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
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.
Extreme Right Images of Radical Authenticity: Multimodal Aesthetics of History, Nature, and Gender Roles in Social Media
2017 Forchtner, B. and Kolvera, C. Article
Over recent years, the German extreme right has undergone significant changes, including the appropriation of symbols, styles, and action repertoires of contemporary (youth) cultures, sometimes even taken from the far left. In this article, we investigate extreme right visual communication through Facebook, focusing on claims to truth and authentic Nazism in relation to ‘history’, ‘nature’, and ‘gender roles’. These themes were central in National Socialism, but today need to be (re)negotiated vis-à-vis contemporary (youth) cultures. We show that while a traditional notion of ideological authority is enabled through visuals, there is also a strand of imagery depicting and celebrating ‘intimate’ communion. While this simultaneity leads to tensions within the ‘ideal extreme right subject’, we argue that such dilemmas can also be productive, allowing for the (re)negotiation of classic National Socialist doctrine in the context of contemporary (youth) cultures, and thus, potentially, for a revitalisation of the extreme right.
'Sometimes You Just Have to Try Something': A Critical Analysis of Danish State-Led Initiatives Countering Online Radicalisation
2018 Warrington, A. Article
This research paper argues that Danish online radicalisation policies are driven by logics of urgency (the threat is imminent) within a limited realm of discursive possibilities (the threat is securitised) which blur the lines between state and civil society as well as state and private sector interactions. Potential political implications bring into play questions about the democratic values that are perceived as safeguarded by these policies. The Danish case shows that we (as citizens, policy makers and researchers) must engage in further discussions on dynamics between the current threat perception of online radicalisation and policies addressing such a threat. My argument is constructed from a discourse analysis of official documents as of 2016-2017 on countering and preventing violent extremism and an analysis of the political logics driving a state-level conceptualisation of online radicalisation through interviews with government officials. The two-part analysis is theoretically based on Securitisation from the Copenhagen School in combination with Critical Terrorism Studies to create a critically inspired approach that remains within existing structures of Danish politics. This is done to engage with the current political landscape characterised by a securitisation of specific forms of online content associated with the Islamic State as an Other. Online radicalisation is herein constructed as a multidimensional threat towards a societal Self referring to the physical safety of citizens and a value based ‘way of life’. The decentralised structure of the internet allows communication flows that enable radicalisation to be understood as an inter-sectoral threat where multiple elements of the referent object are threatened simultaneously. This threat perception challenges government officials in developing and implementing policies to address the threat of the Other while safeguarding the democratic values of the Danish Self.
Who Are the Online Extremists Among Us? Sociodemographic Characteristics, Social Networking, and Online Experiences of Those Who Produce Online Hate Materials
2018 Costello, M. and Hawdon, J. Article
What are the factors associated with the production of online hate material? Past research has focused on attributes associated with seeing and being targeted by online hate material, but we know surprisingly little about the creators of such material. This study seeks to address this gap in the knowledge, using a random sample of Americans, aged 15–36. Descriptive results indicate that nearly one-fifth of our sample reported producing online material that others would likely interpret as hateful or degrading. We utilize a logistic regression to understand more about these individuals. Results indicate that men are significantly more likely than women to produce online hate material. This fits with the broader pattern of men being more apt to engage in deviant and criminal behaviors, both online and offline. Other results show that the use of particular social networking sites, such as Reddit, Tumblr, and general messaging boards, is positively related to the dissemination of hate material online. Counter to expectations, the use of first-person shooter games actually decreased the likelihood of producing hate material online. This could suggest that violent videogames serve as outlet for aggression, and not a precursor. In addition, we find that individuals who are close to an online community, or spend more time in areas populated by hate, are more inclined to produce hate material. We expected that spending more time online would correlate with the production of hate, but this turned out not to be true. In fact, spending more time online actually reduces the likelihood of doing so. This result could indicate that individuals who spend more time online are focused on a particular set of tasks, as opposed to using the Internet to disseminate hate.
Jihad Cool/Jihad Chic: The Roles of the Internet and Imagined Relations in the Self-Radicalization of Colleen LaRose
2015 Picart, C.J.S. Article
The internet provides the means through which a “self-activating terrorist” may first self-radicalize through some imaginary or sympathetic connection with an organized terrorist network. Additionally, the internet allows such a self-activating terrorist to move into the stage of radical violent action. The internet serves both functions by providing the lone wolf with not only a rhetorical medium for self-justification and communication through the use of “monster talk” and its converse, the rhetoric about the “good citizen,” but it is also a source for relatively inexpensive and more unpredictable technologies of mass destruction. Crucial to this analysis is the distinction between radicalization of thought and radicalization of action, as a theoretical rhetoric of radicalization does not automatically convert into a rhetoric of radical action unless there are catalysts at work. The internet, as well as imagined relations cemented by the rhetorics of “jihadi cool” or “jihadi chic,” function as these crucial catalysts, galvanizing monster talk into monstrous action. The article focuses specifically on the case of self-activating terrorist Colleen LaRose to analyze how different factors—mental, psychological, social, and economic—interact with imaginative elements, such as surrogate father-mentor-lover relations for LaRose, and contribute to the formation of a self-activating terrorist, and what ultimately motivates and galvanizes her to move from a rhetoric of radical talk to a rhetoric of radical action, using Silber and Bhatt’s model of radicalization as an initial heuristic. In the case of Colleen LaRose, the romance of “jihadi chic” or “jihadi cool” (the converse of the rhetoric of the monstrous “infidel” or “lone wolf terrorist”) was an essential factor to her self-radicalization. It is this imagined status of “jihadi chic” or “jihadi cool” (that nevertheless must somehow have a look of “reality” or “authenticity” and command a response from its audience) that continues to be a crucial component of the success of recruitment strategies of radical jihadi groups, such as ISIS.
Anti-refugee Mobilization in Social Media: The Case of Soldiers of Odin
2018 Ekman, Mattias Article
In the wake of the international refugee crisis, racist attitudes are becoming more publicly evident across the European Union. Propelled by the attacks in Köln on New Year’s Eve 2015 and harsher public sentiments on immigration, vigilante gangs have emerged in various European cities. These gangs mobilize through social media networks and claim to protect citizens from alleged violent and sexual attacks by refugees. This article analyzes how racist actors use social media to mobilize and organize street politics targeting refugees/immigrants. The aim is to explore the relation between social media and anti-refugee mobilization in a time of perceived insecurity and forced migration. The study uses the vigilante network Soldiers of Odin as a specific case, looking at (1) how they communicate through social media, (2) how they are represented in the large “alternative” space of right-wing online sites, and (3) how they are represented in traditional mainstream news. Using a critical adaption of Cammaerts’ theory of “mediation opportunity structure,” the article explicates the (inverted) rationale of racist online networks. Using quantitative and qualitative content analysis, both social media content and traditional news media are examined. The results show that although racist actors succeed in utilizing many of the opportunities embedded in social media communication and protest logic, they are also subject to constraints, such as a lack of public support and negative framing in news media. The article calls for more research on the (critical) relationship between uncivil engagement and social media networks.
Studying Jihadists on Social Media: A Critique of Data Collection Methodologies
2018 Parekh, D., Amarasingam, A., Dawson, L., Ruths, D. Article
In this article, we propose a general model of data collection from social media, in the context of terrorism research, focusing on recent studies of jihadists. By analyzing Twitter data collection methods in the existing research, we show that the methods used are prone to sampling biases, and that the sampled datasets are not sufficiently filtered or validated to ensure reliability of conclusions derived from them. Alternatively, we propose some best practices for the collection of data in future research on jihadist using social media (as well as other kinds of terrorist groups). Given the similarity of the methodological challenges posed by research on almost all social media platforms, in the context of terrorism studies, the critique and recommendations offered remain relevant despite the recent shift of most jihadists from Twitter to Telegram and other forms of social media.
Representing the West and “Non-Believers” in the Online Jihadist Magazines Dabiq and Inspire
2018 Lorenzo-Dus, N. Article
This article analyses how jihadist ideology groups discursively represent “the West” and “non-believers” in their online propagandamagazines. In doing so, it contributes to the field of Critical Terrorism Studies conceptually, by considering the voices of violent actors, and methodologically, by illustrating how linguistic tools of enquiry can advance current knowledge of jihadist ideology groups. Our work adopts a case study approach, focusing on the online magazines Inspire and Dabiq, which are part of the propaganda machinery of, respectively, Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The analysis reveals a number of similarities and differences in the discursive strategies that these two groups use. On the one hand, both Inspire and Dabiq support and further construct an “us versus them” dichotomy that polarises differences between their jihadist ideologies and those of Westerners/non-believers. On the other, Dabiq’s discursive representation of “the West” targets a wider variety of individuals and groups of people and geographical locations than Inspire’s. Additionally, Inspire places a greater focus on the pejorative construction of “the West” than Dabiq, suggesting that Al-Qaeda places more emphasis than ISIS on presenting “the West” as the enemy of jihad.
Inception Impact Assessment: Measures to Further Improve the Effectiveness of the Fight against Illegal Content Online
2018 Keller, D. Article
This Comment addresses issues unique to potentially terrorist content targeted by Internet platforms’ Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts. It focuses in particular on Islamist extremism, though some of the analysis may be generalized to other contexts.
Online Networks of Racial Hate: A Systematic Review of 10 Years of Research on Cyber-Racism
2018 Bliuc, A.M., Faulkner, N., Jakubowicz, A., McGarty, C. Article
The ways in which the Internet can facilitate the expression and spread of racist views and ideologies have been the subject of a growing body of research across disciplines. To date, however, there has been no systematic reviews of this research. To synthesise current knowledge on the topic and identify directions for future research, we systematically review a decade of research on cyber-racism as perpetrated by groups and individuals (i.e., according to the source of cyber-racism). Overall, the cyber-racism research reviewed shows that racist groups and individuals use different communication channels, are driven by different goals, adopt different strategies, and the effects of their communication are distinctive. Despite these differences, both groups and individuals share a high level of skill and sophistication when expressing cyber-racism. Most of the studies reviewed relied on qualitative analyses of online textual data. Our review suggests there is a need for researchers to employ a broader array of methods, devote more attention to targets' perspectives, and extend their focus by exploring issues such as the roles of Internet in mobilising isolated racist individuals and in enabling ideological clustering of supporters of racist ideologies.
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.
NYPD vs. Revolution Muslim: Te Inside Story of the Defeat of a Local Radicalization Hub
2018 Morton, J. and Silber, M. Article
Between 2006 and 2012, two men working on opposite
sides of the struggle between global jihadis and the United
States faced of in New York City. One was the founder of
Revolution Muslim, a group which proselytized—online
and on New York streets—on behalf of al-Qa`ida. The
other led eforts to track the terrorist threat facing the
city. Here, they tell the inside story of the rise of Revolution
Muslim and how the NYPD, by using undercover ofcers
and other methods, put the most dangerous homegrown
jihadi support group to emerge on U.S. soil since 9/11
out of business. As the Islamic State adjusts to its loss of
territory, this case study provides lessons for current and
future counterterrorism investigations.
Jihadi Beheading Videos and their Non-Jihadi Echoes
2018 Koch, A. Article
In recent years, the Islamic State terror organization has become notorious for its evil brutality. The brutal nature
of its propaganda (distributed mostly online) inspires Jihadi sympathizers around the world, encouraging them
to use violence against “the enemies of Islam”. This form of violent behavior has also been adopted and imitated
by others – including non-Muslim individuals and groups – regardless of their geographic location, worldview,
religion, ethnicity, or nationality. Drawing from numerous examples, this article illustrates two processes: first,
the “mainstreaming” of beheadings among Jihadists, and second, the imitation of this method (decapitation)
by individuals motivated by other kinds of extremism.
Mounting a Facebook Brand Awareness and Safety Ad Campaign to Break the ISIS Brand in Iraq
2018 Speckhard, A., Shajkovci, A., Wooster, C., and Izadi, Neima Article
This article reports on the International Center for Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE’s) most recent Facebook ad
campaign aimed at raising awareness about the realities of living under ISIS and protecting vulnerable potential
recruits from considering joining. During the course of 24 days in December of 2017, ICSVE researchers mounted
the campaign on Facebook using a counter-narrative video produced by ICSVE. The Facebook ad campaign
targeted Iraq, where Facebook is the most widely used social media platform, with ISIS also driving powerful
recruiting campaigns on Facebook and enticing youth into joining. The results were promising in terms of driving
engagement with our counternarrative video materials, leading close to 1.7 million views and hundreds of specific
comments related to both our video content and ISIS in general. In terms of policy implications, in addition to
raising awareness about the dangers of joining ISIS and our Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project, the
campaign served as an important platform to challenge extremist narratives as well as channel doubt, frustration,
and anger into positive exchange of ideas and participation.
Online discontent: comparing Western European far-right groups on Facebook
2018 Klein O., Muis J. Article
Far-right groups increasingly use social media to interact with other groups and reach their followers. Social media also enable ‘ordinary’ people to participate in online discussions and shape political discourse. This study compares the networks and discourses of Facebook pages of Western European far-right parties, movements and communities. Network analyses of pages indicate that the form of far-right mobilization is shaped by political opportunities. The absence of a strong far-right party offline seems to be reflected in an online network in which non-institutionalized groups are the most prominent actors, rather than political parties. In its turn, the discourse is shaped by the type of actor. Content analyses of comments of followers show that parties address the political establishment more often than immigration and Islam, compared to non-institutionalized groups. Furthermore, parties apply less extreme discursive practices towards ‘the other’ than non-institutionalized groups.

Using Internet search data to examine the relationship between anti-Muslim and pro-ISIS sentiment in U.S. counties
2018 Bail A. C., Merhout F., Ding P. Article
Recent terrorist attacks by first- and second-generation immigrants in the United States and Europe indicate that radicalization may result from the failure of ethnic integration—or the rise of intergroup prejudice in communities where “home-grown” extremists are raised. Yet, these community-level drivers are notoriously difficult to study because public opinion surveys provide biased measures of both prejudice and radicalization. We examine the relationship between anti-Muslim and pro-ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) Internet searches in 3099 U.S. counties between 2014 and 2016 using instrumental variable models that control for various community-level factors associated with radicalization. We find that anti-Muslim searches are strongly associated with pro-ISIS searches—particularly in communities with high levels of poverty and ethnic homogeneity. Although more research is needed to verify the causal nature of this relationship, this finding suggests that minority groups may be more susceptible to radicalization if they experience discrimination in settings where they are isolated and therefore highly visible—or in communities where they compete with majority groups for limited financial resources. We evaluate the validity of our findings using several other data sources and discuss the implications of our findings for the study of terrorism and intergroup relations, as well as immigration and counterterrorism policies.