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
Identifying Individuals at Risk of Being Radicalised Via the Internet
2016 Seng Neo, L., Dillon, L. and Khader, M. Journal
In an effort to better understand the risk of individuals being radicalised via the internet, this paper re-examines the phenomenon of online radicalisation by focusing on four considerations of interest: individual, online environment, interactions between individual and the online environment, and protective elements. A key premise of the discussion presented is that the different theoretical assumptions and linkages underlying each consideration are not only reconcilable but that together they provide a more comprehensive understanding of assessing risk of radicalisation via the internet than any perspective by itself. Implications for operationalising these four considerations and their associated factors to identify individuals at risk of being radicalised via the internet will also be discussed.
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%.
Global Village, Global Marketplace, Global War On Terror: Metaphorical Reinscription And Global Internet Governance
2009 Shah, N. PhD Thesis
My thesis examines how metaphors of globalization shape the global governance of the Internet. I consider how, in a short span of time, discussions of the Internet’s globalizing potential have gone from the optimism of the global village to the penchant of the global marketplace to the anxiety of the global war on terror. Building upon Rorty’s theory of metaphors and Foucault’s notion of productive power, I investigate how the shifts in these prevailing metaphors have produced and legitimated different frameworks of global governance. In considering how these patterns of governance have been shaped in the context of a familiar example of globalization, I demonstrate that globalization has an important discursive dimension that works as a constitutive force – not only in Internet governance but in global governance more generally. By illuminating globalization’s discursive dimensions, this thesis makes an original theoretical contribution to the study of globalization and global governance. It demonstrates that globalization is more than a set of empirical flows: equally important, globalization exists as a set of discourses that reconstitute political legitimacy in more ‘global’ terms. This recasts the conventional understanding of global governance: rather than a response to the challenges posed by the empirical transcendence of territorial borders or the visible proliferation of non-state actors, the aims, institutions, and policies of global governance are shaped and enabled by discourses of globalization and evolve as these discourses change. In short, this thesis provides further insight into globalization’s transformations of state-based political order. It links these transformations to the discursive processes by which systems of global governance are produced and legitimated as sites of power and authority.
Foreign Fighters, Radicalization and the Online Environment - Mubin Shaikh
2016 Shaikh, M. Video
Mubin Shaikh, Police Project Consultant with the Romeo Dallaire Initiative, discusses the evolution of radical propaganda online, social media and foreign fighters and the need for a robust counter narrative. Mr. Shaikh brings his real world knowledge of these issues as a former CSIS and RCMP operative, discussing them from the perspective of a real world and online counter-terrorism practitioner.

This interview is part of The SecDev Foundation's Prevent Violent Extremism: A Social Media Research Portal - https://preventviolentextremism.info/
The Enduring Influence of Anwar Al-Awlaki in the age of the Islamic State
2016 Shane, S. Article
Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the leading English-language propagandist for al-Qa`ida, was killed in an American drone strike in 2011. But his influence has lived on into the Islamic State era, enhanced by his status as a martyr for Islam in the eyes of his admirers. His massive internet presence has turned up as a factor in several attacks since his death, including most recently the San Bernardino shootings and the Orlando nightclub attack as well as a significant number of terrorism cases on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite his long association with al-Qa`ida and that network’s rivalry with the upstart Islamic State, al-Awlaki has been embraced by the Islamic State and its followers, and he continues to inspire terrorism from beyond the grave.
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.
Encrypted Jihad: Investigating the Role of Telegram App in Lone Wolf Attacks in the West
2017 Shehabat, A., Mitwe, T., and Alzoubi Y. Article
The study aims to capture links between the use of encrypted communication channel -Telegram and lone wolf attacks occurred in Europe between 2015-2016. To understand threads of ISIS communication on Telegram we used digital ethnography approach which consists of the self-observation of information flows on four of ISIS’s most celebrated telegram Channels. We draw on public sphere theory and coined the term terror socio-sphere 3.0 as the theoretical background of this study. The collected data is presented as screenshots to capture a visual evidence of ISIS communication threads. This study shows that ISIS Telegram channels play critical role in personal communication between potential recruits and dissemination of propaganda that encourage ‘lone wolves’ to carry attacks in the world at large. This study was limited to the number of the channels that have been widely celebrated.
Histories of Hating
2015 Shepherd, T. and Harvey, A. Journal
This roundtable discussion presents a dialogue between digital culture scholars on the seemingly increased presence of hating and hate speech online. Revolving primarily around the recent #GamerGate campaign of intensely misogynistic discourse aimed at women in video games, the discussion suggests that the current moment for hate online needs to be situated historically. From the perspective of intersecting cultural histories of hate speech, discrimination, and networked communication, we interrogate the ontological specificity of online hating before going on to explore potential responses to the harmful consequences of hateful speech. Finally, a research agenda for furthering the historical understandings of
contemporary online hating is suggested in order to address the urgent need for scholarly interventions into the exclusionary cultures of networked media.
Hezbollah’s “Virtual Entrepreneurs”: How Hezbollah Is Using The Internet To Incite Violence In Israel
2019 Shkolnik, M. and Corbeil, A. Article
In recent years, Hezbollah has used social media to recruit Israeli Arabs and West Bank-based Palestinians to attack Israeli targets. A recent innovation in terrorist tactics has given rise to “virtual entrepreneurs,” which to date have been largely associated with the Islamic State’s online recruitment efforts. Hezbollah’s virtual planners, similar to those in the Islamic State, use social media to establish contact with potential recruits before transitioning to more encrypted communications platforms, transferring funds, and issuing instructions to form cells, conduct surveillance, and carry out terrorist attacks. Online recruitment presents a low-cost option that offers plausible deniability for Hezbollah. While every virtual plot led by Hezbollah that targeted Israel has been foiled thus far, Israeli authorities spend time and resources disrupting these schemes at the expense of other more pressing threats. By digitally recruiting Palestinians to attack Israel, Hezbollah and its patron Iran are seeking to cultivate a new front against Israel amid rising regional hostilities.
“On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Dog”: The Online Risk Assessment of Violent Extremists
2016 Shortland, N. Article
Online behaviour can provide a unique window from which we can glean intent. From an intelligence standpoint it provides an important source of open-source information. However, making inference of intent from online activity is inherently difficult. Yet elsewhere progress is being made in incorporating information online into decisions regarding risk and offender prioritisation. This chapter synthesises lessons learnt from studies of risk assessment of violent extremists, risk assessment online, and the form and function of extremist materials online in order to begin to approach the issue of online risk assessment of violent extremism. In doing so it highlights issues associated with the diversity of online extremist behaviour, the diversity of offline extremist behaviour and the general lack of understanding related to the interaction of online and offline experiences, and how this contributes to the wider psychological process of ‘radicalisation'. Implications for practitioners are discussed.
The Interaction of Extremist Propaganda and Anger as Predictors of Violent Responses
2017 Shortland, N., Nader, E., Imperillo, N., Kyrielle, R. and Dmello, J. Journal
In this study, and with a view to extending upon existing findings on the effects of general violent media on violent cognitions, we experimentally measured the relationship between exposure to extremist propaganda and violent cognitions. Our results countered our hypotheses and the wider findings of violent media and aggression that exposure to violent stimuli increases violent thoughts and that this effect is moderated by trait aggression. Specifically, this study found that participants with low and medium trait aggression became more pro-social after being exposed to extremist propaganda. We discuss these results with reference to theories of terror management and mortality salience, as well as the implications of these results for wider theories of the role of online extremist material in the wider “radicalization” process.
Techniques for analyzing digital environments from a security perspective
2019 Shrestha, A. PhD Thesis
The development of the Internet and social media has exploded in the last couple of years. Digital environments such as social media and discussion forums provide an effective method of communication and are used by various groups in our societies.  For example, violent extremist groups use social media platforms for recruiting, training, and communicating with their followers, supporters, and donors. Analyzing social media is an important task for law enforcement agencies in order to detect activity and individuals that might pose a threat towards the security of the society.

In this thesis, a set of different technologies that can be used to analyze digital environments from a security perspective are presented. Due to the nature of the problems that are studied, the research is interdisciplinary, and knowledge from terrorism research, psychology, and computer science are required. The research is divided into three different themes. Each theme summarizes the research that has been done in a specific area. The first theme focuses on analyzing digital environments and phenomena. The theme consists of three different studies. The first study is about the possibilities to detect propaganda from the Islamic State on Twitter.  The second study focuses on identifying references to a narrative containing xenophobic and conspiratorial stereotypes in alternative immigration critic media. In the third study, we have defined a set of linguistic features that we view as markers of a radicalization.
Organised and Ambient Digital Racism: Multidirectional Flows in the Irish Digital Sphere
2019 Siapera, E. Article
This article is concerned with the distinction between acceptable race talk in social media and organised, extreme or ‘frozen’ racism which is considered hate speech and removed. While in the literature this distinction is used to point to different variants, styles and mutations of racism, in social media platforms and in European regulatory frameworks it becomes policy. The empirical part of the article considers this distinction drawing upon a series of posts following a stabbing incident in a small Irish town, which organised Twitter accounts sought to connect to terrorism. The empirical analysis examines the tweets of those accounts and the comments left on the Facebook page and website of one of the main Irish online news outlets. The analysis shows few if any differences between the two, concluding that there is a blending of supremacist and everyday, ambient racist discourses. This blending indicates the operation of a transnational contagion, given the shared vocabularies and discourses. It further problematises the distinction between ‘illegal hate speech’ and ‘acceptable race talk’, and throws into question the principle underlying both the policies of social media as well as the European efforts to de-toxify the digital public sphere.
Governing Hate: Facebook and Digital Racism
2021 Siapera, E. and Viejo-Otero, P. Article
This article is concerned with identifying the ideological and techno-material parameters that inform Facebook’s approach to racism and racist contents. The analysis aims to contribute to studies of digital racism by showing Facebook’s ideological position on racism and identifying its implications. To understand Facebook’s approach to racism, the article deconstructs its governance structures, locating racism as a sub-category of hate speech. The key findings show that Facebook adopts a post-racial, race-blind approach that does not consider history and material differences, while its main focus is on enforcement, data, and efficiency. In making sense of these findings, we argue that Facebook’s content governance turns hate speech from a question of ethics, politics, and justice into a technical and logistical problem. Secondly, it socializes users into developing behaviors/contents that adapt to race-blindness, leading to the circulation of a kind of flexible racism. Finally, it spreads this approach from Silicon Valley to the rest of the world.
Sectarian Twitter War: Sunni-Shia Conflict and Cooperation in the Digital Age
2015 Siegal, A. Report
Amid mounting death tolls in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, sectarian discourse is
on the rise across the Arab world—particularly in the online sphere, where
extremist voices are amplified and violent imagery and rhetoric spreads rapidly.
Despite this, social media also provides a space for cross-sectarian discourse
and activism. Analysis of over 7 million Arabic tweets from February to August
2015 suggests that violent events and social network structures play key roles
in the transmission of this sectarian and countersectarian rhetoric on Twitter.
Arguing with ISIS: Web 2.0, Open Source Journalism, and Narrative Disruption
2018 Sienkiewicz, M. Journal
This paper considers American strategies for countering ISIS social media, focusing on notions of narrative and rational debate in the Web 2.0 era. In addition to chronicling an evolution in American governmental ideas about the online public sphere, the paper looks specifically at the work of Al-Tamimi, an open source journalist who verifies and catalogues original ISIS documentation. Using both textual analyses and long-form interviews with Al-Tamimi as evidence, the paper argues that Al-Tamimi’s archival work serves to disrupt emotionally driven, logically questionable narratives about ISIS, whether they emerge from the group itself or its Western opponents.
Participant Recruitment through Social Media: Lessons Learned from a Qualitative Radicalization Study Using Facebook
2016 Sikkens, E., van San, M., Sieckelinck, S., Boeije, H., and Winter, M. Article
Social media are useful facilitators when recruiting hidden populations for research. In our research on youth and radicalization, we were able to find and contact young people with extreme ideals through Facebook. In this article, we discuss our experiences using Facebook as a tool for finding respondents who do not trust researchers. Facebook helped us recruit youths with extreme Islamic and extreme left-wing ideals. We conclude by discussing the benefits and limitations of using Facebook when searching for and approaching populations who are difficult to reach.
The Kremlin and DAESH Information Activities
2016 Sillanpaa, A., Simons, G., Reynolds, A., and Curika, L. Report
This paper summarizes discussions held on 24 May 2016 in Riga, Latvia, which focused on exploring the Kremlin and DAESH information activities in order to improve our understanding of the nature of these communications and their effect on Western societies. The questions discussed were:

 

How are the communications and messages of DAESH and the Kremlin constructed and disseminated?

Are their methods changing?

Why do such messages appeal to youth, even if they are familiar with Western Values and consumerism?

What are the weakest aspects of our information environment and what can we do to improve?
Analyzing the Targets of Hate in Online Social Media
2016 Silva, L., Mondal, M., Correa, D., Benevenuto, F. and Weber, I. Article
Social media systems allow Internet users a congenial platform to freely express their thoughts and opinions. Although this property represents incredible and unique communication opportunities, it also brings along important challenges. Online hate speech is an archetypal example of such challenges. Despite its magnitude and scale, there is a significant gap in understanding the nature of hate speech on social media. In this paper, we provide the first of a kind systematic large scale measurement study of the main targets of hate speech in online social media. To do that, we gather traces from two social media systems: Whisper and Twitter. We then develop and validate a methodology to identify hate speech on both these systems. Our results identify online hate speech forms and offer a broader understanding of the phenomenon, providing directions for prevention and detection approaches.
Prevalent Sentiments of the Concept of Jihad in the Public Commentsphere
2019 Silverman, G. and Sommer, U. Article
Certain studies of social conflicts and geopolitical processes through online social networks entail qualitative analysis. One such issue is the tension between Western and Muslim societies. We introduce computer-assisted qualitative sentiment analysis for the inquiry and extraction of varied sentiments. The analysis explores the prevalent meanings of the term jihad through discussions of Muslims and non-Muslims in the online public sphere. After examining 4,630 Facebook comments and replies, our examination leads to a holistic mapping that details “peaceful,” “moderate,” and “radical” opinions regarding jihad, which is an integral institution of the Muslim world. Through this method, we suggest a “Muslim–non-Muslim tension indicator,” which can be used in a range of political analyses.