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
Violent Extremism and Terrorism Online In 2016: The Year In Review
2016 Conway, M. VOX-Pol Publication
The use of the Internet, including social media, by violent extremists and terrorists and their supporters has been a source of anxiety for policymakers and publics for a number of years. This is based on the idea that there is a connection between consumption of and networking around violent extremist and terrorist online content and adoption of extremist ideology (i.e. so-called ‘online radicalisation’) and/or recruitment into violent extremist or terrorist groups or movements and/or attack planning and preparation and/or, ultimately, engagement in violent extremism and terrorism. Concerns have been raised, in particular, regarding easy access to large volumes of potentially influencing violent extremist and terrorist content on prominent and heavily trafficked social media platforms.
Online Behaviours of Convicted Terrorists
2016 Gill, P. VOX-Pol Publication
Previous research on terrorist use of the Internet generally discusses the opportunities offered by the Internet to terrorist groups (Tsfati & Weimann, 2002; Weimann, 2006; Holt et al., 2015; Rudner, 2016). Such accounts implicitly view the interaction between the Internet and the user as uni-directional (i.e. exposure to Internet content may cause behaviour change). This lacks an acknowledgement that not every potential user will make use available opportunities, nor use these in the same way. The degree to which an individual makes use of an opportunity is modulated based upon their goals, plans, values, beliefs, and experiences (Norman, 1988). At present, there are only three data-driven studies examining how convicted terrorists have used the Internet: Von Behr et al., 2013, Gill et al., 2014, and Gill and Corner 2015. These studies shift the focus from the Internet as a potentially causal factor to how individuals use the Internet based upon their motivations, needs, expectations, and histories. They acknowledge, in other words, the way in which the interaction between Internet and user is a two-way person-situation interactive process in which the individual leads the way. Reported herein are two complementary pieces of research, one large scale and based on open source data and another smaller scale and based on closed sources, that build significantly upon the above described research.
Future Trends: Live-streaming Terrorist Attacks
2016 Conway, M., and Dillon, J. VOX-Pol Publication
Magnanville, 13 June, 2016, around 8pm: policeman, Jean-Baptiste Salvaing has been stabbed to death outside his home. Forcing his way into the house, the attacker murders Jessica Schneider, who also worked for the police, by cutting her throat. The couple’s three year-old son is taken hostage by the killer, Larossi Abballa. Prior to a three hour stand-off with police negotiators, Aballa turns to social media to broadcast and justify his actions, dedicating them to his ‘Emir’ Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (Hume et al 2016). It is the first time a terrorist has used a live-streaming service in the midst of an attack. It is unlikely to be the last.
Research Perspectives on Online Radicalisation: A Literature Review 2006–2016
2017 Meleagrou-Hitchens, A., and Kaderbhai, N. VOX-Pol Publication
This literature review seeks to recalibrate our understanding of online radicalisation, how it is conceptualised within the literature and the extent to which the policy debate has advanced in response to technological and legal developments. Among the findings are the following:

• In recent years, the overwhelming focus of this avenue of research has been on the global jihad movement. This is therefore reflected in the review, but an effort has also been made to highlight similar research on other movements;
• As with the wider debate on radicalisation, there is little agreement on what constitutes online radicalisation and how, if at all, it happens. The influence of online interactions and propaganda on processes of radicalisation therefore remains a highly contested subject. It is a topic that has produced a broad swathe of literature, using different methodologies from a variety of disciplines;
• Consensus is that the Internet alone is not a cause of radicalisation, but a facilitator and catalyser of an individual’s trajectory towards violent political acts; • Use of empirical evidence to draw convincing conclusions remains scarce, and this has negatively impacted on the strength of research on this topic. Nonetheless, the exponential rise in violent extremist use of social media platforms has been the catalyst for an increase in research on the topic, and has begun to provide researchers with new forms of primary source data;
• Extremist use of the Internet has rapidly evolved and effectively adapted to a constantly shifting online media environment. Indeed, organisations – both public and private – that seek to respond to this are still playing catch-up, and have yet to mount a convincing response;
• One of the most celebrated aspects of social media – its ability to tailor content that appears on users’ feeds that appeals to their specific values and interests and plugs them into networks of like-minded individuals – is also what makes it a key asset for extremist groups. Both in the physical and virtual realm, such groups rely heavily upon isolating potential recruits from views and opinions that diverge from their prevailing ideologies and narratives. Extremists seek to insert people into echo chambers that amplify their message and suppress any contrary opinions. Thus, by its very nature, social media creates for its users an environment that, in some cases, is conducive to radicalisation. This is neither a criticism of social media companies nor a call for them to fundamentally change the services they provide, but rather a comment on the complexity of the challenge of online radicalisation;
• While some analysts and scholars call for measures such as censorship, others argue that softer approaches, such as creating online so-called ‘counter-narratives’ and educating Internet users, would be more effective. However, it is clear that there remains both a lack of understanding of how this would occur, or how such narratives could be effectively disseminated. While very few studies provide a convincing explanation of either, there are signs that a more sophisticated approach is beginning to take shape.
Online as the New Frontline: Affect, Gender, and ISIS-Take-Down on Social Media
2017 Pearson, E. VOX-Pol Publication
Using a dataset of more than 80 accounts during 2015, this article explores the gendered ways in which self-proclaiming Twitter Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) supporters construct community around “suspension.” The article argues that suspension is an integral event in the online lives of ISIS supporters, which is reproduced in online identities. The highly gendered roles of ISIS males and females frame responses to suspension, enforcing norms that benefit the group: the shaming of men into battle and policing of women into modesty. Both male and female members of “Wilayat Twitter” regard online as a frontline, with suspension an act of war against the “baqiya family.” The findings have implications for broader repressive measures against ISIS online.

This research was produced with the aid of VOX-Pol Research Mobility Programme funding and supervision by VOX-Pol colleagues at Dublin City University.
Terrorist Use of the Internet by the Numbers: Quantifying Behaviors, Patterns, and Processes
2017 Gill, P., Corner, E., Conway, M., Thornton, A., Bloom, M. and Horgan, J. VOX-Pol Publication
Public interest and policy debates surrounding the role of the Internet in terrorist activities is increasing. Criminology has said very little on the matter. By using a unique data set of 223 convicted United Kingdom–based terrorists, this article focuses on how they used the Internet in the commission of their crimes. As most samples of terrorist offenders vary in terms of capabilities (lone-actor vs. group offenders) and criminal sophistication (improvised explosive devices vs. stabbings), we tested whether the affordances they sought from the Internet significantly differed. The results suggest that extreme-right-wing individuals, those who planned an attack (as opposed to merely providing material support), conducted a lethal attack, committed an improvised explosive device (IED) attack, committed an armed assault, acted within a cell, attempted to recruit others, and engaged in non-virtual network activities and non-virtual place interactions were significantly more likely to learn online compared with those who did not engage in these behaviours. Those undertaking unarmed assaults were significantly less likely to display online learning. The results also suggested that extreme-right-wing individuals who perpetrated an IED attack, associated with a wider network, attempted to recruit others, and engaged in non-virtual network activities and non-virtual place interactions were significantly more likely to communicate online with co-ideologues.

This article is a revised and updated version of the 2015 VOX-Pol report 'What are the Roles of the Internet In Terrorism? Measuring Online Behaviors of Convicted UK Terrorists.'
Determining The Role Of The Internet In Violent Extremism And Terrorism Six Suggestions For Progressing Research
2016 Conway, M. VOX-Pol Publication
Some scholars and others are sceptical of a significant role for the Internet in processes of violent radicalisation. There is increasing concern on the part of other scholars, and increasingly also policymakers and publics, that easy availability of violent extremist content online may have violent radicalising effects. This article identifies a number of core questions regarding the interaction of violent extremism and terrorism and the Internet, particularly social media, that have yet to be adequately addressed and supplies a series of six follow-up suggestions, flowing from these questions, for progressing research in this area. These suggestions relate to (1) widening the range of types of violent online extremism being studied beyond violent jihadis; (2) engaging in more comparative research, not just across ideologies, but also groups, countries, languages, and social media platforms; (3) deepening our analyses to include interviewing and virtual ethnographic approaches; (4) up-scaling or improving our capacity to undertake “big data” collection and analysis; (5) outreaching beyond terrorism studies to become acquainted with, for example, the Internet Studies literature and engaging in interdisciplinary research with, for example, computer scientists; and (6) paying more attention to gender as a factor in violent online extremism. This research was produced with the aid of VOX-Pol Research Mobility Programme funding and supervision by VOX-Pol colleagues at Dublin City University.
Multimodal Classification of Violent Online Political Extremism Content with Graph Convolutional Networks
2017 Rudinac, S., Gornishka, I. and Worring, M. VOX-Pol Publication
In this paper we present a multimodal approach to categorizing user posts based on their discussion topic. To integrate heterogeneous information extracted from the posts, i.e. text, visual content and the information about user interactions with the online platform, we deploy graph convolutional networks that were recently proven effective in classification tasks on knowledge graphs. As the case study we use the analysis of violent online political extremism content, a challenging task due to a particularly high semantic level at which extremist ideas are discussed. Here we demonstrate the potential of using neural networks on graphs for classifying multimedia content and, perhaps more importantly, the effectiveness of multimedia analysis techniques in aiding the domain experts performing qualitative data analysis. Our conclusions are supported by extensive experiments on a large collection of extremist posts. This research was produced with the aid of VOX-Pol Research Mobility Programme funding and supervision by VOX-Pol colleagues at Dublin City University.
Violent Extremism and Terrorism Online in 2017: The Year in Review
2018 Conway, M., with Courtney, M. VOX-Pol Publication
The use of the Internet, particularly social media, by violent extremists and terrorists and their supporters received an increasing amount of attention from policymakers, media, Internet companies, and civil society organisations in 2017. In addition to politicians stepping-up their rhetoric regarding the threat posed by consumption of and networking around violent extremist and terrorist online content, prominent and heavily trafficked social media platforms also took a stronger stand on the issue this year, which caused civil liberties organisations considerable disquiet. This report treats developments in the violent extremist and terrorist online scene(s) and responses to them in the 12-month period from 1 December 2016 to 30 November 2017.
A Tale Of Two Caliphates: Comparing the Islamic State's Internal and External Messaging Priorities
2018 Mahlouly, D., and Winter, C. VOX-Pol Publication
In recent years, the media department of the self-proclaimed Islamic State has proven itself to be highly adept at strategic communication. While much research has gone into the group’s digital and online capabilities, there remains a significant gap in the knowledge regarding its in-country propaganda operations and objectives. In recognition of this, the following research paper approaches the issue from a different angle, attempting to better understand how and why the group communicates its brand through the lens of two publications – al-Naba’, its Arabic-language newspaper, which appears to be designed primarily for offline dissemination in the caliphate itself, and Rumiyah, its foreign-language electronic magazine, which has only ever appeared online. Using content analysis to identify and compare each publication’s internal (local) and external (global) media priorities over the four-month period between September and December 2016, we develop an empirical evaluation of the group’s recent forays into targeted outreach.
Down the (White) Rabbit Hole: The Extreme Right and Online Recommender Systems
2014 O’Callaghan D., Greene D., Conway M., Carthy J. and Cunningham P. VOX-Pol Publication
In addition to hosting user-generated video content, YouTube provides recommendation services, where sets of related and recommended videos are presented to users, based on factors such as co-visitation count and prior viewing history. This article is specifically concerned with extreme right (ER) video content, portions of which contravene hate laws and are thus illegal in certain countries, which are recommended by YouTube to some users. We develop a categorization of this content based on various schema found in a selection of academic literature on the ER, which is then used to demonstrate the political articulations of YouTube’s recommender system, particularly the narrowing of the range of content to which users are exposed and the potential impacts of this. For this purpose, we use two data sets of English and German language ER YouTube channels, along with channels suggested by YouTube’s related video service. A process is observable whereby users accessing an ER YouTube video are likely to be recommended further ER content, leading to immersion in an ideological bubble in just a few short clicks. The evidence presented in this article supports a shift of the almost exclusive focus on users as content creators and protagonists in extremist cyberspaces to also consider online platform providers as important actors in these same spaces.
The Alt-Right Twitter Census: Defining and Describing the Audience for Alt-Right Content on Twitter
2018 Berger, J. VOX-Pol Publication
The so-called ‘alt-right’ is an amorphous but synchronized collection of far-right people and movements, an umbrella label for a number of loosely affiliated social movements around the world, although its centre of gravity is in the United States. Many factors have contributed to the alt-right’s rise to prominence, but one of the most visible is its online presence. Alt-right views have been promoted online by a small army of trolls and activists staging harassment campaigns, pushing hashtags and posting links to extremist content and conspiracy theories on social media. Since 2016, the alt-right and its allies have held an increasingly prominent place in American and European politics, rallying support behind a variety of causes and candidates. This study seeks to evaluate the alt-right’s online presence with robust metrics and an analysis of content shared by adherents. The alt-right has many components online; this report will primarily examine its presence on Twitter, in part because the movement is particularly active on that platform, and in part because Twitter’s data access policies allow for more robust evaluation than is possible on other platforms. This report will:
• Create a demographic and identity snapshot of a representative portion of the audience for alt-right supporters on Twitter
• Examine content shared within the dataset
• Describe the methodology used to derive these findings
• Propose avenues for further research based on this report’s findings
Horizons of Hate: A Comparative Approach to Social Media Hate Speech
2018 Pohjonen, M. VOX-Pol Publication
A comparative approach to social media hate speech. This study compares a Finnish anti-refugee and anti-immigration Facebook group criticised for hate speech and links to the extreme right, with a Finnish anti-racist Facebook group that opposed it, alongside a Facebook group aimed at dialogue between the two.

A critical-comparative analysis of social media hate speech can help us to assess the dangers of this speech, and can provide the necessary conceptual distance needed to come up with new ideas and strategies that can help to prevent violence.
Violent Extremism and Terrorism Online in 2018: The Year in Review
2019 Conway, M. VOX-Pol Publication
This report treats developments in the violent extremist and terrorist online scene(s) in the 12-month period from 1 December 2017 to 30 November 2018.1 It is divided into three parts: Part I focuses on the online activities of violent jihadis, particularly the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (hereafter IS); Part II supplies information on contemporary extreme right online activity; and Part III identifies issues in the violent extremism and terrorism online realm that bear watching in 2019.

In terms of overarching trends, the focus of policymakers, internet companies, media, and thus also publics has, since 2014, been almost exclusively on IS’s online activity. A growing concern with extreme right activity, both its online and offline variants, began to be apparent in 2017 however, especially in the wake of events in Charlottesville. This solidified in 2018 due to a number of factors, including a decrease in IS terrorist attacks in the West and an uptick in extreme right and hate attacks and terrorist events, a number of the latter of which appeared to have significant online components. Having said this, IS is still active on the ground in numerous locales globally and continues to produce and widely disseminate online content, as do a large number of other groups that share core tenets of its ideology. IS may be down therefore, but it is certainly not out.
Wie Extrem ist die Rechte in Europa? Untersuchung von Überschneidungen in der deutschen Rechtsaußenszene auf Twitter
2020 Ahmed, R. and Pisoiu, D. VOX-Pol Publication
Ziel dieser Arbeit ist es, die Überschneidungen in der Rechtsaußenszene auf Twitter zu ermitteln und insbesondere festzustellen, inwieweit verschiedene Gruppen in der Szene tatsächlich auf die gleiche Weise über dieselben Themen sprechen, trotz offensichtlicher Unterschiede im Tonfall und den zugrunde liegenden Ideologien. Wir verwenden einen Mischmethodenansatz: Zunächst wollen wir einen oberflächlichen Einblick in die extrem rechte Szene auf Twitter in ganz Europa gewinnen, und dann führen wir bei drei ausgewählten Gruppen in Deutschland eine detaillierte Frame-Analyse aus, um die impliziten und expliziten Überschneidungen zwischen ihnen zu bestimmen und so die quantitativen Angaben zu ergänzen, damit die Bedeutung detailliert analysiert werden kann.
Reconciling Impact And Ethics: An Ethnography of Research in Violent Online Political Extremism
2019 Mahlouly, M. 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.
How Extreme Is The European Far Right? Investigating Overlaps in the German Far-Right Scene on Twitter
2019 Ahmed, R. and Pisoiu, D. VOX-Pol Publication
The aim of the report is to determine the overlaps apparent in the far-right scene on Twitter, and specifically, to ascertain the extent to which different groups on the scene are indeed talking about the same issues in the same way, in spite of apparent differences in tone and underlying ideologies. The authors utilise a mixed-methods approach: first, gaining a cursory insight into the extreme right-wing scene on Twitter across Europe; and then applying a detailed frame analysis to three selected groups in Germany to determine the implicit and explicit overlaps between them, thus complementing the quantitative findings to offer an in-depth analysis of meaning.
Predicting Behavioural Patterns in Discussion Forums using Deep Learning on Hypergraphs
2019 Arya, D., Rudinac, S. and Worring, M. VOX-Pol Publication
Online discussion forums provide open workspace allowing users to share information, exchange ideas, address problems, and form groups. These forums feature multimodal posts and analyzing them requires a framework that can integrate heterogeneous information extracted from the posts, i.e. text, visual content and the information about user interactions with the online platform and each other. In this paper, we develop a generic framework that can be trained to identify communication behavior and patterns in relation to an entity of interest, be it user, image or text in internet forums. As the case study we use the analysis of violent online political extremism content, which has been a major challenge for domain experts. We demonstrate the generalizability and flexibility of our framework in predicting relational information between multimodal entities by conducting extensive experimentation around four practical use cases.
Extreme Digital Speech: Contexts, Responses and Solutions
2020 Ganesh, B. and Bright, J. (Eds.) VOX-Pol Publication
Extreme digital speech (EDS) is an emerging challenge that requires co-ordination between governments, civil society and the private sector. In this report, a range of experts on countering extremism consider the challenges that EDS presents to these stakeholders, the impact that EDS has and the responses taken by these actors to counter it. By focusing on EDS, consideration of the topic is limited to the forms of extreme speech that take place online, often on social media platforms and multimedia messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Furthermore, by focusing on EDS rather than explicitly violent forms of extreme speech online, the report departs from a focus on violence and incorporates a broader range of issues such as hateful and dehumanising speech and the complex cultures and politics that have formed around EDS.
The Legal Response Of Western Democracies To Online Terrorism And Extremism
2020 Ramati, N. VOX-Pol Publication
Extremists and terrorists have found the online sphere, and specifically its social networks, to be an efficient tool for advancing their methods and political needs. The legal responses to the resulting threats from this online activity vary from country to country. The immense importance of the Internet in the everyday life of billions of people worldwide has raised difficult questions regarding the attempt to regulate online activity, especially in relation to the right of privacy and freedom of speech. This report examines how western democracies balance, from a legal point of view, the need to protect their populations from terrorist attacks and their duty to preserve the democratic rights of privacy and free speech.