate in radicalization. The existing studies focus exclusively on the influence of narrative persuasion on an individual, but they overlook the necessity of empathy and that in the absence of empathy, persuasion is not salient. We argue that terrorist organizations are strategic in cultivating empathetic-persuasive messages using audiovisual materials, and disseminating their message within the digital medium. Therefore, in this paper we propose a theoretical model and analytical framework capable of helping us better understand the neurocognitive process of digital radicalization.
Distinguishing Features Of The Activity Of Extreme Right Groups Under Conditions Of State Counteraction To Online Extremism In Russia
2019 Myagkov, M., Kashpur, V. V., Baryshev, A. A., Goiko, V. L. and Shchekotin, E. V. Article
The conservative shift taken by Russian authorities forced members of the Russian extreme right to seek shelter online. Nevertheless, they fell under censorship restrictions. The objective of this study is to reveal the distinguishing features of extreme right online groups and their participants' activity under conditions of censorship. The groups studied were identified by means of linguistic markers of extreme right sentiments and attitudes. The metrics of social network analysis were used to analyze interconnections between the groups and the internal migrations of closed communities. The study revealed that (1) extreme right online communities use the tactic of creating mirror Internet sites in case the main group is blocked; (2) blocking of the most extreme oppositional extreme right online groups induces the remaining ones to imitate obedience to law, using "softer forms" of extremist rhetoric; (3) the audience of the blocked groups continues spreading extremist ideas through channels related to other subjects. The study's authors conclude that prohibiting extreme right discourse promotes the proliferation of extreme right ideas and sentiments.
Flashback As A Rhetorical Online Battleground: Debating The (Dis)guise Of The Nordic Resistance Movement
2019 Blomberg, H. and Stier, J. Article
The right-wing Swedish Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) is increasingly active on social media. Using discursive psychology, this text explores the rhetorical organization of text and rhetorical resources used on the Swedish online forum Flashback. The aim is to reveal and problematize truth claims about NRM made by antagonists and protagonists. Questions are (1) how and what do NRM antagonists and protagonists convey in Flashback posts about NRM, and its ideology and members? (2) how do NRM antagonists and protagonists make truth claims about NRM in Flashback posts? The empirical material consisting of 1546 Flashback posts analyzed to identify typical discussions on “NMR’s true nature”; accomplished social actions stemming from the posts. Findings show that the Flashback thread can be understood as being a rhetorical battle that concerns the “truth” about NRM, where a variety of rhetorical resources are used to render statements credibility and those involved legitimacy.
Organised and Ambient Digital Racism: Multidirectional Flows in the Irish Digital Sphere
2019 Siapera, E. Article
This article is concerned with the distinction between acceptable race talk in social media and organised, extreme or ‘frozen’ racism which is considered hate speech and removed. While in the literature this distinction is used to point to different variants, styles and mutations of racism, in social media platforms and in European regulatory frameworks it becomes policy. The empirical part of the article considers this distinction drawing upon a series of posts following a stabbing incident in a small Irish town, which organised Twitter accounts sought to connect to terrorism. The empirical analysis examines the tweets of those accounts and the comments left on the Facebook page and website of one of the main Irish online news outlets. The analysis shows few if any differences between the two, concluding that there is a blending of supremacist and everyday, ambient racist discourses. This blending indicates the operation of a transnational contagion, given the shared vocabularies and discourses. It further problematises the distinction between ‘illegal hate speech’ and ‘acceptable race talk’, and throws into question the principle underlying both the policies of social media as well as the European efforts to de-toxify the digital public sphere.
Engaging With Online Extremist Material: Experimental Evidence
2019 Reeve, Z. Article
Despite calls from governments to clamp down on violent extremist material in the online sphere, in the name of preventing radicalisation and therefore terrorism research investigating how people engage with extremist material online is surprisingly scarce. The current paper addresses this gap in knowledge with an online experiment. A fictional extremist webpage was designed and (student) participants chose how to engage with it. A mortality salience prime (being primed to think of death) was also included. Mortality salience did not influence engagement with the material but the material itself may have led to disidentification with the ingroup. Whilst interaction with the material was fairly low, those that did engage tended to indicate preference for hierarchy and dominance in society, stronger identification with the ingroup, higher levels of radicalism, and outgroup hostility. More engagement with the online extremist material was also associated with increased likelihood of explicitly supporting the extremist group. These findings show that indoctrination, socialisation, and ideology are not necessarily required for individuals to engage attitudinally or behaviourally with extremist material. This study is not conducted on the dependent variable, therefore shedding light on individuals who do not
engage with extremist material.
Reconciling Impact And Ethics: An Ethnography of Research in Violent Online Political Extremism
2019 Mahlouly, D. VOX-Pol Publication
Gathering empirical evidence from interviews and focus groups, this study highlights some of the ethical dilemmas faced by the academic community tasked with developing new methodological tools and conceptual frameworks for the study of violent online political extremism. At the same time, it examines how academics position themselves in relation to a broad range of non-academic stakeholders involved in the public debate about where violent extremism, terrorism and the Internet intersect. It argues that these external actors are introducing a multisectoral ‘market’ for research on online violent extremism, which creates both opportunities and limitations for the academic community. Finally, it analyses how academics from across a range of disciplines will be able to secure access to data and competitive research tools, while also engaging in a critical reflection about the ethical considerations at stake.
A Study Of Outlinks Contained In Tweets Monitoring Rumiya
2019 Macdonald, S., Grinnell, D., Kinzel A., and Lorenzo-Dus, A. Report
This paper focuses on the attempts by Daesh (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS) to use Twitter to disseminate its online magazine, Rumiyah. It examines a data set of 11,520 tweets mentioning Rumiyah that contained an out link, to evaluate the success of Daesh’s attempts to use Twitter as a gateway to issues of its magazine.
Following The Whack-a-Mole: Britian First's Visual Strategy From Facebook To Gab
2019 Nouri,L., Lorenzo-Dus, N. and Watkin, A.L. Report
The focus of this paper is on the extremist group Britain First. As such, it does not explore online terrorist activity but rather examines how a group regarded as extremist is subject to online sanctions. The removal of the extremist group Britain First from Facebook in March 2018 successfully disrupted the group’s online activity, leading them to have to start anew on Gab, a different and considerably smaller social media platform. The removal also resulted in the group having to seek new online followers from a much smaller, less diverse recruitment pool. This paper demonstrates the further impact of the group’s platform migration on their online strategy – particularly on their choice of images and the engagement levels generated through them. The paper puts forward a number of key recommendations, most importantly that social-media companies should continue to censor and remove hateful content.
Mapping The Jihadist Information Ecosystem
2019 Fisher, A., Prucha, N. and Winterbotham, E. Report
Online disruption efforts generally aim to reduce the availability of jihadist content. Yet, the speed and agility of jihadist movements online – a multiplatform approach which a co-author of this paper has previously described as a ‘swarmcast’ – has allowed groups to evolve in response to disruption efforts and find new ways to distribute content. This paper describes a model of the flow of users between social media platforms and surface web pages to access jihadist content, using data obtained through innovative collection methods. The model provides an approximate picture of the jihadist information ecosystem and how multiple platforms are used to disseminate content.
The Evolution of Online Violent Extremism In Indonesia And The Philippines
2019 Nuraniyah, N. Report
Pro-Daesh (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS) groups in Indonesia and the Philippines have come to rely on social media for propaganda, fundraising and disseminating instructional material, but in different ways. While Indonesian online extremism has deep roots, with local networks exploiting various online platforms over the past decade, extremist social media in the Philippines only really took off as a consequence of the May 2017 siege in the southern Philippine city of Marawi by pro-Daesh militants. This paper outlines the evolving use of online platforms by pro-Daesh groups in both countries and how this has enabled extremists to develop and strengthen their networks. Social media and encrypted chat apps have shaped the development of extremism in Indonesia and the Philippines in four main areas: branding, recruitment, fundraising, and the increasing role of women. For groups in the Philippines, direct communication with Daesh headquarters via Telegram facilitated their rebranding as the face of Daesh in Southeast Asia, more than just a local insurgency group. In both countries, social media facilitates vertical and horizontal recruitment, but not lone-actor terrorism. Extremist use of the internet for fundraising is still rudimentary –sophisticated financial cybercrime is still virtually non-existent. In all these aspects, women’s roles have become much more visible. For a long time, women had been barred from accessing extremist public spaces, let alone taking an active role as combatants. But through social media, women are now able to play more active roles as propagandists, recruiters, financiers, and even suicide bombers. This paper briefly discusses government responses to online extremism, noting that there have been mixed results between Indonesia and the Philippines. Indonesian authorities have undoubtedly been the more successful of the two regimes – both in terms of law enforcement and engagement with the tech sector – but its counter terrorism police now face the problem of how to judiciously use their powers in a democratic manner. The Philippines, meanwhile, is still at the starting line in terms of dealing with online extremism, with the military more accustomed to removing threats than trying to understand them.
Shedding Light On Terrorist And Extremist Content Removal
2019 Vegt, I.V.D. Gill, P., Macdonald,S. and Kleinberg, B. Report
Social media and tech companies face the challenge of identifying and removing terrorist and extremist content from their platforms. This paper presents the findings of a series of interviews with Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) partner companies and law enforcement Internet Referral Units (IRUs). It offers a unique view on current practices and challenges regarding content removal, focusing particularly on human-based and automated approaches and the integration of the two.
Digital Discourse, Online Repression, And Cyberterrorism: Information Communication Technologies In Russia’s North Caucasus Republics
2019 Tewell, Z.S. MA Thesis
Is the cyber-utopian versus cyber-repression argument the most effective way to frame the political uses of new technologies? Contemporary discourse on social media fails to highlight political dynamics in authoritarian regimes with weak state control, where independent groups can capitalize on the use of coercive force. In this thesis, I will explore the various methods through which information communication technologies are utilized by civil groups, uncivil groups, and the state using Russia's North Caucasus republics as a case study. New technologies are exploited through a variety of means by an array of actors in the North Caucasus whose goals may not necessarily be democratic. Through this evidence I demonstrate that information communication technologies do not inherently aid democratization, nor do they necessarily aid the incumbent regime; rather, they are merely a conduit through which existing groups put forth their agendas regarding their ideals of the modern state.