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.

Featured

Full Listing

TitleYearAuthorTypeLinks
Do Machines Replicate Humans? Toward a Unified Understanding of Radicalizing Content on the Open Social Web
2019 Hall, M., Logan, M., Ligon, G.S. and Derrick, D.C. Article
The advent of the Internet inadvertently augmented the functioning and success of violent extremist organizations. Terrorist organizations like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) use the Internet to project their message to a global audience. The majority of research and practice on web‐based terrorist propaganda uses human coders to classify content, raising serious concerns such as burnout, mental stress, and reliability of the coded data. More recently, technology platforms and researchers have started to examine the online content using automated classification procedures. However, there are questions about the robustness of automated procedures, given insufficient research comparing and contextualizing the difference between human and machine coding. This article compares output of three text analytics packages with that of human coders on a sample of one hundred nonindexed web pages associated with ISIS. We find that prevalent topics (e.g., holy war) are accurately detected by the three packages whereas nuanced concepts (Lone Wolf attacks) are generally missed. Our findings suggest that naïve approaches of standard applications do not approximate human understanding, and therefore consumption, of radicalizing content. Before radicalizing content can be automatically detected, we need a closer approximation to human understanding.
EU Policy - Preventing The Dissemination Of Terrorist Content Online
2019 Krasenberg, J. Report
The use of the internet for recruitment and the dissemination of violent extremist materials raises significant policy challenges for the European Union (EU), its Member States, and content sharing platforms (CSPs) 1 alike. This problem requires – through the eyes of the EU – a combination of legislative, non-legislative, and voluntary measures based on collaboration between authorities and CSPs with respect for fundamental (human) rights.
Disinformation In Terrorist Content Online
2019 Jankowicz, N. Report
This paper, part of the Legal Perspectives on Tech Series, was commissioned in conjunction with the Congressional Counterterrorism Caucus.
Unraveling The Impact Of Social Media On Extremism: Implications for Technology Regulation and Terrorism Prevention
2019 Susarla, A. Report
Social media has been remarkably effective in bringing together groups of individuals at a scale and speed unthinkable just a few years ago. While there is a positive aspect of digital activism in raising awareness and mobilizing for equitable societal outcomes, it is equally true that social media has a dark side in enabling political polarization and radicalization. This paper highlights that algorithmic bias and algorithmic manipulation accentuate these developments. We review some of the key technological aspects of social media and its impact on society, while also outlining remedies and implications for regulation. For the purpose of this paper we will define a digital platform as a technology intermediary that enables interaction between groups of users (such as Amazon or Google) and a social media platform as a digital platform for social media.
Fighting Hate Speech And Terrorist Propaganda On Social Media In Germany
2019 Ritzmann, A. Report
Lessons learned after one year of the NetzDG law.
The Internet Police
2019 Breinholt, J. Report
This paper, part of the Legal Perspectives on Tech Series, was commissioned in conjunction with the Congressional Counterterrorism Caucus.
From “Incel” To “Saint”: Analyzing The Violent Worldview Behind The 2018 Toronto Attack
2019 Baele, S. J., Brace, L. & Coan, T. G. Article
This paper combines qualitative and quantitative content analysis to map and analyze the “Incel” worldview shared by members of a misogynistic online community ideologically linked to several recent acts of politically motivated violence, including Alek Minassian’s van attack in Toronto (2018) and Elliot Rodger’s school shooting in Isla Vista (2014). Specifically, the paper analyses how support and motivation for violence results from the particular structure this worldview presents in terms of social categories and causal narratives.
Hezbollah’s “Virtual Entrepreneurs”: How Hezbollah Is Using The Internet To Incite Violence In Israel
2019 Shkolnik, M. and Corbeil, A. Article
In recent years, Hezbollah has used social media to recruit Israeli Arabs and West Bank-based Palestinians to attack Israeli targets. A recent innovation in terrorist tactics has given rise to “virtual entrepreneurs,” which to date have been largely associated with the Islamic State’s online recruitment efforts. Hezbollah’s virtual planners, similar to those in the Islamic State, use social media to establish contact with potential recruits before transitioning to more encrypted communications platforms, transferring funds, and issuing instructions to form cells, conduct surveillance, and carry out terrorist attacks. Online recruitment presents a low-cost option that offers plausible deniability for Hezbollah. While every virtual plot led by Hezbollah that targeted Israel has been foiled thus far, Israeli authorities spend time and resources disrupting these schemes at the expense of other more pressing threats. By digitally recruiting Palestinians to attack Israel, Hezbollah and its patron Iran are seeking to cultivate a new front against Israel amid rising regional hostilities.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the freedom of opinion and expression
2019 United Nations Report
The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the General Assembly the report prepared by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, submitted in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 34/18. In this report, the Special Rapporteur evaluates the human rights law that applies to the regulation of online ‘hate speech’.
Online news media and propaganda influence on radicalized individuals: Finding from interviews with Islamist prisoners and former Islamists
2019 Neumann, K. and Baugut, P. Article
This study is the first to explore the twin influences of online propaganda and news media on Islamists. We conducted 44 in-depth interviews with cognitively and behaviorally radicalized Islamist prisoners in Austria as well as former Islamists in Germany and Austria. We found that online propaganda and news media had interdependent influences on Islamists’ rejections of non-Muslims and Western politics, as well as on their willingness to use violence and commit suicide. Cognitively radicalized individuals were influenced by propaganda that blamed non-Muslims for opposing Islam; this was reinforced by online mainstream news reports of right-wing populism and extremism that propagandists selectively distributed via social media. Among behaviorally radicalized individuals, exposure to propaganda and news reports depicting Muslim war victims contributed to the radicalized individuals’ willingness to use violence. Moreover, propaganda and media reports that extensively personalized perpetrators of violence strengthened radicalized individuals’ motivations to imitate the use of violence.
Personal Statement from James Watkins to Committee on Homeland Security 8chan Inquiry
2019 Watkins, J. Statement
Chairman Thompson and Members of the Committee: Today, James Watkins appears for a congressional deposition addressing your Committee’s concern over social media companies’ efforts to address online extremist content. We have prepared this statement in an effort to assist the Committee in understanding how careful and responsible a platform 8chan is. While Mr. Watkins is empathetic to the victims of mass shootings in America, 8chan has never tolerated illegal speech and has a consistent track record of working with law enforcement agencies when appropriate. After the current disruption of service, 8chan has taken steps to improve its ability to identify illegal content and to act more quickly in doing so. To these ends, it hopes to be of continued assistance to law enforcement officers in times of need. Mindful of tragedies America has faced, Mr. Watkins also believes in the exceptional promise of the First Amendment. 8chan is the only platform featuring a full commitment to free speech—a one-of-a-kind discussion board where anonymous users shared tactics about French democracy protests, how to circumvent censorship in repressive countries, and the best way to beat a classic video game. In this hodgepodge of chaotic discussion, down-home recipes are traded, sorrows lifted, and a small minority of users post hateful and ignorant items. As Justice Hugo Black once noted, the “First Amendment provides the only kind of security system that can preserve a free government – one that leaves the way wide open for people to favor, discuss, advocate, or incite causes and doctrines however obnoxious and antagonistic such views may be to the rest of us.” It is with this in mind that Mr. Watkins is proud to host the only platform compatible with the First Amendment.
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.
Daesh Propaganda, Before and After its Collapse: Countering Violent Extremism
2019 Winter, C. Report
This report compares two archives of official Daesh media that were compiled four years apart. It explores the nuances of the group’s worldview and tracks how external and internal situational exigencies impacted them during its formative years as a caliphate. It finds that the organisation’s media infrastructure was about one tenth as productive in mid-2019 as it was in mid-2015. The data also show that it was spending more time covering the pursuits of its global network in 2019 than in 2015. Finally, the data point towards a substantial thematic rearrangement in the organisation’s overarching propaganda narrative that manifested in it shifting its story away from millenarian utopianism and towards military denialism. In sum, the data indicate that by 2019 Daesh’s propagandists were far less productive and their aggregate product was more international and less focused on civilian issues. This shift points towards a new phase in the group’s political marketing trajectory, one focused more on survival than on expansion.
Jihadist Online Communication and Finland
2019 Malkki, L. and Pohjonen, M. Report
This study focuses on jihadist online communication in 2014–2018 from the perspective of Finland. In particular, it examines and analyses the visibility of Finland and persons connected to Finland in jihadist online communication and investigates the types of content persons who are or were living in Finland have produced and disseminated content on different online platforms and channels. The report focuses on jihadist material that was openly available online during this period. It also contains a section describing the development of jihadist online communication more generally, thus helping to put observations in a broader international context.
Countering Violent Extremism Online: The Experiences of Informal Counter Messaging Actors
2019 Lee, B. Article
The online space is a haven for extremists of all kinds. Although efforts to remove violent and extremist content are increasing, there is a widely accepted need to also contest extremist messages with counter messages designed to undermine and disrupt extremist narratives. While the majority of academic focus has been on large and well‐funded efforts linked to governments, this article considers the experiences of informal actors who are active in contesting extremist messaging but who lack the support of large institutions. Informal actors come without some of the baggage that accompanies formal counter-message campaigns, which have been attacked as lacking in credibility and constituting “just more government propaganda.” This has been noted by some of the wider countering violent extremism industry and the appetite for incorporating “real‐world” content in their campaigns seems to be rising. This article fills a gap in our knowledge of the experiences of informal counter-messaging actors. Through a series of in‐depth qualitative interviews it demonstrates that, despite the potentially serious risks of incorporating greater levels of informal content, there is an appetite among informal actors to engage with formal campaigns where they can be selective over who they work with and maintain a degree of control.
‘The Baghdadi Net’: How A Network of ISIL-Supporting Accounts Spread Across Twitter
2019 Ayad, M. Report
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIL) supporters fanned out large amounts of Arabic content across Twitter all through the week in the wake of the news surrounding the death of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Many accounts were exhibiting strong and multiple signals of automated behavior1, spawning every hour, on the hour, and Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) researchers monitored and tracked these accounts, and their tactics for the past week following the news. Twitter, and accounts specifically designed to report ISIL activity, were limiting some of the effects of what researchers were calling the ‘Baghdadi Net.’ However, it was clear the accounts were able to generate again, sometimes seconds within a takedown period, and spread video, and audio, as well as new ISIL-news content. Many accounts used western avatars, linked to real people, as well as hashtags that were trending across the Middle East and North Africa, including those being used in the Iraq and Lebanon protests. Latching on to trending topics is a well-documented tactic by ISIL and other groups to increase impressions and overall reach of content. As of Friday, the accounts were tweeting out audio content produced by al Furqan media heralding the ascension of the new ISIL leader Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi al Qurashi.
Elites and foreign actors among the alt-right: The Gab social media platform
2019 Zhou, Y., Dredze, M., Broniatowski, D. A. and Adler, W. D. Article
Content regulation and censorship of social media platforms is increasingly discussed by governments and the platforms themselves. To date, there has been little data-driven analysis of the effects of regulated content deemed inappropriate on online user behavior. We therefore compared Twitter — a popular social media platform that occasionally removes content in violation of its Terms of Service — to Gab — a platform that markets itself as completely unregulated. Launched in mid 2016, Gab is, in practice, dominated by individuals who associate with the “alt right” political movement in the United States. Despite its billing as “The Free Speech Social Network,” Gab users display more extreme social hierarchy and elitism when compared to Twitter. Although the framing of the site welcomes all people, Gab users’ content is more homogeneous, preferentially sharing material from sites traditionally associated with the extremes of American political discourse, especially the far right. Furthermore, many of these sites are associated with state-sponsored propaganda from foreign governments. Finally, we discovered a significant presence of German language posts on Gab, with several topics focusing on German domestic politics, yet sharing significant amounts of content from U.S. and Russian sources. These results indicate possible emergent linkages between domestic politics in European and American far right political movements. Implications for regulation of social media platforms are discussed.
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.
A comparison of ISIS foreign fighters and supporters social media posts: an exploratory mixed-method content analysis
2019 Dillon, L., Neo, L. S. and Freilich, J. D. Article
This paper compares the social media posts of ISIS foreign fighters to those of ISIS supporters. We examine a random sample of social media posts made by violent foreign fighters (n = 14; 2000 posts) and non-violent supporters (n = 18; 2000 posts) of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) (overall n = 4,000 posts), from 2009 to 2015. We used a mixed-method study design. Our qualitative content analyses of the 4,000 posts identified five themes: Threats to in-group, societal grievances, pursuit for significance, religion, and commitment issues. Our quantitative comparisons found that the dominant themes in the foreign fighters’ online content were threats to in-group, societal grievances, and pursuit for significance, while religion and commitment issues were dominant themes in the supporters’ online content. We also identified thematic variations reflecting individual attitudes that emerged during the 2011–2015 period, when major geopolitical developments occurred in Syria and Iraq. Finally, our quantitative sentiment-based analysis found that the supporters (10 out of 18; 56%) posted more radical content than the foreign fighters (5 out of 14; 36%) on social media.
Modeling Islamist Extremist Communications on Social Media using Contextual Dimensions: Religion, Ideology, and Hate
2019 Kursuncu, U., Gaur, M., Castillo, C., Alambo, A. Thirunarayan, K., Shalin, V., Achilov, D., Budak Arpinar, I. and Sheth, A. Article
Terror attacks have been linked in part to online extremist content. Although tens of thousands of Islamist extremism supporters consume such content, they are a small fraction relative to peaceful Muslims. The efforts to contain the ever-evolving extremism on social media platforms have remained inadequate and mostly ineffective. Divergent extremist and mainstream contexts challenge machine interpretation, with a particular threat to the precision of classification algorithms. Our context-aware computational approach to the analysis of extremist content on Twitter breaks down this persuasion process into building blocks that acknowledge inherent ambiguity and sparsity that likely challenge both manual and automated classification. We model this process using a combination of three contextual dimensions -- religion, ideology, and hate -- each elucidating a degree of radicalization and highlighting independent features to render them computationally accessible. We utilize domain-specific knowledge resources for each of these contextual dimensions such as Qur'an for religion, the books of extremist ideologues and preachers for political ideology and a social media hate speech corpus for hate. Our study makes three contributions to reliable analysis: (i) Development of a computational approach rooted in the contextual dimensions of religion, ideology, and hate that reflects strategies employed by online Islamist extremist groups, (ii) An in-depth analysis of relevant tweet datasets with respect to these dimensions to exclude likely mislabeled users, and (iii) A framework for understanding online radicalization as a process to assist counter-programming. Given the potentially significant social impact, we evaluate the performance of our algorithms to minimize mislabeling, where our approach outperforms a competitive baseline by 10.2% in precision.