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
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.
Boko Haram and the Discourse of Mimicry: a Critical Discourse Analysis of Media Explanations for Boko Haram’s Improved Video Propaganda Quality
2015 Wyszomierski, L.E. Journal
The Nigeria-based violent non-state actor Boko Haram is increasingly reported on in the news media in relation to the Islamic State, another, more prominent, violent non-state actor. In particular, these comparisons have been drawn within the context of reports on Boko Haram’s recent improvement in video propaganda quality. While the associations with the Islamic State are often warranted, there are broader social consequences when colonial power relations are brought into play. Borrowing an approach from critical discourse analysis, 16 online English-language news articles were read through a postcolonial lens in order to analyse the structural relations of dominance that arise when discussing African non-state actors. The analysis revealed that among the corpus of articles, nine developed a discourse of mimicry, which serves to deny Boko Haram full agency, relegate them to a silenced subaltern status, and ultimately to diminish the sense of threat posed to the dominant geopolitical security paradigm.
Blood and Security during the Norway Attacks: Authorities’ Twitter Activity and Silence
2018 Ottosen R., Steensen S. Chapter
This chapter analyses the Norwegian authorities’ presence on Twitter during the 22 July 2011 terrorist attacks. Twitter activity by two official institutions is analysed in particular, namely, the blood bank at Oslo University Hospital and the Norwegian Police Security Services (PST). Our findings show that the Norwegian authorities were almost completely absent on Twitter during the critical hours of the terrorist attack, and that there was no coordination and synchronisation of communication from the authorities. This official silence allowed the diffusion of speculation and misinformation to take place; these were neither corrected nor addressed, as the analysed PST case shows. In contrast, the blood bank used Twitter to mobilise blood donors to address an acute problem: a shortage of blood to treat casualties. The chapter concludes by offering recommendations to the authorities for future major incidents. Book edited by Harald Hornmoen and Klas Backholm.
Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics
2010 United States Institute of Peace Report
In this report a team of scholars critically assesses both the “cyberutopian” and “cyberskeptic” perspectives on the impact of new media on political movements. The authors propose a more complex approach that looks at the role of new media in contentious politics from five interlocking levels of analysis: individual transformation, intergroup relations, collective action, regime policies, and external attention.
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.
Big Data Ethics
2014 Richards, N.M. and King, J.H. Journal
We are on the cusp of a “Big Data” Revolution, in which increasingly large datasets are mined for important predictions and often surprising insights. The predictions and decisions this revolution will enable will transform our society in ways comparable to the Industrial Revolution. We are now at a critical moment; big data uses today will be sticky and will settle both default norms and public notions of what is “no big deal” regarding big data predictions for years to come.
This paper argues that big data, broadly defined, is producing increased powers of institutional awareness and power that require the development of a Big Data Ethics. We are building a new digital society, and the values we build or fail to build into our new digital structures will define us. Critically, if we fail to balance the human values that we care about, like privacy, confidentiality, transparency, identity and free choice with the compelling uses of big data, our Big Data Society risks abandoning these values for the sake of innovation and expediency.
Beyond The "Big Three": Alternative Platforms For Online Hate Speech
2019 European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020) Report
In recent years, most international studies on hate speech online have focused on the three platforms traditionally considered the most influential: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. However, their predominance as the biggest international social networks is no longer uncontested. Other networks are on the rise and young users especially lose interest in the ‘old’ platforms. In April 2019, Instagram had more active accounts globally than Twitter and came fifth in terms of global page impressions, after Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube. Additionally, recent studies into the social media use of minors and young adults showed that Instagram is more important than Facebook to users younger than 30 in several countries. Since hate groups and extremists move their propaganda to the channels where they can reach their target audience most easily, it is important to take those changes in the social media landscape into consideration. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are all parties to the Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online, established by the European Commission in 20164, agreeing to take stronger and swifter action against hate speech on their platforms. Google+ has also joined the Code of Conduct in 2018. However, as the network was shut down in April 2019, it is no longer included in this analysis. As hate speech moderation increases on the major social media platforms, hate groups and extremists turn to other networks where community guidelines against hate speech are less strictly enforced. Some of those alternative platforms, like VK.com or Gab.ai, have acquired a broad international audience and are considered ‘safe havens’ by far-right or right-wing extremist activists. Other platforms have a more local audience or are only relevant in specific countries. This analysis offers an overview of the most prevalent social media platforms and websites used for disseminating hate speech in the countries of the sCAN project partners.
Beyond Online Radicalisation: Exploring Transnationalism of Jihad
2017 Mahlouly, D. Journal
Dounia Mahlouly puts to task online radicalisation by understanding it as a goal to create transnational audiences, using a comparative approach to discuss the cases of europe, the mena region and Southeast asia.
Benjamin Ducol Le « jihad 2 0 » Discours, Mythes et Réalités
2015 Ducol, B. Lecture
Titre complet : Le « jihad 2.0 » ? : Discours, mythes et réalité(s) autour du rôle des espaces numériques dans les trajectoires jihadistes contemporaines.
Becoming Mulan: Female Western Migrants to ISIS
2015 Boyle, C., Bradford, A., Frenett, R. Report
The current flow of foreigners to Syria and Iraq is remarkable not only for its scale, but also for its inclusion of many women. Much has been written about the male fighters who migrate to engage in the conflict there; these fighters are prolific on social media and share details of their day-to-day experiences with supporters and opponents alike. Less, however, is known about the women who travel to join ISIS and support its state-building efforts. The flow of both men and women is a concern for Western governments, who fear that these individuals could pose a threat on return home. The number of Western migrants overall is estimated at 3,000, with as many as 550 of these
being women. This report aims to provide insight into the female migrants, examining the reasons they migrate, the reality of their lives in ISIS-controlled territory, and the potential risk they pose. While there is a large online ecosystem of female ISIS supporters, this study will focus specifically on Western women who are believed to be currently residing in ISIS-controlled territory.