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
The battle for truth: How online newspaper commenters defend their censored expressions
2019 Fangen, K. and Holter, C. R. Article
The presence of hate speech in the commentary field of online newspapers is a pressing challenge for free speech policy. We have conducted interviews with 15 people whose comments were censored for posting comments of a racist, discriminatory or hateful nature. What characterizes their self-understanding and enemy images? We found that central to their motivation for writing such comments was an understanding of themselves as particularly knowledgeable people. They see themselves as people who fight for the revelation of the truth, in contrast to the lies spread by politicians and the media. Furthermore, they regard politicians and the media as corrupt elites that are leading our society into destruction by their naïve support of liberal migration policies. By linking up to alternative news media, these individuals support various forms of racialized conspiracy theories, but also a form of radical right-wing populism in their concern that politics should be acted out by people themselves. As such, our study adds to the literature on conspiracy theories in general and racialized conspiracy theories in particular, but also to the literature on online far-right activists. Our contribution lies both in the newness of focusing on the self-perceptions, but also in opening up for a modification of existing literature on the far right.
The British Hacker Who Became the Islamic State's Chief Terror CyberCoach: A Profile of Junaid Hussain
2018 Hameed, N. Article
Until his death in a U.S. drone strike in August 2015, Junaid Hussain was the Islamic State’s most prolific Englishlanguage social media propagandist, working to incite and guide sympathizers in the United Kingdom, United States, and beyond to launch terrorist attacks. Before joining the
jihad in Syria, Hussain was part of a hacking collective in the United Kingdom, focusing much of his attention on perceived injustices against Muslims. In many respects, he was well integrated into British society with his family home in a leafy suburb of Birmingham. A spell in prison contributed to his radicalization and his decision to move to Syria, where he married fellow extremist Sally Jones.
The Brussels Attacks: Critical Online Communications
2016 Ferrara, E. Policy
We present a machine learning framework that leverages a mixture of metadata, network, and temporal features to detect extremist users, and predict content adopters and interaction reciprocity in social media. We exploit a unique dataset containing millions of tweets generated by more than 25 thousand users who have been manually identified, reported, and suspended by Twitter due to their involvement with extremist campaigns. We also leverage millions of tweets generated by a random sample of 25 thousand regular users who were exposed to, or consumed, extremist content. We carry out three forecasting tasks, (i) to detect extremist users, (ii) to estimate whether regular users will adopt extremist content, and finally (iii) to predict whether users will reciprocate contacts initiated by extremists. All forecasting tasks are set up in two scenarios: a post hoc (time independent) prediction task on aggregated data, and a simulated real-time prediction task. The performance of our framework is extremely promising, yielding in the different forecasting scenarios up to 93% AUC for extremist user detection, up to 80% AUC for content adoption prediction, and finally up to 72% AUC for interaction reciprocity forecasting. We conclude by providing a thorough feature analysis that helps determine which are the emerging signals that provide predictive power in different scenarios.
The California Independent System Operator Security Vulnerabilities
2010 Brow, S. L. MA Thesis
Our country is still in the early stages of the 21st century where technology is advancing on a daily basis allowing the threat of terrorism, both domestic and foreign, to pose a serious risk to both its citizens and its assets if not addressed soon. There are numerous potentially vulnerable sites throughout the country that are still left under guarded and under-protected, specifically my emphasis for this project, the California Independent System Operator (ISO). This multilayered project utilizes public information from the Department of Homeland Security manual. The project also includes information from various national publications of defense principles and security countermeasures, as well as law enforcement protocols in place to deal with these types of security threats and potential breaches, scholarly articles, and industry trade journals.
The California ISO lacks physical and some virtual controls that make it more vulnerable to attacks. Specific recommendations have been made to ensure that the ISO is better protected and can still run an effective business.
The Caliphate Is Not a Tweet Away: The Social Media Experience of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
2015 Torres-Soriano, M.R. Journal
This article offers a descriptive analysis of the propaganda activities of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb on Internet social media. It examines the group's propaganda actions from its creation in 1998 until the end of 2015 and argues that the use of social media, Twitter in particular, has failed to offer any real remedy to its mediocre propaganda actions. During the period in which its Twitter profiles were active, the organization continued to manifest the same problems, including a shortage of qualified human resources and poor internal coordination, which had prevented it from engaging in efficient propaganda activity previously. The study of the social media experience of the group offers further evidence of the vulnerabilities of this Maghrebi jihadist organization.
The Call to Jihad: Charismatic Preachers and the Internet
2016 Gendron, A. Journal
A range of psychological, social, and environmental factors render some individuals more susceptible to militant Islam than others. Research also suggests that there are certain “triggers,” which help to explain why it is that only some individuals exposed to the same societal structural influences turn to violence. This article seeks to contribute to future empirical research in this area by studying the significance of certain “charismatic” preachers in this process and examining the role the Internet plays in strengthening the charismatic bond. Difficulties in defining and measuring “charisma” may help in part to explain the paucity of research on this aspect of radicalization but since charismatic authority derives from the bond between preacher and follower, an examination of the activities, strategies, and techniques used to build relationships and win adherents to Salafi-jihadism may provide valuable insights for countering radicalization.
The Call to Jihad: Charismatic Preachers and the Internet
2017 Gendron, A. Article
A range of psychological, social, and environmental factors render some individuals more susceptible to militant Islam than others. Research also suggests that there are certain “triggers,” which help to explain why it is that only some individuals exposed to the same societal structural influences turn to violence. This article seeks to contribute to future empirical research in this area by studying the significance of certain “charismatic” preachers in this process and examining the role the Internet plays in strengthening the charismatic bond. Difficulties in defining and measuring “charisma” may help in part to explain the paucity of research on this aspect of radicalization but since charismatic authority derives from the bond between preacher and follower, an examination of the activities, strategies, and techniques used to build relationships and win adherents to Salafi-jihadism may provide valuable insights for countering radicalization.
The Case of Roshonara Choudhry: Implications for Theory on Online Radicalization, ISIS Women, and the Gendered Jihad
2015 Pearson, E. Journal
As dozens of British women and girls travel to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, there are increasing concerns over female radicalization online. These fears are heightened by the case of Roshonara Choudhry, the first and only British woman convicted of a violent Islamist attack. The university student in 2010 stabbed her Member of Parliament, after watching YouTube videos of the radical cleric Anwar Al Awlaki. Current radicalization theories portray Choudhry as a “pure lone wolf,” a victim of Internet indoctrination, without agency. This article explores how gender factors in her radicalization, to present an alternative to existing theoretical explanations. An engagement with gender reveals its role in Choudhry's radicalization, first, in precluding her from a real-world engagement with Islamism on her terms, pushing her to the Internet; then in increasing her susceptibility to online extremist messages; finally, in fomenting an eventually intolerable dissonance between her online and multiple “real” gendered identities, resulting in violence. The article emphasizes the transgressive nature of this act of female violence in Salafi-Jihadi ideology; also, the importance of this gendered ideology as the foundation of ISIS recruitment online. It emphasizes the importance of understanding the operation of gender in the Jihad's production of violence, and roles for men and women alike.
The Challenges and Limitations of Online Counter-Narratives in the Fight against ISIS Recruitment in Europe and North America
2017 Meleagrou-Hitchens, A. Chapter
The rise of the Islamic State has contributed to both an increased terrorism threat in Western nations and an unprecedented number of citizens joining the group of so-called foreign fighters. IS has used the internet as a way to both disseminate propaganda and radicalize and recruit supporters. This article will begin by analyzing some of the most recent and well-known of such efforts, offering explanations for their successes and failures. The author then assesses limitations to combatting extremist ideas. Not only must the solution involve civil society, but a recalibration of the meaning and aims of counter-messaging is needed.
The Charlie Hebdo Attacks on Twitter: A Comparative Analysis of a Political Controversy in English and French
2017 Smyrnaios, N., Ratinaud, P. Article
In this article, we propose an original method combining large-scale network and lexicometric analysis to link identifiable communities of Twitter users with the main discursive themes they used in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, France in 2015. We used this method to compare tweets and user networks in French and in English. We observed that the majority of the users who tweeted about Charlie Hebdo were people without any particular affiliation, who were shocked by the attacks and immediately expressed themselves through emotionally charged messages. But rather quickly their proportion decreased and they participated less in politically polarizing discussions. On the other hand, we found that smaller, highly politicized, and polarized groups had similar attitudes toward the events: they were less engaged immediately after the attacks in emotional expression of sympathy and shock, but they participated vividly in the following days in polemical discussions or engaged themes. Other findings include the central position of mainstream media and the existence of groups of users that aggregated on the basis of nationality. More generally, our results show clearly that even the most dramatic events such as a terrorist attack with innocent victims do not produce homogeneous reactions online. Rather, political engagement and cultural dispositions are keys to understand different attitudes on Twitter.
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.
The Christchurch Attacks: Livestream Terror in the Viral Video Age
2019 Macklin, G. Article
In the space of 36 minutes on March 15, 2019, it is alleged that Brenton Tarrant, an Australian far-right extremist, fatally shot 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch in the deadliest terrorist attack in New Zealand’s history. What was unique about Tarrant’s attack—at least insofar as extreme-right terrorism is concerned—is that he livestreamed his atrocity on Facebook and in doing so, highlighted the Achilles heel of such platforms when faced with the viral dissemination of extremely violent content.
The Communication of Horrorism: A Typology of ISIS Online Death Videos
2018 Chouliaraki, L. Journal
In this article, the authors theorize the communicative logic of ISIS online death videos—from the burning and shooting of individual hostages to mass battleground executions. Drawing on Adriana Cavarero’s reflections on contemporary violence, they demonstrate how ISIS’ digital spectacles of the annihilated body confront Western viewers with horror— or rather with different “regimes of horrorism” (grotesque, abject and sublime horror). These spectacles of horror, the authors argue, mix Western with Islamic aesthetic practices and secular with religious moral claims so as to challenge dominant hierarchies of grievability (who is worthy of our grief) and norms of subjectivity. In so doing, the authors conclude, ISIS introduces into global spaces of publicity a “spectacular thanatopolitics”—a novel form of thanatopolitics that brings the spectacle of the savaged body, banished from display since the 19th century, back to the public stage, thereby turning the pursuit of death into the new norm of heroic subjectivity.
The Communicative Constitution of Hate Organizations Online: A Semantic Network Analysis of “Make America Great Again”
2018 Eddington, S. M. Article
In the context of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, President Donald Trump’s use of Twitter to connect with followers and supporters created unprecedented access to Trump’s online political campaign. In using the campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” (or its acronym “MAGA”), Trump communicatively organized and controlled media systems by offering his followers an opportunity to connect with his campaign through the discursive hashtag. In effect, the strategic use of these networks over time communicatively constituted an effective and winning political organization; however, Trump’s political organization was not without connections to far-right and hate groups that coalesced in and around the hashtag. Semantic network analyses uncovered how the textual nature of #MAGA organized connections between hashtags, and, in doing so, exposed connections to overtly White supremacist groups within the United States and the United Kingdom throughout late November 2016. Cluster analyses further uncovered semantic connections to White supremacist and White nationalist groups throughout the hashtag networks connected to the central slogan of Trump’s presidential campaign. Theoretically, these findings contribute to the ways in which hashtag networks show how Trump’s support developed and united around particular organizing processes and White nationalist language, and provide insights into how these networks discursively create and connect White supremacists’ organizations to Trump’s campaign.
The Conflict In Jammu And Kashmir And The Convergence Of Technology And Terrorism
2019 Taneja, K. and Shah, K. M. Report
This paper provides recommendations for what government and social media companies can do in the context of Jammu and Kashmir’s developing online theatre of both potential radicalisation and recruitment
The Counter-Narrative Handbook
2016 Tuck, H. and Silverman, T. Report
Given the proliferation of violent extremist content online in recent years, developing effective counter-narratives - messages that offer a positive alternative to extremist propaganda, or deconstruct or delegitimise extremist narratives and challenge extremist ideologies - is an increasingly necessary alternative to online censorship. This Handbook, funded by Public Safety Canada through the Kanishka Project, was created by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) to help anyone looking to proactively respond to extremist propaganda with counter-narrative campaigns, and is intended as a beginner’s guide for those with little or no previous experience of counter-narrative campaigning. It takes readers through the main stages of creating, launching and evaluating an effective c ounter-narrative c ampaign. I t c an a lso b e u sed a longside I SD's freely available online Counter-narrative Toolkit, which can be found at www.counternarratives.org. Our advice is based on ISD’s experiences in creating, running and evaluating in-house campaigns such as Extreme Dialogue, and collaborating with independent content-creators, from civil society and NGO campaigners to young activists, to amplify their counter-narrative messages through training, networking and campaign support. This Handbook therefore focuses on civil-society, youth or NGO-led online counternarrative campaigns.
The Cybercoaching of Terrorists: Cause for Alarm?
2017 Mueller, M. Article
John Mueller examines the degree to which the cybercoaching of terrorists should be cause for concern, arguing that in
many cases cybercoaches have little control over their amateurish charges.
The Dark Net
2015 Bartlett, J. Book
Beyond the familiar online world that most of us inhabit lies a vast network of sites, communities and cultures where freedom is pushed to its limits. A world that is as creative and complex as it is dangerous and disturbing. A world that is much closer than you think. The Dark Net is a revelatory examination of the internet today, and of its most innovative and dangerous.
The Dark Side of Online Activism: Swedish Right-Wing Extremist Video Activism on YouTube
2014 Ekman, M. Journal
In recent years, an emerging body of work, centred on specific communicative forms used in facilitating collective and connective action, have contributed to greater understanding of how digital communication relates to social mobilisation. Plenty of these studies highlight the progressive potentiality of digital communication. However, undemocratic actors also utilise the rapid advancement in digital technology. This article explores the online video activism of extreme right-wing groups in Sweden. It analyses more than 200 clips on YouTube, produced by five right-wing extremist organisations. The study shows that the extreme right deploy video activism as a strategy of visibility to mobilise and strengthen activists. Moreover, the groups attempt to alter the perception of (historically-rooted) socio-political identi- ties of the extreme right. Furthermore, YouTube becomes a political arena in which action repertoires and street politics are adapted to the specific characteristics of online video activism. Finally, video activism could be understood as an aestheticisation of politics.
The Dark Side of the Web: Italian Right-Wing Extremist Groups and the Internet
2009 Caiani, M. and Parenti, L. Article
Focusing on extreme-right organisations in Italy, this article addresses the specific use of the Internet by extremist groups and its potential role for the formation of collective identity, organisational contacts and mobilisation. The analysis includes both political parties and non-party organisations, even violent groups. Through the combination of Social Network Analysis (SNA) of web linkages amongst approximately 100 organisations, with a formalised content analysis of those websites, we argue that various forms of usage of the Internet by right-wing organisations are indeed on the rise,
with an increase not only in the number of extremist websites but also in the exploitation of the Internet for diffusing propaganda, promoting ‘virtual communities’ of debate, fundraising, and organising and mobilising political campaigns. The various specificities of the usage of the Internet by extreme right organisations are demonstrated and linked to offline reality.