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
Cloaked Facebook Pages: Exploring Fake Islamist Propaganda in Social Media
2017 Farkas. J., Schou, J., Neumayer, C. Article
This research analyses cloaked Facebook pages that are created to spread political propaganda by cloaking a user profile and imitating the identity of a political opponent in order to spark hateful and aggressive reactions. This inquiry is pursued through a multi-sited online ethnographic case study of Danish Facebook pages disguised as radical Islamist pages, which provoked racist and anti-Muslim reactions as well as negative sentiments towards refugees and immigrants in Denmark in general. Drawing on Jessie Daniels’ critical insights into cloaked websites, this research furthermore analyses the epistemological, methodological and conceptual challenges of online propaganda. It enhances our understanding of disinformation and propaganda in an increasingly interactive social media environment and contributes to a critical inquiry into social media and subversive politics.
CLC – Cyberterrorism Life Cycle Model
2014 Veerasamy, N. PhD Thesis
The rise of technology has brought with it many benefits but also the potential for great dangers. In particular, Information Communication Technology (ICT) is involved in many facets of life-influencing systems, which range from power plants to airports. Terrorists are now realising the great possibilities of interfering with critical infrastructure. Remote access, reduced costs, automation, replication, speed, direct effect, varied targets and anonymity are all benefits that make attacking computers and networks in cyberspace an attractive solution. ICT could thus serve as a powerful instrument to advance political and ideological viewpoints. The ICT landscape now faces an emerging threat in the form of cyberterrorists. However, it is important not to incorrectly perceive ordinary cyber attacks as cyberterrorism. Cyberterrorism is different from cybercrime in that is has differing motives, attack goals, techniques and intended effects. The motivation for cyberterrorism largely stems from political and ideological views (religious, social activism, retributional). Cyber attacks are mainly driven by financial theft, fraud or espionage, whereas cyberterrorism aims to create publicity for a cause and leave a high impact. In this study, a Cyberterrorism Life Cycle (CLC) Model is developed in order to demonstrate the various factors that lead to the establishment and growth of cyberterrorism. The model depicts the various strategic and technical issues that are relevant to the field. Overall, this model aims to structure the dynamic interaction of the behavioural and technological factors that influence the development of cyberterrorism. Throughout the research, various factors that are influential to cyberterrorism are investigated. The research follows a systematic approach of revealing various underlying issues and thereafter compiling the holistic CLC model to depict these critical issues. Part 1 introduces cyberterrorism and provides the background to the field by discussing incidents and example groups. Initially, the concept of cyberterrorism is explored and the proposed definition tested. Part 2 looks at investigating cyberterrorism more deeply. A conceptual framework is presented that introduces the most pertinent factors in the field of cyberterrorism. Next, the traditional and innovative use of the Internet to carry out and support terrorism is explored. Then, the study addresses the determination of additional social factors using Partial Least Squares Path Modelling. In Part 3, the field of cyberterrorism is more intensely studied. Cyberterrorism is mapped to the Observe-Orient- Decide-Act (OODA) loop, which will form the basis of the CLC model. Thereafter, the most influential concepts essential to the field of cyberterrorism are applied in order to classify attacks as cyberterrorism using ontologies. Furthermore, in Part 3, countermeasures are discussed to look at ways to combat cyberterrorism. Part 4 forms the crux of the research. The CLC model is presented as a structured representation of the various influential factors relevant to cyberterrorism. Thereafter, the CLC model is simulated to show the field more dynamically. Overall, the CLC model presented in this study aims to show the interaction of the various strategic, behavioural and technical issues. The CLC model can help elucidate the reasons for attraction into extremist groups and how attacks are carried out.
Class-based Prediction Errors to Detect Hate Speech with Out-of-vocabulary Words
2017 Serra, J., Leontiadis, I., Spathis, D., Stringhini, G., Blackburn, J. and Vakali, A. Article
Common approaches to text categorization essentially rely either on n-gram counts or on word embeddings. This presents important difficulties in highly dynamic or quickly-interacting environments, where the appearance of new words and/or varied misspellings is the norm. A paradigmatic example of this situation is abusive online behavior, with social networks and media platforms struggling to effectively combat uncommon or nonblacklisted hate words. To better deal with these issues in those fast-paced environments, we propose using the error signal
of class-based language models as input to text classification algorithms. In particular, we train a next-character prediction model for any given class, and then exploit the error of such class-based models.
to inform a neural network classifier. This
way, we shift from the ability to describe
seen documents to the ability to predict
unseen content. Preliminary studies using out-of-vocabulary splits from abusive
tweet data show promising results, outperforming competitive text categorization
strategies by 4–11%.
Children: extremism and online radicalization
2016 Morris, E. Article
There can be few greater fears for a parent than their child being contacted by a stranger, indoctrinated with an extreme ideology, and encouraged to join a violent movement, all while accessing the internet from their bedroom. Children’s smartphones and computers
may be portals to the most dangerous places on earth. The use of the internet, and more specifically social media, by violent extremists is certainly nothing new. The technical skills and proficiency displayed by groups such as ISIS have been causing concern for governments, law enforcement, industry, schools, religious leaders, and parents around the world. In reality the radicalization of children is rare and particularly nuanced, and far from a linear process that exclusively occurs online. While the media have reported high-profile cases, such as the teenagers from Chicago who tried to leave the United States and join ISIS or the three girls from the United Kingdom who traveled through Turkey to Syria the frequency and nature of conversion to violent extremism is a lot more complex than often reported. Evidence from search histories, online interactions and social media profiles suggest that contact is being made by those intent on radicalizing others. However, while information can be sought and contact can be initiated, complete conversion to a violent ideology is not happening in isolation online. That is to say that the internet is serving as a facilitator, not a direct means of recruitment. In any case action needs to be taken to safeguard children and young people from these risks.
Cheering on the Jihad: An Exploration of Women’s Participation in Online Pro-jihadist Networks
2016 Huey, L. and Peladeau, H. Report
With the rise of the Islamic State (IS), a great deal of attention has recently been drawn to two issues that have come to be seen as intricately linked: the role of women within pro-jihadist networks (Lahoud 2014; Hoyle, Bradford and Frenett 2015; Saltman and Smith 2015) and the use of social media as an indoctrination and recruitment tool by terrorist organizations (Weimann 2008; Bloom 2013; Klausen 2015). The present working paper is an attempt at improving our understanding of women’s participation in online jihadist networks through examination of the nature and scope of their activities within pro-IS and pro-AQ Twitter networks. To explore that participation, we look at women’s activities online through two different methodological lenses: a. by looking at gender in relation to female tweeting patterns; and b. by examining the content of women’s posts within and across two distinct pro-jihadist networks, one associated with IS, and the other comprised of women from various al-Qaeda (AQ)-affiliated groups.
Cheering for Osama: How Jihadists Use Internet Discussion Forums
2010 Ali Musawi, M. Report
The key aims of this report are: To show how Jihadist movements use web forums to consolidate their existing followers and to recruit new ones; to illustrate how Jihadists, and their online supporters, use theology and ideology to justify their violent actions; and to suggest how western governments can better challenge the worldview and ideology propagated on these forums
Check the Web - Assessing the Ethics and Politics of Policing the Internet for Extremist Material
2015 Brown, I. and Cowls, J. VOX-Pol Publication
This report assesses the ethics and politics of policing online extremist material, using the normative framework of international human rights law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, European Convention on Human Rights and
the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – whilst not conducting a legal analysis. It draws where appropriate upon interpretations by the UN Human Rights Committee, UN experts (such as the High Commissioner for Human Rights and special mandate holders), and regional human rights bodies and courts (such as the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights). The report looks at definitions of ‘extremist material’; the types of monitoring and blocking being undertaken by government agencies and the private sector; and considers the roles of these key stakeholders, along with private individuals and civil society groups. It is based on a two-day workshop in January 2015 with thirty expert stakeholders from law enforcement and intelligence agencies, governments and parliaments, civil society, and universities. Short versions of ten papers were presented to stimulate discussion, following an open call for extended abstracts. These are available on the VOX-Pol website: https://www.voxpol.eu/.

The authors conducted seven follow-up semi-structured interviews with stakeholders from law enforcement, industry, government and civil society; and background policy analysis. The first author also co-organised a workshop on privacy and online policing with the UK’s National Crime Agency in March 2015, and participated in three further workshops where the topics of this report were addressed: two on law enforcement use of communications data, and a third at the United Nations on the relationship between encryption and freedom of expression. Both authors are grateful for the assistance of interviewees, co-organisers, and workshop participants.

The report is produced by the EU-funded VOX-Pol Network of Excellence, and takes particular account of the network’s development of semi-automated search for violent online extremist content and deployment of available tools for search and analytics, including text, video, sentiment, etc., currently employed in other domains for analysis of violent online extremist content. The network’s focus 6 CHECK THE WEB is on making these tools freely available for research purposes to academics, but may also extend to others professionally tasked in this area (such as activists and law enforcement agencies). It is also centrally concerned with the ethical aspects of deployment of such tools and technologies.
Charlie Hebdo, 2015: 'Liveness' And Acceleration Of Conflict In A Hybrid Media Event
2019 Valaskivi, K., Tikka, M. and Sumiala, J. Article
In this article, the authors examine the intensification of liveness and its effects in the Charlie Hebdo attacks that took place in Paris in January 2015. In their investigation they first re-visit the existing theoretical literature on media, event and time, and discuss in particular the relationship between media events and the idea of liveness. They then move on to the empirical analysis of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and demonstrate the aspects of intensified liveness in the circulation of selected tweets. The analysis is based on a multi-method approach developed for the empirical study of hybrid media events. In conclusion, the authors argue that the liveness, experienced and carried out simultaneously on multiple platforms, favours stereotypical and immediate interpretations when it comes to making sense of the incidents unfolding before the eyes of global audiences. In this condition, incidents are interpreted ‘en direct’, but within the framework of older mnemonic schemes and mythologization of certain positions (e.g. victims, villains, heroes) in the narrative. This condition, they claim, further accelerates the conflict between the different participants that took part in the event.
Challenging Extremist Views on Social: Media Developing a Counter-Messaging Response
2019 Eerten, J. van and Doosje, B. Book
This book is a timely and significant examination of the role of counter-messaging via social media as a potential means of preventing or countering radicalization to violent extremism. In recent years, extremist groups have developed increasingly sophisticated online communication strategies to spread their propaganda and promote their cause, enabling messages to be spread more rapidly and effectively. Countermessaging has been promoted as one of the most important measures to neutralize online radicalizing influences and is intended to undermine the appeal of messages disseminated by violent extremist groups. While many such initiatives have been launched by Western governments, civil society actors, and private companies, there are many questions regarding their efficacy. Focusing predominantly on efforts countering Salafi-Jihadi extremism, this book examines how feasible it is to prevent or counter radicalization and violent extremism with counter-messaging efforts. It investigates important principles to consider when devising such a program. The authors provide both a comprehensive theoretical overview and a review of the available literature, as well as policy recommendations for governments and the role they can play in counter-narrative efforts. As this is the first book to critically examine the possibilities and pitfalls of using counter-messaging to prevent radicalization or stimulate de-radicalization, it is essential reading for policymakers and professionals dealing with this issue, as well as researchers in the field.
Challenges and Frontiers in Abusive Content Detection
2019 Vidgen, B., Harris, A., Nguyen, D., Tromble, R., Hale, S. and Margetts, H. Article
Online abusive content detection is an inherently difficult task. It has received considerable attention from academia, particularly within the computational linguistics community, and performance appears to have improved as the field has matured. However, considerable challenges and unaddressed frontiers remain, spanning technical, social and ethical dimensions. These issues constrain the performance, efficiency and generalizability of abusive content detection systems. In this article we delineate and clarify the main challenges and frontiers in the field, critically evaluate their implications and discuss potential solutions. We also highlight ways in which social scientific insights can advance research. We discuss the lack of support given to researchers working with abusive content and provide guidelines for ethical research.
Caught In The Net: The Impact Of "Extremist" Speech Regulations On Human Rights Content
2019 Jaloud, A. R. A., Al Khatib, K., Deutch, J., Kayyali, D. and York, J. C. Report
Social media companies have long struggled with what to do about extremist content on their platforms. While most companies include provisions about “extremist” content in their community standards, until recently, such content was often vaguely defined, providing policymakers and content moderators a wide berth in determining what to remove, and what to allow. Unfortunately, companies have responded with overbroad and vague policies and practices that have led to mistakes at scale that are decimating human rights content.
Capitalizing on the Koran to Fuel Online Violent Radicalization: A Taxonomy of Koranic References in ISIS’s Dabiq
2018 Frissen, T., Toguslu, E., Van Ostaeyen, P., and d'Haenens, L. Article
The current study set out to investigate to what extent ISIS is bolstering its jihadist ideology on a ‘cut-and-paste’ or ‘cherry-picked’ version of Islam in their renowned online propaganda magazine Dabiq. The main objective was to examine in a systematic and quantitative way to what extent ISIS utilizes the Koran in an atomistic, truncated and tailored manner to bolster its religious legitimacy. A total of 15 issues of Dabiq and 700 Koranic references were scrutinized. By means of a quantitative analysis we developed an innovative taxonomy of Koranic chapters and verses (i.e. surahs and ayat, respectively) on the basis of their appearance in Dabiq. Our large-scale data analysis provide consistent empirical evidence for severe decontextualization practices of the Koran in three ways: (1) a thin, Medinan-dominated religious layer, (2) ayah mutilation, and (3) clustered versus exclusive mentions. Limitations and implications for future research, policy makers and CVE initiatives are discussed.
Call Of Duty Jihad: How The Video Game Motif Has Migrated Downstream From Islamic State Propaganda Videos
2019 Dauber, C. E., Robinson, M. D., Baslious, J. J. and Blair, A. G. Article
From a technical standpoint, Islamic State (IS) videos are demonstrably superior to those of other groups. But as time goes by, their aesthetic is migrating downstream as other groups attempt to copy it. Specifically, IS has turned to video games, regularly mimicking and even directly copying the aesthetic and design of First Person Shooter games, most often Call of Duty, in their videos, and other groups have followed suit. This specific aesthetic offers a way to recruit young, technologically savvy, men while sanitizing the violence they were being recruited to participate in. This study offers an instrument for tracking the IS aesthetic as it moves to other groups as well as its evolution over time, and offers a case study of a specific group that has copied the IS aesthetic, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS.)
Briefing Note ‘El Rubio’ Lives: The Challenge Of Arabic Language Extremist Content On Social Media Platforms
2019 Ayad, M. Report
This briefing outlines research uncovering thousands of users viewing extremist content in Arabic language across mainstream social platforms including Facebook and YouTube. The findings emerged as world leaders, policymakers, and technology companies gathered in Jordan earlier this month to discuss counter-terrorism and extremism as part of the Aqaba Process and the convening of the Global Internet Forum for Countering Terrorism (GIFCT).

Researchers identified:

• More than 77 pieces of Arabic content promoting influential Islamist extremists from al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as well as affiliates for both organizations, and precursors to both groups on both YouTube and Facebook;
• More than 275,000 users have watched the videos on both Facebook and YouTube;
• The research finds evidence of Islamist extremist supporters sharing content between sites, spreading the content further than their primary YouTube Channels and/or Facebook pages and groups. Approximately 138 individual users have shared links from the YouTube to their networks on Facebook.
Branding the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
2019 Bandopadhyaya, S. Article
This article will explore three crucial parameters that have been taken into consideration to attract millennials towards the Islamic State or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) brand: the first parameter is story creation around the historical significance of Islamic prophecies justifying the ISIS brand. Second is the symbolisms attached to the ISIS brand and its relevance (a flag, a leader, a logo, a caliphate) and, third, the actions or the sense of attachment to the ISIS brand in the form of practising ideology, gaining recognition and appeal to the millennials. The promotion of the brand has been advanced through diverse means – social media platforms, mainstream media organizations, YouTube videos, all orchestrated to gain recognition of a rising state brand on the one end and a brand of fear and intimidation on the other.
Branding A Caliphate In Decline: The Islamic State’s Video Output (2015-2018)
2019 Nanninga, P. Report
Although video releases have been central to the Islamic State’s efforts to represent itself to its audiences, an extensive quantitative and qualitative study of these sources over a longer period of time is still lacking. This paper therefore provides an overview and analysis of the entire corpus of official videos released by the Islamic State between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2018. It particularly focuses on how the Islamic State’s decline in Iraq and Syria during this period is reflected in its video output and how the group has responded to its setbacks. The paper demonstrates a strong correlation between the group’s mounting troubles and its video production: the numbers of videos decreased dramatically and their content reflects the Islamic State’s (re)transformation from a territory-based ‘state’ to an insurgent group relying on guerrilla tactics and terrorist attacks. Nevertheless, this paper argues that the Islamic State’s multi-faceted response to its setbacks might ensure the groups’ appeal to its target audience in the years to come.
Brand Caliphate And Recruitment Between The Genders
2016 Monroe, B.L.E. MA Thesis
Since the declaration of the Islamic State (IS) in 2014, men and women have been recruited to join the Caliphate in numbers surpassing those recruited by al Qaida. This variance in recruitment volume is likely attributable to the online propaganda campaign, Brand Caliphate. This thesis looks at the recruitment of women and asks if Brand Caliphate specifically targets females with its messaging, and if so, is the messaging effective? Based on a textual analysis of Brand Caliphate’s propaganda, it appears IS tried to deliver messaging targeted toward females. However, six case studies of radicalized females suggest the recruitment of these women does not appear to be directly attributable to the targeted messaging. There is, however, evidence that most of the female recruitment studied linked to online radicalization and Brand Caliphate’s broader messaging. All of the women studied did initially look online for information regarding IS. This initial outreach served to identify them as targets for radicalization by IS recruiters, who continued to persuade the females through direct online communication. Ultimately, a sense of belonging to a community, even if it exists online, served as a more powerful draw to potential recruits than the targeted messaging of Brand Caliphate.
Bots, Fake News and The Anti-Muslim Message on Social Media
2018 HOPE not hate Report
• In this report, we show how recent terror attacks in the UK have been successfully exploited by anti-Muslim activists over social media, to increase their reach and grow their audiences.
• Monitoring key anti-Muslim social media accounts and their networks, we show how even small events are amplified through an international network of activists.
• We also provide concrete evidence of a leading anti-Muslim activist whose message is hugely amplified by the use of a 100+ strong ‘bot army’.
• The global reach, low price and lack of regulation on social media platforms presents new possibilities for independent, single issue and extremist viewpoints to gain significant audiences.
• We delve into the murky and secretive world of the dark web to explore just what tools are available for manipulating social media and show how easy it is to make use of these tactics even for non-tech savvy users.
• Through testing, we conclude that even cheaply inflating one’s number of followers has an effect on the ability to reach a larger audience.
• We situate these developments in the context of increasing hostility towards Muslims and immigration in the Europe and the US.
• “Trigger events” such as terror attacks, and other events that reflect badly on Muslims and Islam, cause both an increase in anti-Muslim hate on the street and, as we will show, also online.
Borderless World, Boundless Threat: Online Jihadists and Modern Terrorism
2010 Hayne, S.O. MA Thesis
This study profiles 20 recent cases of online jihadists who have made the transition to real-world terrorism along a number of characteristics: age, ethnicity, immigration status, education, religious upbringing, socio-economic class, openness about beliefs, suicidal tendencies, rhetoric focus, location, target, terrorist action, offline and online activity, and social isolation or the presence of an identity crisis. The analysis shows that today, it is much less important how al-Qaida or any other jihadist group expresses its ideology, because any individual may self-radicalize and interpret the jihadist social movement in their own way and carry out terrorist attacks based on this understanding. When the jihadist social movement becomes borderless, the threat presented by the terrorists it inspires is no longer limited by the artificial boundaries of the real world. Counterterrorism officials must recognize this and adopt a long-term strategy for combating this movement.
Bookmarks - A manual for combating hate speech online through human rights education (2020 Revised edition)
2020 Keen, E., Georgescu, M. and Gomes, R. Book
This revised edition of Bookmarks reflects the end of the coordination of the youth campaign by the Council Europe. The campaign may be officially over, but the education and awareness-raising to counter hate speech and promote human rights values remain an urgent task for young people of all ages.

The work of the Council of Europe for democracy is strongly based on education: education in schools, and education as a lifelong learning process of practising democracy, such as in non-formal learning activities. Human rights education and education for democratic citizenship form an integral part of what we have to secure to make democracy sustainable. Hate speech is one of the most worrying forms of racism and discrimination prevailing across Europe and amplified by the Internet and social media. Hate speech online is the visible tip of the iceberg of intolerance and ethnocentrism. Young people are directly concerned as agents and victims of online abuse of human rights; Europe needs young people to care and look after human rights, the life insurance for democracy.

Bookmarks was originally published to support the No Hate Speech Movement youth campaign of the Council of Europe for human rights online. Bookmarks is useful for educators wanting to address hate speech online from a human rights perspective, both inside and outside the formal education system. The manual is designed for working with learners aged 13 to 18 but the activities can be adapted to other age ranges.