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 email@example.com 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.
Social Media as a Tool of Hybrid Warfare
|2016||Svetloka, S., Reynolds, A., Curika, L.||Report|
|The development of information technology has changed the nature of conflicts by creating an additional layer of complexity to traditional battle spaces. Nearly global access to the virtual environment has created numerous opportunities to conduct battles online affecting events in both the physical domain, such as computer systems, and in the cognitive domain of people’s attitudes and beliefs. Recently we have witnessed how both states and non-state actors use hybrid approaches to pursue their political and military aims, skilfully combining military operations with cyber-attacks, diplomatic and/or economic pressure, and information (propaganda) campaigns. Over the past decade, social media has rapidly grown into one of the main channels of communication used today. Virtual communication platforms have become an integral part of warfare strategy. The recent conflicts in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine have demonstrated that social media is widely used to coordinate actions, collect information, and, most importantly, to influence the beliefs and attitudes of target audiences, even mobilise them for action. Given this state of affairs, the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (NATO StratCom COE) was tasked with looking into how state and non-state actors leverage social media as a tool for conflict and hybrid warfare strategies. The following topics will be addressed in the report:
• What is the role of social media in hybrid warfare? How is it ‘weaponised’?
• What techniques and tactics do state and non-state actors employ to support their political and military aims using social media? What effects can they achieve?
• What can NATO and its member nations do to identify and counter the malicious use of social media?
We hope that this paper will serve as a comprehensive introduction and useful educational material for anyone interested in understanding the complexity of today’s information environment, and specifically the techniques of influence used in the digital space. The report summarises the conclusions of research commissioned by the StratCom COE—Internet trolling as hybrid warfare tool: the case of Latvia by the Latvian Institute of International Affairs (LIIA) in cooperation with Riga Stradiņš University,1 Social influence in Russia-Ukraine-conflictrelated communication in social media by a team of Polish researchers,2 Network of terror: how Daesh uses adaptive social networks to spread its message by Joseph Shaheen, US State Department Fellow at the StratCom COE, as well as discussions from the seminars and conferences conducted by the COE over the course of 2015.
Pro-Violence and Anti-Democratic Messages on the Internet
|2013||Swedish Media Council||Report|
|Foreword-The standard media image of violent extremism may seem to be far from the ordinary work of the Swedish Media Council. While extremism is often described in dramatic terms of terrorism, attacks and riots, the Council’s work concerns more everyday things, such as age limits for cinema films and media awareness teaching in pre-school. But no person is born to be a perpetrator of violence for political or religious purposes. Being recruited to and radicalised within the framework of pro-violence
and anti-democratic extremist groups is a question of adopting, more or less uncritically, an image of the world where hate is the driving force and violence the legitimate means. In today’s information society, the Internet has become, to an ever increasing extent, the tool for spreading anti-democratic messages for the purpose of recruiting new members. This fact places great demands on people young and old to retain a critical view of information and sometime sharply angled messages that we come across in both traditional and digital media. In October 2011, the Government mandated the Swedish Media Council to describe the presence of anti-democratic messages on the Internet and in social media. The focus is on messages aimed at young persons, and that encourage violence for political or ideological reasons. The aim is to create broader knowledge about extremist Internet milieu, their content, and how recruitment strategies
are formulated and communicated. The overall purpose is to strengthen young persons in preparation for encounters with such messages.
Filtering, Blocking and Take-Down of Illegal Content on the Internet
|2015||Swiss Institute of Comparative Law||Report|
|The Council of Europe commissioned to the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law a comparative study in respect of filtering, blocking and take-down of illegal content on the Internet in the 47 member States of the Organisation. This study describes and assesses the legal framework but also the relevant case-law and practice in the field. It is divided in two main parts: country reports and comparative considerations.|
Countering Violent Extremism Online and Ofﬂine
|2017||Szmania, S., Fincher P.||Journal|
|In the wake of devastating attacks by violent extremists around the world, policy makers have invested considerable effort into understanding terrorists’ use of the Internet as they radicalize and mobilize to violence. To that end, the article “Terrorist Use of the Internet by the Numbers: Quantifying Behaviors, Patterns, and Processes” by Paul Gill, Emily Corner, Maura Conway, Amy Thornton, Mia Bloom, and John Horgan (2017, this issue) contributes important data to a timely policy discussion. The authors’ central finding, “that there is no easy offline versus online violent radicalization dichotomy to be drawn,” highlights a gap in our current conceptualization of the radicalization process and suggests several implications, particularly for countering violent extremism (CVE) policies and programs.|
Terrorism, Islamophobia, And Radicalization
|2017||Tamar, M.||PhD Thesis|
|Why do ordinary people become supportive of violent, extremist ideologies? Over the past several years, tens of thousands of individuals across the world have become attracted to propaganda disseminated by the Islamic State (ISIS), and many have left their home countries to join the organization. This dissertation closely examines possible explanations for pro-ISIS radicalization in Europe and the United States. I argue that anti-Muslim hostility is an important driver of pro-ISIS radicalization, leading individuals who feel isolated to become attracted to the organization's propaganda. I also contend that groups like ISIS are aware of this pattern, and thus seek to purposefully provoke hostility against potential supporters by carrying out terrorist attacks. I maintain that efforts to stop radicalization should focus on ways to reduce hostility and increase the inclusion of minorities in the West. The various dissertation papers empirically examine different aspects of these arguments. In the first paper, I examine whether anti-Muslim hostility might be driving pro-ISIS radicalization in Europe, by analyzing the online activity of thousands of ISIS sympathizers in France, Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Matching online radicalization indicators with offline data on vote share for far-right, anti-Muslim parties, I show that the intensity of anti-Muslim hostility at the local (neighborhood/municipality) level strongly correlates with support for ISIS on Twitter. In addition, I show that events that stir anti-Muslim sentiments, such as terrorist attacks and anti-Muslim protests, lead ISIS sympathizers to significantly increase pro-ISIS rhetoric, especially in areas with high far-right support. In the second paper, I argue that armed groups strategically use terrorism to manipulate levels of anti-Muslim hostility in Western countries. I test whether terrorism leads to greater expressions of anti-Muslim hostility using data on thirty-six terrorist attacks perpetrated by radical jihadists in the West from 2010 to 2016, examining how they shaped anti-Muslim attitudes among individuals in targeted countries. I find that individuals systematically and significantly increase the posting of anti-Muslim content on social media after exposure to terrorism. The effect spikes immediately after attacks, decays over time, but remains significantly higher than pre-attack levels up to a month after the events. The results also reveal that the impact of terrorist attacks on anti-Muslim rhetoric is similar for individuals who already expressed hostility to Muslims before the attacks and those who did not. Finally, I observe that the impact of terrorist attacks on anti-Muslim hostility increases with attacks resulting in greater numbers of casualties. In the third paper, I examine what might be done to stop online radicalization and support for ISIS in the West. I collected data on community engagement events performed in the United States by the Obama Administration, which aimed to increase trust and relationships between the Muslim population and the American government, and combined them with high-frequency, geo-located panel data on tens of thousands of individuals in America who follow Islamic State accounts on Twitter. By analyzing over 100 community engagement events in a Difference-in-Differences design, I find that community engagement activities are systematically and significantly associated with a reduction in pro-ISIS rhetoric on Twitter among individuals located in event areas. In addition, the observed negative relationship between community engagement activities and pro-ISIS rhetoric is stronger in areas that held a large number of these events.|
A Multimodal Mixed Methods Approach for Examining Recontextualisation Patterns of Violent Extremist Images in Online Media
|2018||Tan, S., O'Halloran, K.L., Wignell, P., Chai., K., Lange, R.||Journal|
|This paper uses a multimodal mixed methods approach for exploring general recontextualisation patterns of violent extremist images in online media. Specifically, the paper reports on the preliminary findings of a preliminary study which investigates various patterns in the reuse of images which appear in ISIS’s official propaganda magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah by others across various public online media platforms (e.g. news websites, social media news aggregates, blogs). Using a mixed methods approach informed by multimodal discourse analysis, and combined with data mining and information visualisation, the study addresses questions such as which types of images produced and used by ISIS in its propaganda magazines recirculate most frequently in other online media over time, on which types of online media these images reappear, and in which contexts they are used and reused on these websites, that is that is, whether the tone of the message is corporate (formal) or personal (informal). Preliminary findings from the study suggest different recontextualisation patterns for certain types of ISIS-related images of over time. The study also found that the majority of violent extremist images used in the sample analysis appear to circulate most frequently on Western news and politics websites and news aggregate platforms, in predominantly formal contexts.|
The Conflict In Jammu And Kashmir And The Convergence Of Technology And Terrorism
|2019||Taneja, K. and Shah, K. M.||Report|
|This paper provides recommendations for what government and social media companies can do in the context of Jammu and Kashmir’s developing online theatre of both potential radicalisation and recruitment|
Promises Of Paradise? - A Study On Official ISIS-Propaganda Targeting Women
|2016||Tarras-Wahlberg, L.||MA Thesis|
|Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011 close to 30 000 foreign recruits from more than 100countries have migrated to the area of Iraq and Syria in support of the terrorist organization this thesis will refer to as ISIS. Among those traveling is a historically unprecedented number of women. Why women are drawn to violent Islamic extremist groups is rather unexplored. Through a qualitative text analysis of official ISIS-propaganda, this thesis investigates what promises the organization makes to women, examining pull-factors derived from social media studies of female migration to ISIS-held territories. The thesis concludes that women are promised the possibility to fulfill their religious duty, become important state builders, experience deep and meaningful belonging and sisterhood, to live an exciting adventure and find true romance, as well as being increasingly influential is also promised. Official propaganda does not make explicit promises to women of exerting violence. A secondary purpose of the thesis is to assess the potential risk that ISIS-affiliated women returning to the West, pose to society. This thesis further concludes that women who gain limited knowledge of handling weapons and explosives in ISIS-territory are not probable participants in armed terrorist attacks directed towards the West. However, through increased social networks acquired while in Syria or Iraq, women may play an important supporting role in the process of planning, crowdfunding and executing attacks. Based on these findings the thesis provides some gender-specific policy proposals intended to counter the recruitment of women to ISIS.|
The Italian Extreme Right On-line Network: An Exploratory Study Using an Integrated Social Network Analysis and Content Analysis Approach
|All over the world, extreme right activists and neo-nazis are using the Internet as a tool for communication and recruitment in order to avoid national laws and police investigations. The last 10 years have seen both the diffusion of CMC environments and the rise of extreme right movements in several European countries. This study investigates the structure of the Italian extreme right network, taking into account the latest trends in the social psychology of CMC to describe the nature of ties among Italian extreme right websites.|
Surfacing Contextual Hate Speech Words Within Social Media
|2017||Taylor, J. Peignon, M., and Chen, Y.||Journal|
|Social media platforms have recently seen an increase in the occurrence of hate speech discourse which has led to calls for improved detection methods. Most of these rely on annotated data, keywords, and a classification technique. While this approach provides good coverage, it can fall short when dealing with new terms produced by online extremist communities which act as original sources of words which have alternate hate speech meanings. These code words (which can be both created and adopted words) are designed to evade automatic detection and often have benign meanings in regular discourse. As an example, "skypes", "googles", and "yahoos" are all instances of words which have an alternate meaning that can be used for hate speech. This overlap introduces additional challenges when relying on keywords for both the collection of data that is specific to hate speech, and downstream classification. In this work, we develop a community detection approach for finding extremist hate speech communities and collecting data from their members. We also develop a word embedding model that learns the alternate hate speech meaning of words and demonstrate the candidacy of our code words with several annotation experiments, designed to determine if it is possible to recognize a word as being used for hate speech without knowing its alternate meaning. We report an inter-annotator agreement rate of K=0.871, and K=0.676 for data drawn from our extremist community and the keyword approach respectively, supporting our claim that hate speech detection is a contextual task and does not depend on a fixed list of keywords. Our goal is to advance the domain by providing a high quality hate speech dataset in addition to learned code words that can be fed into existing classification approaches, thus improving the accuracy of automated detection.|
Criminogenic Qualities Of The Internet
|ABSTRACT- This paper initially identifies a number of critical distinctions that might help our understanding of the relationship between Internet use and terrorism. It then develops the notion of complex global microstructures as a useful conceptual aid to
understanding how people interact with the Internet in general, and to terrorism in
particular. Parallels are identified between various inappropriate, risky and dangerous
uses of the Internet which are argued to point to a degree of commonality of effect. The
paper concludes by suggesting that some forms of user interaction with the Internet
suggest the Internet may have criminogenic qualities.
An Introduction by the Editors
|2015||Taylor, M., Horgan, J. and Sageman, M.||Journal|
|An introductory note of the Journal 'Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflicts'|
Terrorisme i Cyberspace: Udfordringer ved Organisering og Udførelse af Politisk Vold Online
|2015||Teglskov Jacobsen, J.||Article|
|Internettet præsenteres ofte som et farligt redskab i hænderne på terrorister. Det er dog ikke nødvendigvis sandheden. Artiklen trækker på indsigter fra studier af sunniekstremistiske grupper, Anders B. Breivik og Anonymous og diskuterer terroristers anvendelse af internettet i organiseringen og udførelsen af terrorisme. Jeg vil argumentere for, at det anarkiske og anonyme internet fører mistillid og fragmentering med sig, hvilket gør det sværere for grupper at opretholde en fælles strategi og det fælles fjendebillede. Artiklen styrker derfor fortællingen om, at det hovedsageligt er ekskluderede og socialt marginaliserede enspændere, der ender med at planlægge voldshandlinger i isolation bag computerskærmen. I forlængelse heraf vil jeg pege på, at hovedparten af potentielle terrorister drages af fysisk interaktion,
våben og eksplosioner – og ikke udviklingen af komplekse cybervåben.
Risk Of Cyberterrorism To Naval Ships Inport Naval Station Everett a model based project utilizing SIAM
|2007||Tester, R. R. A.||MA Thesis|
|Based on numerous high level concerns that the cyber threat is expected to increase, as well as the already documented uses of cyber warfare, it is necessary to ensure our naval ships are hardened against such attacks. In doing so, an influence net model was designed to discover the likelihood of a successful cyber attack. However, first it was necessary to establish what the best mitigation tools are in defense of cyber attack methods. In order to do so, an expert opinion survey was designed and completed by individuals currently working in the field of network security. In combination with the expert opinion surveys and in looking at research and established security techniques it should become apparent whether or not ships are taking all the required steps to best secure themselves against an attack. Though the initial model was designed around a theoretical Naval Station Everett ship, with modification the model can be utilized for any naval asset throughout the United States and the risk for each particular U.S. asset can be evaluated. Additionally, this tool can also facilitate security funding as well as establishing a means of prioritizing the tools for protection if the network needs to be hastily re-established after an attack. Ultimately, the protection of a ship’s computer networks against cyber terrorist threats is fundamental in ensuring continued effective command and control and ultimately the security of this nation.|
Digital Discourse, Online Repression, And Cyberterrorism: Information Communication Technologies In Russia’s North Caucasus Republics
|2019||Tewell, Z.S.||MA Thesis|
|Is the cyber-utopian versus cyber-repression argument the most effective way to frame the political uses of new technologies? Contemporary discourse on social media fails to highlight political dynamics in authoritarian regimes with weak state control, where independent groups can capitalize on the use of coercive force. In this thesis, I will explore the various methods through which information communication technologies are utilized by civil groups, uncivil groups, and the state using Russia's North Caucasus republics as a case study. New technologies are exploited through a variety of means by an array of actors in the North Caucasus whose goals may not necessarily be democratic. Through this evidence I demonstrate that information communication technologies do not inherently aid democratization, nor do they necessarily aid the incumbent regime; rather, they are merely a conduit through which existing groups put forth their agendas regarding their ideals of the modern state.|
The Hunt For The Paper Tiger: The Social Construction Of Cyberterrorism
|2006||Thatcher, S. E. H.||PhD Thesis|
|For two decades, there has been a high-profile debate on the issue of cyberterrorism. Politicians, law enforcement agents, the information security industry, other experts and the press have all made claims about the threats to and vulnerabilities in our society, who is responsible and what should be done. This is a UK study in the field of Information Systems based on interpretative philosophical assumptions. The framework for the study is provided by the concept of moral panic, propounded by Cohen (2002) and elaborated by Goode and Ben-Yehuda (1994) and Critcher (2003). Moral panic is used widely in the reference discipline of Sociology as a tool for investigating the social construction of social problems in cases where there is heightened public concern and intense media interest, closely followed by changes in legislation and social control mechanisms. This study employs moral panic as an heuristic device to assist in the investigation of the social mechanisms at work in the social construction of cyberterrorism The corpus of data for analysis comprised articles from the UK national press relevant to cyberterrorism. A grounded theory approach was used to analyse these articles in order to identify images, orientations, stereotypes and symbolisation and to examine
representational trends over time. Reflexivity in such a task is of the utmost importance, and the analytic process leading to an explanation of the social processes at work was deliberately divorced from the moral panic framework in order to guarantee rigour in the findings. The findings set out an explanation of how the concept of cyberterrorism has been constructed over two decades and compares this explanation with a framework provided by a model of moral panic. These findings are then linked to wider issues about national security, civil liberties and state control of information and communication technologies.
Delivering Hate : How Amazon’s Platforms Are Used to Spread White Supremacy, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia and How Amazon Can Stop It
|2018||The Action Center on Race and the Economy and The Partnership for Working Families||Report|
|Amazon has been called the “everything store,” but today it is much more than just a store, with publishing, streaming, and web services businesses. Its reach and infuence are unparalleled: Most U.S. online shopping trips begin at Amazon, Amazon dominates the U.S. e-book business, and the company’s web services division has over 60 percent of the cloud computing services market. All this adds up for Amazon and its owners. The company posted record profts of $1.9 billion in the last three quarters of 2017,7 and CEO Jef Bezos’s wealth soared to $140 billion in 2018, largely because of the value of Amazon stock. A close examination of Amazon’s various platforms and services reveals that for growing racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic movements, the breadth of Amazon’s business combined with its weak and inadequately enforced policies provides a number of channels through which hate groups can generate revenue, propagate their ideas, and grow their movements. We looked at several areas of Amazon’s business, including its online shops, digital music platform, Kindle and CreateSpace publishing platforms, and web services business.|
Understanding Violent Extremism: Messaging and Recruitment Strategies on Social Media in the Philippines
|2018||The Asia Foundation and Rappler||Report|
|Violent extremist activity on social media in the Philippines is a relatively new phenomenon in the complex conflict environment that exists in the southern part of the country. The rise of online violent extremism emerged despite the Philippines’ significant strides in the Mindanao peace process. The 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the MILF was a landmark achievement. Yet a number of armed groups rejected the deal, many of which are now engaged in online extremism. The apparent affiliation of these groups with issues beyond Mindanao and the Philippine state signaled a potential new era of conflict in the country. With these concerns as a backdrop, The Asia Foundation and Rappler worked together to explore how young Filipinos interact with social media networks, and look into the prevalence and characteristics of violent extremist messaging and recruitment in the Philippines in 2018.|
The Use of Social Media by Terrorist Fundraisers and Financiers
|2016||The Camstoll Group||Report|
|Financiers and fundraisers for al-Qaida and Islamic State (ISIS) are active
users of popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter,
YouTube and Instagram, in some cases even after being placed on a
United Nations or US government sanctions list. Terrorist financiers
and fundraisers have utilized social media to attract and direct funding
to procure weapons, pay salaries, strengthen infrastructure and operate
civil and social services. While the amount of funding raised via social
media is far less in comparison to revenues from oil sales or taxation,
al-Qaida and ISIS fundraisers have taken credit for millions of dollars
raised using social media-based campaigns—significant amounts by
Terrorist financiers and fundraisers for al-Qaida and ISIS have relied on
social media services to communicate with colleagues and supporters,
attract new followers globally, and promote aligned causes and
organizations. With their potential to spur viral content growth, social
media services enable fundraisers to more quickly and effectively solicit
support and reach larger audiences.
Social media companies have actively terminated the accounts of
terrorist facilitators—including a number of designated terrorist
fundraisers and financiers—citing violations of their respective terms
of service restrictions that prohibit support for violence or hate speech
[see pg.12]. For example, in early February 2016 Twitter announced the
closure of more than 125,000 accounts “for threatening or promoting
terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS,” noting that social media platforms
are “forced to make challenging judgment calls based on very limited
information and guidance.”1 Facebook has also stepped up its efforts
to remove users who back terror groups, and YouTube has taken down
content and terminated users who post terrorist material.2
Overview of Daesh’s Online Recruitment Propaganda Magazine, Dabiq
|2015||The Carter Center||Report|
|The successful recruitment strategies of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Daesh) has become a serious challenge for the international community. Daesh employs a multifaceted online media strategy to recruit targeted demographics. The Carter Center (TCC) is working to counter Daesh’s recruitment propaganda efforts by undertaking in-depth analysis of this group’s print and social media publications. This will be followed by a series of workshops in partnership with religious and local community leaders. TCC has developed a detailed coding methodology allowing for structured study of each individual issue of Daesh s online magazine, Dabiq. Currently, Issues 1 – 12 have been examined, categorizing 31 separate variables broken down by text, context, imagery, and magazine evolution. This qualitative and quantitative methodological analysis enables the study of shifting themes, trends, and recruitment strategies. This report will discuss the significance of Dabiq as a compliment to Daesh’s social media campaign, Daesh’s re-appropriation of international media, and its repurposing of this material to enhance its own recruitment strategies.|