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
The 60 Days of PVE Campaign: Lessons on Organizing an Online, Peer-to-Peer, Counter-radicalization Program
2017 Wilner, A., and Rigato, B. Article
Combatting violent extremism can involve organizing Peer-to-Peer (P2P)
preventing violent extremism (PVE) programs and social media campaigns. While
hundreds of PVE campaigns have been launched around the world in recent
months and years, very few of these campaigns have actually been reviewed,
analyzed, or assessed in any systematic way. Metrics of success and failure have
yet to be fully developed, and very little is publically known as to what might
differentiate a great and successful P2P campaign from a mediocre one. This
article will provide first-hand insight on orchestrating a publically funded,
university-based, online, peer-to-peer PVE campaign – 60 Days of PVE – based
on the experience of a group of Canadian graduate students. The article provides
an account of the group’s approach to PVE. It highlights the entirety of the
group’s campaign, from theory and conceptualization to branding, media strategy,
and evaluation, and describes the campaign’s core objectives and implementation.
The article also analyzes the campaign’s digital footprint and reach using data
gleamed from social media. Finally, the article discusses the challenges and
difficulties the group faced in running their campaign, lessons that are pertinent
for others contemplating a similar endeavour.
The Advocacy of Terrorism on the Internet: Freedom of Speech Issues and the Material Support Statutes
2016 Ruane, KA. Report
The development of the Internet has revolutionized communications. It has never been easier to speak to wide audiences or to communicate with people that may be located more than half a world away from the speaker. However, like any neutral platform, the Internet can be used to many different ends, including illegal, offensive, or dangerous purposes. Terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State (IS, also referred to as ISIS or ISIL), Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Al Shabaab, use the Internet to disseminate their ideology, to recruit new members, and to take credit for attacks around the world. In addition, some people who are not members of these groups may view this content and could begin to sympathize with or to adhere to the violent philosophies these groups advocate. They might even act on these beliefs. Several U.S. policymakers, including some Members of Congress, have expressed concern about the influence that terrorist advocacy may have upon those who view or read it. The ease with which such speech may be disseminated over the Internet, using popular social media services, has been highlighted by some observers as potentially increasing the ease by which persons who might otherwise have not been exposed to the ideology or recruitment efforts of terrorist entities may become radicalized. These concerns raise the question of whether it would be permissible for the federal government to restrict or prohibit the publication and distribution of speech that advocates the commission of terrorist acts when that speech appears on the Internet. Significant First Amendment freedom of speech issues are raised by the prospect of government restrictions on the publication and distribution of speech, even speech that advocates terrorism. This report discusses relevant precedent concerning the extent to which advocacy of terrorism may be restricted in a manner consistent with the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech Clause. The report also discusses the potential application of the federal ban on the provision of material support to foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) to the advocacy of terrorism, including as it relates to the dissemination of such advocacy via online services like Twitter or Facebook.
The Affinity Between Online and Offline Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: Dynamics and Impacts
2016 Awan, I. and Zempi, I. Journal
Following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Tunisia in 2015, and in Woolwich, south-east London where British Army soldier Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in 2013, there has seen a significant increase in anti-Muslim attacks. These incidents have occurred offline where mosques have been vandalized, Muslim women have had their hijab (headscarf) or niqab (face veil) pulled off, Muslim men have been attacked, and racist graffiti has been scrawled against Muslim properties. Concurrently, there has been a spike in anti-Muslim hostility online, where Muslims have been targeted by campaigns of cyber bullying, cyber harassment, cyber incitement, and threats of offline violence. Against this background, we examine the nature and impacts of online and offline anti-Muslim hate crime. We draw on our different experiences of conducting research on anti-Muslim hate crime, using two independent research projects in order to consider the affinity between online and offline anti-Muslim hate crime. We argue that, in reality, online/offline boundaries may be more blurred than the terms imply. For victims, it is often difficult to isolate the online threats from the intimidation, violence, and abuse that they suffer offline. Moreover, victims often live in fear because of the possibility of online threats materializing in the “real world.” We conclude that there is a continuity of anti-Muslim hostility in both the virtual and the physical world, especially in the globalized world.
The Al-Qaeda Media Nexus: The Virtual Network Behind the Global Message
2008 Kimmage, D. Report
This brief study surveys a representative sample of Arabic- language jihadist* media from July 2007 and attempts to answer two simple, yet crucial, questions: What does the structure of jihadist media tell us about the relationship between Al-Qaeda central and the movements that affiliate themselves with it? And what can the priorities of jihadist media tell us about the operational priorities of Al-Qaeda and affiliated movements?
The algorithmic rise of the “alt-right”
2018 Daniels, J. Article
As with so many technologies, the Internet’s racism was programmed right in—and it’s quickly fueled the spread of White supremacist, xenophobic rhetoric throughout the western world.
The Alt-Right and Global Information Warfare
2019 Bevensee, E. and Reid Ross, A. Article
The Alt-Right is a neo-fascist white supremacist movement that is involved in violent extremism and shows signs of engagement in extensive disinformation campaigns. Using social media data mining, this study develops a deeper understanding of such targeted disinformation campaigns and the ways they spread. It also adds to the available literature on the endogenous and exogenous influences within the US far right, as well as motivating factors that drive disinformation campaigns, such as geopolitical strategy. This study is to be taken as a preliminary analysis to indicate future methods and follow-on research that will help develop an integrated approach to understanding the strategies and associations of the modern fascist movement.
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.
The Anti-Hate Brigade: How a Group of Thousands Responds Collectively to Online Vitriol
2020 Buerger, C. Report
#jagärhar is by far the largest and best-organized collective effort to respond directly to hatred online, anywhere in the world, as far as we know. It is also one of only two civil society efforts against hatred online to have been replicated in numerous other countries. In this detailed account of its efforts– the first qualitative study of such a group – Cathy Buerger shares her findings on how and why #jagärhär members do what they do, how working collectively influences members’ ability and willingness to respond to hatred, and how the group’s strategy is carefully designed to take advantage of Facebook’s algorithms and influence ideas and discourse norms among the general public – not necessarily the ones writing the hateful comments.
The Anti-Terrorist Advertising Campaigns in the Middle East
2013 Al-Rawi, A.K. Journal
The anti-terror public media campaigns started in Iraq around 2004 and was called ‘Terror has no Religion’ in order to combat the threats of sectarianism and Al-Qaeda. After the withdrawal of the US forces from the country in late 2010, the campaign stopped, but a new and similar one emerged that is called ‘Say no to Terror’ whose advertisements mostly targeted the Saudi public. Several Pan-Arab regional channels like Al-Arabiya and Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) were part of airing its advertisements. This study focuses on the ‘Terror has no Religion’ and ‘Say no to Terror’ campaigns by critically examining their websites and videos to understand the nature of messages sent to the public. Further, the study examines the effectiveness of the two campaigns with special emphasis on ‘Say no to Terror’ by analyzing comments posted on YouTube and discussing the counter campaign. Over 350 videos were found containing counter arguments to ‘Say no to Terror’ campaign, and about 60% of YouTube commentators viewed the campaign negatively, expressing suspicion about its real intentions. The paper concludes that the success of such public service advertisements is doubtful due to the format of the message as well as cultural and political reasons that are linked to the region.
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 Jihadology and the Securitization of Academia
2021 Zelin, A.Y. Article
This paper goes to the heart of this special issue by exploring the case of the web site, Jihadology, which the author founded and has managed for the past ten-plus years. It explores various issues including why such a site is necessary and/or useful, questions about dissemination and open access, lessons learned about responsibility and interaction with jihadis online, the evolution of the website that has the largest repository of jihadi content, interactions with governments and technology companies and how they viewed and dealt with the website. The paper also explores how the experience gained might help other researchers interested in creating primary source-first websites to assist in their research as well as to the benefit of others in the field. Therefore, this paper aims to shed light not only on this unique case, but also on the moral and ethical questions that have arisen through maintaining the Jihadology website for more than a decade in a time of changing online environments and more recent calls for censorship.
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.