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
“@ me if you need shoutout”: Exploring Women's Roles in Islamic State Twitter Networks
2017 Huey, L., Inch, R., and Peladeau, H. Article
This article investigates the social media content of women who are affiliated with the Islamic State. Throughout one year, ninety-three Twitter accounts were tracked to explore the patterns of engagement by pro–Islamic State women online and examine how these patterns illuminate the roles that pro–Islamic State women occupy on social media networks. The study reveals that women who associate with the Islamic State mostly preserve the traditional gendered role of support in the online realm. However, support is not their exclusive role and some women are active in the organization, using Twitter to recruit, promote, and even commit terrorist violence.
The Islamic State's Virtual Caliphate
2017 Hamblet, M. Article
The public outcry attending President Trump's attempted travel ban from seven radical Muslim states, designed to prevent foreign terrorists from entering the country, has diverted attention from the longstanding danger of homegrown jihadists. As early as 2007, the New York Police Department (NYPD) released a 92-page report documenting the extent of al-Qaeda-linked homegrown jihad in Europe and the United States.[1] The Obama administration, however, went out of its way to ignore, deny, and whitewash any homegrown terror that smacked of Islamist violence. But a decade later, al-Qaeda has been all but eclipsed by the Islamic State (ISIS), which has skillfully used social media to become the foremost purveyor of jihadist indoctrination in the West, creating a "virtual caliphate," extremely dangerous and easily accessible to vulnerable men and women from a variety of backgrounds in a manner al-Qaeda was never able to achieve. Even were all territory now under ISIS control to be retaken, this virtual caliphate could continue to pose a major threat.
Cyberculture and Sectarianism in Indonesia: The Rise of Shia Media and Anti-Shia Online Movements
2016 Ida, R. Article
The digital era of information technology appears to be a new space and place for the Indonesian Shiite communities to express their existence and conceal their “cloak” in the country.. Internet, websites, Facebook pages, Blog spots, and Twitter are tilized by these Shiite followers and supporters to show their presence, activities, interactivity, and thoughts about Islam. Responding to those Shia media, the anti-Shia movements such as the fundamentalist Sunnis, the Wahabi-Salafi’s, the Wahabi-Takfiri’s supporters have created their online publications and fan pages to counter those Shia’s publications. The online media battles on sectarianism issue then have sparked in the cyberspace of Indonesia in the last three years. Using a critical cultural studies tradition and textual approach, this study tries to examine the rise of Shia and anti-Shia online media as well as the meanings and contexts in which violent actions occurred amongst the Sunni-Shia Muslim communities on it. This paper also attempts to look closely at the way the media writes, covers, and build opinions and attitude to inform and provoke the public.
'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.
From Isolation to Radicalization: Anti-Muslim Hostility and Support for ISIS in the West
2017 Mitts, T. Article
What explains online radicalization and support for ISIS in the West? Over the past few years, thousands of individuals have radicalized by consuming extremist content online, many of whom eventually traveled overseas to join the Islamic State. This study examines whether anti-Muslim hostility might drive pro-ISIS radicalization in Europe. Using new geo-referenced data on the online behavior of thousands of Islamic State supporters in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Belgium, I study whether the intensity of anti-Muslim hostility at the local (neighborhood/municipality) level is linked to pro-ISIS radicalization on Twitter. Results show that local-level measures of anti-Muslim animosity correlate significantly and substantively with indicators of online radicalization, including posting tweets sympathizing with ISIS, describing life in ISIS-controlled territories, discussing foreign fighters, and expressing anti-West sentiment. High-frequency data surrounding events that stir anti-Muslim hostility -- terrorist attacks and anti-Muslim protests in Europe -- show the same pattern.
An Empirical Study on Collective Online Behaviors of Extremist Supporters
2017 Kim, J-J., Liu, Y., Lim, W.Y., and Thing, V.L.L. Article
Online social media platforms such as Twitter have been found to be misused by extremist groups, including Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who attract and recruit social media users. To prevent their influence from expanding in the online social media platforms, it is required to understand the online behaviors of these extremist group users and their followers, for predicting and identifying potential security threats. We present an empirical study about ISIS followers’ online behaviors on Twitter, proposing to classify their tweets in terms of political and subjectivity polarities. We first develop a supervised classification model for the polarity classification, based on natural language processing and clustering methods. We then develop a statistical analysis of term-polarity correlations, which leads us to successfully observe ISIS followers’ online behaviors, which are in line with the reports of experts.
Onlife Extremism: Dynamic Integration of Digital and Physical Spaces in Radicalization
2020 Valentini, D., Lorusso, A.M. and Stephan, A. Article
This article argues that one should consider online and offline radicalization in an integrated way. Occasionally, the design of some counter-measure initiatives treats the internet and the “real” world as two separate and independent realms. New information communication technologies (ICTs) allow extremists to fuse digital and physical settings. As a result, our research contends that radicalization takes place in onlife spaces: hybrid environments that incorporate elements from individuals’ online and offline experiences. This study substantiates this claim, and it examines how algorithms structure information on social media by tracking users’ online and offline activities. Then, it analyzes how the Islamic State promoted onlife radicalization. We focus on how the Islamic State used Telegram, specific media techniques, and videos to connect the Web to the territories it controlled in Syria. Ultimately, the article contributes to the recalibration of the current debate on the relationship between online and offline radicalization on a theoretical level and suggests, on a practical level, potential counter measures.
Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime
2017 Müller, K., and Schwarz, C. Article
This paper investigates the link between social media and hate crime using hand-collected data from Facebook and Twitter. We study the case of Germany, where the recently emerged right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has developed a major social media presence. Using a difference-in-differences design, we show that right-wing anti-refugee sentiment on Facebook predicts violent crimes against refugees in otherwise similar municipalities with higher social media usage. Consistent with social media being the driving force, the effect decreases with internet outages; increases with user network interactions; is not driven by the news cycle; and does not hold for posts unrelated to refugees. We find similar evidence for the United States, where President Trump's twitter activity strongly predicts hate crimes against the minorities targeted in his tweets, but not other minorities. We find no effect for the period before Trump's presidential campaign or measures of general anti-minority sentiment.
Images of Death and Dying in ISIS Media: A Comparison of English and Arabic Print Publications
2018 Winkler, C., El-Damanhoury, K., Dicker, A., and Lemieux, A.F. Article
Images of death and dying in the media around the globe have a symbiotic relationship with nation states as they can bolster state control by defining who has the right to take lives in the interests of the community, by identifying enemies of the state, by demonstrating dominance over enemies, and by lending a moral posture to the state’s war efforts. Previously, the growing corpus of research on media’s display of death and about to die images has focused almost exclusively on media outlets that bolster established states on the global stage. By analyzing 1965 death and about to die images displayed in Dabiq, ISIS’s English-language magazine, and al-Naba’, the same group’s Arabic-language newspaper, this study adds an understanding of the messaging strategies deployed by groups striving to challenge, rather than reinforce, existing national boundaries. The findings suggest that while ISIS adopts some standard media practices, it also utilizes unique and audience targeted approaches regarding the frequency of image use, the identify of the corpses, the display of dead bodies, and the presentation of those responsible for the pictured dead bodies in its media campaign.
Music of the Islamic State
2018 Lahoud, N., and Pieslak, J. Article
Anashid – Islamic a cappella songs – figure prominently in the propagandaconsumption habits of the 17 jihadists who have caused casualties in the United States since 2013.
#TerroristFinancing: An Examination of Terrorism Financing via the Internet
2018 Tierney, M. Article
This article describes how the internet has come to play a central role in terrorist financing endeavours. Online channels allow terrorist financiers to network with like-minded individuals, in order to increase support, raise funds, and move wealth across the international system. For instance, the Islamic State, Hezbollah, and other groups have become adept at using these channels to finance their activities. Therefore, increased examination is required of the ways in which terrorists use the internet to raise and move funds. This study assesses some of the current trends and risks associated with online terrorist financing. Some policy options are also outlined, in order to reduce the threat of terrorist financing via the internet moving into the future.
Capitalizing on the Koran to Fuel Online Violent Radicalization: A Taxonomy of Koranic References in ISIS’s Dabiq
2018 Frissen, T., Toguslu, E., Van Ostaeyen, P., and d'Haenens, L. Article
The current study set out to investigate to what extent ISIS is bolstering its jihadist ideology on a ‘cut-and-paste’ or ‘cherry-picked’ version of Islam in their renowned online propaganda magazine Dabiq. The main objective was to examine in a systematic and quantitative way to what extent ISIS utilizes the Koran in an atomistic, truncated and tailored manner to bolster its religious legitimacy. A total of 15 issues of Dabiq and 700 Koranic references were scrutinized. By means of a quantitative analysis we developed an innovative taxonomy of Koranic chapters and verses (i.e. surahs and ayat, respectively) on the basis of their appearance in Dabiq. Our large-scale data analysis provide consistent empirical evidence for severe decontextualization practices of the Koran in three ways: (1) a thin, Medinan-dominated religious layer, (2) ayah mutilation, and (3) clustered versus exclusive mentions. Limitations and implications for future research, policy makers and CVE initiatives are discussed.
The Language of Radicalization: Female Internet Recruitment to Participation in ISIS Activities
2018 Windsor, L. Article
Why do young Muslim women radicalize and undertake high-risk political behaviors, and what factors influence their sociopolitical transformation? The process of radicalization happens because of individual, social, and political dynamics, and is facilitated by the availability of computer-mediated communication. Some young Muslim women keep detailed records of their radicalization process via social media, which we use to understand their sociopolitical transformation. By evaluating their language, we can better understand how their personal, social, and political development unfolds. This paper is a case study examining the words of one young Muslim woman, Aqsa Mahmood, who moved from her home in Scotland to join the ISIS fighters in Syria. Her Tumblr blog provides a linguistic, political, and ideological record of the process of her radicalization. We identify linguistic patterns in her blog posts that can help to develop and reveal a typology of the language of female radicalization.
Virtual Terrorism and the Internet E-Learning Options
2007 Cole, D.R. Article
E-learning on the Internet is constituted by the options that this global technology gives the user. This article explores these options in terms of the lifestyle choices and decisions that the learner will make about the virtual worlds, textual meanings and cultural groupings that they will find as they learn online. This is a non-linear process that complicates dualistic approaches to e-learning, such as those which propose real/virtual distinctions. It also sets up the notion of virtual terrorism, which is explained in terms of the political forces that have come about due to e-learning. This article uses the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze as a best fit in order to understand the ways in which the e-learning of the Internet options is apparent in contemporary society. Deleuze made a division between unconscious learning and apprenticeship learning, that makes sense in terms of the virtual and cultural worlds that inform the lifestyle choices on the Net. This is because the navigation of virtual worlds involves imaginative processes that are at the same time an education of the senses of the type that the apprentice will receive. Furthermore, in his work with Félix Guattari, he developed the notion of the plane of immanence, which is used to pinpoint the presence of virtual terrorism in e-learning practices.

Propaganda for Kids: Comparing IS-Produced Propaganda to Depictions of Propaganda in The Hunger Games and Harry Potter Film Series
2018 Elder, K.A. Article
The Harry Potter and The Hunger Games films are wildly popular with adolescents and adults alike, despite touching on themes that parallel the horrors in our own world’s geopolitical climate. The Islamic State (IS) promotes its own messages of violence, brutality, and even utopia through sophisticated propaganda disseminated via social media. This article discusses the extent to which propaganda depicted in Harry Potter and The Hunger Games approximates—in content and/or medium—that produced by IS in recent years. Propaganda in the Harry Potter films, largely produced in written form, resembles propaganda of the past, whereas propaganda in The Hunger Games makes use of contemporary mediums and techniques that resemble that which originates from IS. It is worthwhile to explore whether fiction provides audiences with a realistic portrayal of propaganda, as it may assist viewers in turning a critical eye toward the themes and technologies that are used in their own world to disseminate propaganda.
Black-boxing the Black Flag: Anonymous Sharing Platforms and ISIS Content Distribution Tactics
2018 Shehabat, A. and Mitew, T. Article
The study examines three anonymous sharing portals employed strategically by the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) to achieve its political ends. This study argues that anonymous sharing portals such as Sendvid.com, Justpast.it, and Dump.to have been instrumental in allowing individual jihadists to generate content, disseminate propaganda and communicate freely while routing around filtering practiced by popular social media networks.The study draws on Actor Network Theory (ANT) in examining the relationship between ISIS jihadists and the emergence of anonymous sharing portals. The study suggests that, even though used prior to the massive degrading operation across social media, anonymous sharing portals were instrumental in allowing ISIS to maintain its networking structure in the face of coordinated disruption.
Watching ISIS: How Young Adults Engage with Official English-language ISIS Videos
2018 Cottee S., and Cunliffe, J. Article
Research on jihadist online propaganda (henceforth JOP) tends to focus on the production, content and dissemination of jihadist online messages. Correspondingly, the target of JOP – that is, the audience – has thus far attracted little scholarly attention. This article seeks to redress this neglect by focusing on how audiences respond to jihadist online messaging. It presents the findings of an online pilot survey testing audience responses to clips from English-language ISIS videos. The survey was beset at every stage by ethical, legal and practical restrictions, and we discuss how these compromised our results and what this means for those attempting to do research in this highly sensitive area.
The Mediums and the Messages: Exploring the Language of Islamic State Media through Sentiment Analysis
2018 Macnair, L. and Frank, R. Article
This study applies the method of sentiment analysis to the online media released by the Islamic State (IS) in order to distinguish the ways in which IS uses language within their media, and potential ways in which this language differs across various online platforms. The data used for this sentiment analysis consist of transcripts of IS-produced videos, the text of IS-produced online periodical magazines, and social media posts from IS-affiliated Twitter accounts. It was found that the language and discourse utilised by IS in their online media is of a predominantly negative nature, with the language of videos containing the highest concentration of negative sentiment. The words and phrases with the most extreme sentiment values are used as a starting point for the identification of specific narratives that exist within online IS media. The dominant narratives discovered with the aid of sentiment analysis were: 1) the demonstrated strength of the IS, 2) the humiliation of IS enemies, 3) continuous victory, and 4) religious righteousness. Beyond the identification of IS narratives, this study serves to further explore the utility of the sentiment analysis method by applying it to mediums and data that it has not traditionally been applied to, specifically, videos and magazines.
Cultivating Trust and Perceptions of Source Credibility in Online Counternarratives Intended to Reduce Support for Terrorism
2018 Braddock, K., and Morrison, J.F. Article
Terrorism researchers have long sought to identify methods for challenging terrorist ideologies. The construction and dissemination of counternarratives has begun to receive substantial attention as a means of doing so. However, the effectiveness of this approach is contingent on message targets’ trust in the counternarrative's content and source. This article draws from literatures on trust and online source credibility to offer preliminary guidelines for cultivating trust in counternarratives and their sources. By encouraging trust in this manner, practitioners can reduce the likelihood that their counternarratives will be dismissed by their intended audiences—a perpetual challenge to strategic messaging geared towards countering violent extremism.
Loners, Colleagues, or Peers? Assessing the Social Organization of Radicalization
2018 Holt, T.J., Feilich, J.D, Chermak, S.M., Mills, C., and Silva J. Article
This study explores the utility of a sociological model of social organization developed by Best and Luckenbill (1994) to classify the radicalization processes of terrorists (i.e., extremist perpetrators who engaged in ideologically motivated acts of violence) who are usually categorized as loner or lone wolf attackers. There are several organizational frameworks used to define or classify violent acts performed by individuals who may or may not have ties to extremist groups, but these studies largely ignore the role of social relationships in radicalization and the extent to which they inform our knowledge of terror. To address this gap, we apply the Best and Luckenbill model of social organization using a qualitative analysis of three case studies of four lone actor or small cell terrorists. The findings demonstrate lone actors are not always true loners in the context of radicalization, and highlights the ways that the Internet and social ties foster the radicalization processes of terror.