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
Addressing the New Landscape of Terrorism: Towards Formulating Actionable Response
2019 Andre, V. Report
This report presents the key findings from the second international conference “Addressing the New Landscape of Terrorism: Towards Formulating Actionable Response” which was held in Bangkok, Thailand on 24-28 July 2017. Sixty-five delegates presented at the conference. Uniquely, for such a conference, the speakers were academics, front line practitioners, social and community actors, government officials and youth drawn from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sweden, Thailand, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Other attendees included representatives from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission of Thailand, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Security Council of Thailand, the Royal Thai Police, the Thai Ministry of Defense and various security agencies in Thailand, the UNODC, the Delegation of the European Union to Thailand, the Australian Embassy in Thailand, the United States of America Embassy in Thailand, the French Embassy in Thailand and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium. This report provides summaries of each of the presentations that were delivered at the conference, before drawing out the key themes, which emerged and policy recommendations.
Accelerators, Amplifiers, and Conductors: A Model of Tertiary Deviance in Online White Supremacist Networks
2020 Gottschalk, S. Article
As recent perpetrators of racially-motivated mass-shootings were visitors and contributors to online white supremacist networks, this article presents a preliminary model that attempts to understand the social psychological effects of interacting in these networks. Combining Jonathan Turner’s theory of the social psychological roots of extreme violence, scholarship on the white supremacist movement, and research on computer-mediated communication, it suggests that interactions in online white supremacist networks accelerate the conversion from secondary to tertiary deviance, amplify the negative emotional energy released by this conversion, and, under certain conditions, transform this energy into a violent kinetic force. The model is not unique to online white supremacist networks and will hopefully guide research in other types of networks as well.
Abu Musab al-Suri Goes Online: Conditions for the Success of Jihadist Online Strategies
2018 Gresser, M. S. Article
This paper utilizes Social Movement Theory to analyze the online strategies of al-Qaeda and
the Islamic State. Applying Social Movement Theory, this paper argues that the relative online successes
of each group can be explained through this theory of radicalization through social engagement. This paper
looks at the writings of al-Qaeda strategist, Abu Musab al-Suri, who envisioned use of the internet
for social engagement, as it considers the implications of a likely increase in jihadist use of the internet.
A War of Keywords: How Extremists are Exploiting the Internet and What to do About It
2016 Ahmed, M. and George, FL. Report
This research centred on three layers of analysis: Firstly, understanding
the keywords, or search terms, people use to
find information on Google; secondly, looking at the data
demonstrating links going into a selection of known extremist
websites in order to understand their relationships
with other websites;
and thirdly, analysing the content of
Google search results pages to understand the placement of extremist and counter-narrative content within search results for relevant keywords. The areas of analysis represent
important aspects related to the broader internet and,
when combined, gave the opportunity to get a snapshot of
extremist content beyond the realm of social media.

The results produced by this multi-faceted approach provide
an overview of extremist content online and shed
much-needed light on the impact and effectiveness of online
counter-narrative efforts.
A Typology of Lone Wolves: Preliminary Analysis of Lone Islamist Terrorists
2011 Pantucci, R. Report
The troublesome question of how and whether to consider what are commonly referred to as Lone Wolf terrorists within the broader roster of terrorist groups is something that has regularly confounded security analysts for a variety of reasons. This article attempts to create some sort of typology to start to define the group, with specific reference to the instances of Lone Wolves (or Lone Wolf Packs, an admittedly paradoxical choice of words that is defined in the article as small, isolated groups of individuals involved in terrorism) who claim to adhere to an extremist Islamist ideology. The article offers four subsets to the definition, drawing upon a detailed analysis of a variety of different plots in Europe and North America: Loner, Lone Wolf, Lone Wolf Pack, and Lone Attacker. The purpose of the article is to offer some preliminary thoughts on the issue of Lone Wolves, and start a process towards deeper understanding and closer analysis of the phenomenon. This is of particular salience given the frequency with which security analysts cite the phenomenon as a threat and the increasing way in which Al Qaeda ideologues refer to it.
A Tale Of Two Caliphates: Comparing the Islamic State's Internal and External Messaging Priorities
2018 Mahlouly, D., and Winter, C. VOX-Pol Publication
In recent years, the media department of the self-proclaimed Islamic State has proven itself to be highly adept at strategic communication. While much research has gone into the group’s digital and online capabilities, there remains a significant gap in the knowledge regarding its in-country propaganda operations and objectives. In recognition of this, the following research paper approaches the issue from a different angle, attempting to better understand how and why the group communicates its brand through the lens of two publications – al-Naba’, its Arabic-language newspaper, which appears to be designed primarily for offline dissemination in the caliphate itself, and Rumiyah, its foreign-language electronic magazine, which has only ever appeared online. Using content analysis to identify and compare each publication’s internal (local) and external (global) media priorities over the four-month period between September and December 2016, we develop an empirical evaluation of the group’s recent forays into targeted outreach.
A Systematic Examination of Terrorist Use of the Internet
2008 Freiburger,T. and Crane, J.S. Journal
The design of the Internet has made it an especially useful tool to terrorist groups. Using the Internet, terrorist groups have been especially successful in recruiting new members and exciting them into action. Previous works have provided comprehensive accounts of ways that terrorists use the Internet. This article expands on the understanding of this phenomenon by framing the previous works in a systematic model of terrorist’s use of the Internet through social learning theory. The article also offers counterterrorist strategies in accordance with the components of social learning.
A Study Of Outlinks Contained In Tweets Monitoring Rumiya
2019 Macdonald, S., Grinnell, D., Kinzel A., and Lorenzo-Dus, A. Report
This paper focuses on the attempts by Daesh (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS) to use Twitter to disseminate its online magazine, Rumiyah. It examines a data set of 11,520 tweets mentioning Rumiyah that contained an out link, to evaluate the success of Daesh’s attempts to use Twitter as a gateway to issues of its magazine.
A Storm On The Horizon? 'Twister' And The Implications Of The Blockchain And Peer To Peer Social Networks For Online Violent Extremism
2018 Mott, G. Article
“Twister,” developed by Miguel Freitas, is a social network platform centered around micro-blogging, much like Twitter. However, rather than relying on centralized servers owned and maintained by a single firm, Twister users operate a block chain combined with distributed hash table (DHT)–like and BitTorrent-like protocols to both make posts and send private messages, and also to receive entries from other users. Twister’s raison d’etre is that it offers a social networking platform that cannot be censored and cannot itself censor. The software does not record the Internet Protocol addresses users use to access the service, nor does it notify other users of an account’s online/offline status. Growing adoption of block chain services means that it is possible that the concept of decentralized social networks could become a norm. It is suggested in this article that block chain-based peer-to-peer social networks present challenges to the current counterextremist practices for content removal and censorship. While there are methods to disrupt usage of blockchainbased peer-to-peer services, these approaches may have the net harm of curtailing bona fide use of legal and novel technologies. Given this opportunity cost, non-transitory online violent extremist content may need to be tolerated.
A Spatial Analysis Of Boko Haram And Al-Shabaab References In Social Media In Sub-Saharan Africa
2014 Rodriguez Jr., R.M. MA Thesis
This thesis describes the role that social media can play in showing how a terrorist organization can impact people’s conversation via Twitter. The two groups that this thesis focusses on are Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab. We present a new approach to how we can look into how terrorist organization can be analyzed and see what kind of impacts they may have over different cultures. The process used in researching and writing this thesis is we conducted literature search of the social media phenomenon and what social media can provide. We look to build on research by using the social media phenomenon to find what types of impacts terrorist organizations may have over cultures along with seeing how a terrorist event can have an impact over people on social media. This thesis hopes to expand on previous research on the academic uses for social media, as well as add to the expanding role that social media can be used for intelligence purposes.
A Semantic Graph-Based Approach for Radicalisation Detection on Social Media
2017 Saif, H., Dickinson, T., Kastler, L., Fernandez, M., and Alani, H. Article
From its start, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) has been successfully exploiting social media networks, most notoriously Twitter, to promote its propaganda and recruit new members, resulting in thousands of social media users adopting a pro-ISIS stance every year. Automatic identification of pro-ISIS users on social media has, thus, become the centre of interest for various governmental and research organisations. In this paper we propose a semantic graph-based approach for radicalisation detection on Twitter. Unlike previous works, which mainly rely on the lexical representation of the content published by Twitter users, our approach extracts and makes use of the underlying semantics of words exhibited by these users to identify their pro/anti-ISIS stances. Our results show that classifiers trained from semantic features outperform those trained from lexical, sentiment, topic and network features by 7.8% on average F1-measure.
A Quantitative Approach To Understanding Online Antisemitism
2018 Finkelstein, J., Zannettou, S., Bradlyn, B. and Blackburn, J. Article
A new wave of growing antisemitism, driven by fringe Web communities, is an increasingly worrying presence in the socio-political realm. The ubiquitous and global nature of the Web has provided tools used by these groups to spread their ideology to the rest of the Internet. Although the study of antisemitism and hate is not new, the scale and rate of change of online data has impacted the efficacy of traditional approaches to measure and understand this worrying trend. In this paper, we present a large-scale, quantitative study of online antisemitism. We collect hundreds of million comments and images from alt-right Web communities like 4chan’s Politically Incorrect board (/pol/) and the Twitter clone, Gab. Using scientifically grounded methods, we quantify the escalation and spread of antisemitic memes and rhetoric across the Web. We find the frequency of antisemitic content greatly increases (in some cases more than doubling) after major political events such as the 2016 US Presidential Election and the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Furthermore, this antisemitism appears in tandem with sharp increases in white ethnic nationalist content on the same communities. We extract semantic embeddings from our corpus of posts and demonstrate how automated techniques can discover and categorize the use of antisemitic terminology. We additionally examine the prevalence and spread of the antisemitic “Happy Merchant” meme, and in particular how these fringe communities influence its propagation to more mainstream services like Twitter and Reddit. Taken together, our results provide a data-driven, quantitative framework for understanding online antisemitism. Our open and scientifically grounded methods serve as a framework to augment current qualitative efforts by anti-hate groups, providing new insights into the growth and spread of antisemitism online.
A Plan for Preventing and Countering Terrorist and Violent Extremist Exploitation of Information and Communications Technology in America
2019 Alexander, A. Report
Policymakers in the United States know that terrorists and violent extremists exploit information and communications technologies (ICTs), but the government still struggles to prevent and counter these threats. Although the U.S. does not face these challenges alone, the strategies and policies emphasized by some of its greatest allies are not viable or suitable frameworks for domestic policymakers. Since these threats persist, however, the U.S. government must develop a cohesive strategy to prevent and counter-terrorist and violent extremist exploitation of ICTs. The approach should rest on the pillars of pragmatism, proportionality, and respect for the rule of law, and aim to disrupt terrorist and violent extremist networks in the digital sphere. To pursue this objective, the following brief calls for political leaders to create an interagency working group to formalize leadership and conduct a comprehensive assessment of terrorist and violent extremist abuse of ICTs. The evaluation must also weigh the costs and benefits associated with responses to these threats. Then, government officials should work to enhance the capability and coordination of government-led efforts, pursue partnerships with non-governmental entities, and facilitate productive engagements with the technology industry. In short, this approach would allow the government to use legislation, redress, and strategic outreach to empower more players to responsibly prevent and counter terrorist and violent extremist exploitation of ICTs.
A Philosophical and Historical Analysis of “Generation Identity”: Fascism, Online Media, and the European New Right
2019 Richards, I. Article
This article analyzes ideological and organizational characteristics of the pan-European youth movement, “Generation Identity” (GI), through a philosophical and historical lens. With a synoptic perspective on existing and original research, it outlines an analysis of key GI literature as well as its ideological influences, activist behavior, and media strategies. This research reveals that, like other twentieth and twenty-first century examples of neo-fascism, the movement is syncretic and attempts to legitimize its political aims through reference to historical quasi- and proto-fascist cases, in combination with popular left and right-wing political ideals. A reflection on GI’s activist behavior, on the other hand, demonstrates that the movement is relatively unique in the field of current far-right politics; particularly in the extent to which it draws practical inspiration from the tactics and propagandizing strategies of contemporary left-wing movements. GI’s online presence, including its leaders’ promotion of gamification, also illustrates its distinctive appeal to young, relatively affluent, countercultural and digitally literate populations. Finally, while in many respects GI is characteristic of the “European New Right” (ENR), the analysis finds that its spokespersons’ various promotion of capitalism and commodification, including through their advocacy of international trade and sale of merchandise, diverges from the anti-capitalist philosophizing of contemporary ENR thinkers.
A New Approach to Counter Radicalization
2014 US Council on Foreign Relations Video
US Council on Foreign Relations panel discussion on approaches to countering radicalisation. Panel members include Peter Neumann of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, a VOX-Pol partner. Originally recorded on 18 May 2011 and uploaded by the Council on Foreign Relations on April 1, 2011
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.
A Look At Jihadists Suicide Fatwas: The Case Of Algeria
2010 Prucha N. Article
Responding to critical questions on the al-Hebah Forum in 2007, the leading chief ideologue of AQIM, Abu 'l-Hassan Rashid, provides a chilly look on the jihadists practical understanding and definition of deploying suicide-bombers and the potential of killing innocent Muslim bystanders during such operations. The 2007 document is based on comprising Arabic sources that have been over the years disseminated and amended by the means of the internet. The article intends to provide an assessment of alleged Islamic principles used for such attacks and draws on a comprising database of jihadist writings and videos. Rashid cites and builds his arguments on writings that can be in the meantime termed as common understanding and knowledge by most sympathizers on- and offline. By including AQIM videos the article intends to further analyze the practical incorporation of the language and notion of the jihadists as portrayed and disseminated by AQ’s video outlets.
A Longitudinal Measurement Study of 4chan’s Politically Incorrect Forum and its Effect on the Web
2016 Hine, G.E., Onaolapo, J., De Cristofaro, E., Kourtellis, N., Leontadis, I., Samaras, R., Stringhini, G. and Blackburn, J. Article
Although it has been a part of the dark underbelly of the Internet since its inception, recent events have brought the discussion board site 4chan to the forefront of the world’s collective mind. In particular, /pol/, 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” board has become a central figure in the outlandish 2016 Presidential election. Even though 4chan has long been viewed as the “final boss of the Internet,” it remains relatively unstudied in the academic literature. In this paper we analyze /pol/ along several axes using a dataset of over 8M posts. We first perform a general characterization that reveals how active posters are, as well as how some unique features of 4chan affect the flow of discussion. We then analyze the content posted to /pol/ with a focus on determining topics of interest and types of media shared, as well as the usage of hate speech and differences in poster demographics. We additionally provide quantitative evidence of /pol/’s collective attacks on other social media platforms. We perform a quantitative case study of /pol/’s attempt to poison anti-trolling machine learning technology by altering the
language of hate on social media. Then, via analysis of comments from the 10s of thousands of YouTube videos linked on /pol/, we provide a mechanism for detecting attacks from /pol/ threads on 3rd party social media services.
A Longitudinal Measurement Study of 4chan’s Politically Incorrect Forum and Its Effect on the Web
2016 Hine, G.E., Onaolapo, J., De Cristofaro, E., Kourtellis, N., Leontiadis, I., Samaras, R., Stringhini, G., and Blackburn, J. Article
The discussion board site 4chan has been a part of the dark underbelly of the Internet since its inception, but recent events have brought it to the forefront of the world's collective mind. In particular, /pol/, 4chan's "Politically Incorrect" board has become a central figure in the outlandish 2016 US election campaign, often linked to the alt-right movement and the rhetoric of hate and racism. Nonetheless, 4chan remains relatively unstudied by the research community. In this paper, we start addressing this gap by analyzing /pol/ along several axes, using a dataset of over 8M posts collected over two and a half months. First, we perform a general characterization, showing that /pol/ users are well distributed around the world and that 4chan's unique features encourage fresh discussions. Then, we analyze content posted on /pol/, finding YouTube links and hate speech to be predominant, that 95% of images are posted no more than 5 times, and that there are notable differences in the English language used in different parts of the world. Last but not least, we provide quantitative evidence of /pol/'s collective attacks on other social media platforms by analyzing the comments in YouTube videos linked on /pol/. We also present a quantitative case study of /pol/'s attempt to poison anti-trolling tools by altering the language of hate on social media, finding it to be less successful than reported by the popular press. Overall, our analysis not only provides the first measurement study of /pol/, but also insight on online harassment and hate speech trends in online social media.
A Large-Scale Study Of ISIS Social Media Strategy: Community Size, Collective Influence, And Behavioral Impact
2019 Alfifi, M., Kaghazgaran, P. and Caverlee, J. Article
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has received a tremendous amount of media coverage in the past few years for their successful use of social media to spread their message and to recruit new members. In this work, we leverage access to the full Twitter Firehose to perform a large-scale observational study of one year of ISIS social activity. We quantify the size of ISIS presence on Twitter, the potential amount of support it received, and its collective influence over time. We find that ISIS was able to gain a relatively limited portion from the total influence mass on Twitter and that this influence diminished over time. In addition, ISIS showed a tendency towards attracting interactions from
other similar pro-ISIS accounts, while inviting only a limited anti-ISIS sentiment. We find that 75% of the interactions ISIS received on Twitter in 2015 actually came from eventually suspended accounts and that only about 8% of the interactions they received were anti-ISIS. In addition, we have created a unique dataset of 17 million ISIS-related tweets posted in 2015 which we make available for research purposes upon request.