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
Tweeting Terror Live: Al-Shabaab’s Use of Twitter during the Westgate Attack and Implications for Counterterrorism Communications
2020 Fassrainer, V. Article
This article will analyze the motivations for and use of live-tweets during a terrorist attack. The employment of live-tweets offers terrorist groups the opportunity to adopt the role of a media outlet to exploit the advantages of live coverage typically exercised by mainstream media. This poses a unique challenge to policy makers and international media in the crafting of counterterrorist strategic communications throughout a terrorist attack.
Mapping Networks and Narratives of Online Right-Wing Extremists in New South Wales
2020 Ballsun-Stanton, B., Waldek, L., Droogan, J., Smith, D., Iqbal, M. and Puecker, M. Report
The project Mapping Networks and Narratives of Online Right-Wing Extremists in New South Wales (NSW) used the systematic mining and analysis of online data to generate evidence-based insights into online right-wing extremism (RWE) across the state. The project was conducted between July 2019 and February 2020 with data collection occurring from August to November 2019. The project addressed three key areas:

- What is the nature of the online RWE environment in NSW?
- How are themes and narratives framed in different online contexts in order to mobilise support?
- What level of risk does the online RWE environment pose?

The research areas were framed as broad questions to facilitate wide exploratory research into the online RWE movement in NSW, a milieu that has been little studied. This breadth of scope was considered pertinent in the wake of the March 2019 mass casualty terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, by an attacker originating from NSW.
Mapping The Extremist Narrative Landscape In Afghanistan
2020 Winter, C. and Alrhmoun, A. Report
This report, which maps how Violent Extremist Organisations (VEOs) are seeking to influence and shape the trajectory of Afghan politics today, aims to inform and support the development
of strategic communications programming that meaningfully counters extremist narratives and enable more targeted, effective responses to the long-term challenges posed by VEO appeals.
Deplatforming: Following extreme Internet celebrities to Telegram and alternative social media
2020 Rogers, R. Article
Extreme, anti-establishment actors are being characterized increasingly as ‘dangerous individuals’ by the social media platforms that once aided in making them into ‘Internet celebrities’. These individuals (and sometimes groups) are being ‘deplatformed’ by the leading social media companies such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for such offences as ‘organised hate’. Deplatforming has prompted debate about ‘liberal big tech’ silencing free speech and taking on the role of editors, but also about the questions of whether it is effective and for whom. The research reported here follows certain of these Internet celebrities to Telegram as well as to a larger alternative social media ecology. It enquires empirically into some of the arguments made concerning whether deplatforming ‘works’ and how the deplatformed use Telegram. It discusses the effects of deplatforming for extreme Internet celebrities, alternative and mainstream social media platforms and the Internet at large. It also touches upon how social media companies’ deplatforming is affecting critical social media research, both into the substance of extreme speech as well as its audiences on mainstream as well as alternative platforms.
Mobilizing extremism online: comparing Australian and Canadian right-wing extremist groups on Facebook
2021 Hutchinson, J., Amarasingam, A., Scrivens, R. and Ballsun-Stanton, B. Article
Right-wing extremist groups harness popular social media platforms to accrue and mobilize followers. In recent years, researchers have examined the various themes and narratives espoused by extremist groups in the United States and Europe, and how these themes and narratives are employed to mobilize their followings on social media. Little, however, is comparatively known about how such efforts unfold within and between right-wing extremist groups in Australia and Canada. In this study, we conducted a cross-national comparative analysis of over eight years of online content found on 59 Australian and Canadian right-wing group pages on Facebook. Here we assessed the level of active and passive user engagement with posts and identified certain themes and narratives that generated the most user engagement. Overall, a number of ideological and behavioral commonalities and differences emerged in regard to patterns of active and passive user engagement, and the character of three prevailing themes: methods of violence, and references to national and racial identities. The results highlight the influence of both the national and transnational context in negotiating which themes and narratives resonate with Australian and Canadian right-wing online communities, and the multi-dimensional nature of right-wing user engagement and social mobilization on social media.
Toward an Ethical Framework for Countering Extremist Propaganda Online
2021 Henschke, A. Article
In recent years, extremists have increasingly turned to online spaces to distribute propaganda and as a recruitment tool. While there is a clear need for governments and social media companies to respond to these efforts, such responses also bring with them a set of ethical challenges. This paper provides an ethical analysis of key policy responses to online extremist propaganda. It identifies the ethical challenges faced by policy responses and details the ethical foundations on which such policies can potentially be justified in a modern liberal democracy. We also offer an ethical framework in which policy responses to online extremism in liberal democracies can be grounded, setting clear parameters upon which future policies can be built in a fast-changing online environment.
Racism, Hate Speech, and Social Media: A Systematic Review and Critique
2021 Matamoros-Fernández, A. and Farkas, J. Article
Departing from Jessie Daniels’s 2013 review of scholarship on race and racism online, this article maps and discusses recent developments in the study of racism and hate speech in the subfield of social media research. Systematically examining 104 articles, we address three research questions: Which geographical contexts, platforms, and methods do researchers engage with in studies of racism and hate speech on social media? To what extent does scholarship draw on critical race perspectives to interrogate how systemic racism is (re)produced on social media? What are the primary methodological and ethical challenges of the field? The article finds a lack of geographical and platform diversity, an absence of researchers’ reflexive dialogue with their object of study, and little engagement with critical race perspectives to unpack racism on social media. There is a need for more thorough interrogations of how user practices and platform politics co-shape contemporary racisms.
An Ensemble Method for Radicalization and Hate Speech Detection Online Empowered by Sentic Computing
2021 Araque, O. and Iglesias, C. A. Article
The dramatic growth of the Web has motivated researchers to extract knowledge from enormous repositories and to exploit the knowledge in myriad applications. In this study, we focus on natural language processing (NLP) and, more concretely, the emerging field of affective computing to explore the automation of understanding human emotions from texts. This paper continues previous efforts to utilize and adapt affective techniques into different areas to gain new insights. This paper proposes two novel feature extraction methods that use the previous sentic computing resources AffectiveSpace and SenticNet. These methods are efficient approaches for extracting affect-aware representations from text. In addition, this paper presents a machine learning framework using an ensemble of different features to improve the overall classification performance. Following the description of this approach, we also study the effects of known feature extraction methods such as TF-IDF and SIMilarity-based sentiment projectiON (SIMON). We perform a thorough evaluation of the proposed features across five different datasets that cover radicalization and hate speech detection tasks. To compare the different approaches fairly, we conducted a statistical test that ranks the studied methods. The obtained results indicate that combining affect-aware features with the studied textual representations effectively improves performance. We also propose a criterion considering both classification performance and computational complexity to select among the different methods.
A Snapshot of the Syrian Jihadi Online Ecology: Differential Disruption, Community Strength, and Preferred Other Platforms
2021 Conway, M., Khawaja, M., Lakhani, S. and Reffin, J. Article
This article contributes to the growing literature on extremist and terrorist online ecologies and approaches to snapshotting these. It opens by measuring Twitter’s differential disruption of so-called “Islamic State” versus other jihadi parties to the Syria conflict, showing that while Twitter became increasingly inhospitable to IS in 2017 and 2018, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham retained strong communities on the platform during the same period. An analysis of the same groups’ Twitter out-linking activity has the twofold purpose of determining the reach of groups’ content by quantifying the number of platforms it was available on and analyzing the nature and functionalities of the online spaces out-linked to.
The online behaviors of Islamic state terrorists in the United States
2021 Whittaker, J. Article
This study offers an empirical insight into terrorists’ use of the Internet. Although criminology has previously been quiet on this topic, behavior‐based studies can aid in understanding the interactions between terrorists and their environments. Using a database of 231 US‐based Islamic State terrorists, four important findings are offered: (1) This cohort utilized the Internet heavily for the purposes of both networking with co‐ideologues and learning about their intended activity. (2) There is little reason to believe that these online interactions are replacing offline ones, as has previously been suggested. Rather, terrorists tend to operate in both domains. (3) Online activity seems to be similar across the sample, regardless of the number of co‐offenders or the sophistication of attack. (4) There is reason to believe that using the Internet may be an impediment to terrorists’ success.
Affective Practice of Soldiering: How Sharing Images Is Used to Spread Extremist and Racist Ethos on Soldiers of Odin Facebook Site
2021 Nikunen, K., Hokka, J. and Nelimarkka, M. Article
The paper explores how visual affective practice is used to spread and bolster a nationalist, extremist and racist ethos on the public Facebook page of the anti-immigrant group, Soldiers of Odin. Affective practice refers to a particular sensibility of political discourse, shaped by social formations and digital technologies—the contexts in which political groups or communities gather, discuss and act. The study shows how visual affective practice and sharing and responding to images fortify moral claims, sense exclusionary solidarity and promote white nationalist masculinity which legitimizes racist practices of “soldiering.” By examining both the representations and their reactions (emoticons), the study demonstrates how ideas and values are collectively strengthened through affective sharing and are supported by platform infrastructures. Most importantly, it demonstrates that instead of considering the affect of protecting the nation as a natural result of “authentic” gut feeling, we should understand the ways it is purposefully and collectively produced and circulated.
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.
On Frogs, Monkeys, and Execution Memes: Exploring the Humor-Hate Nexus at the Intersection of Neo-Nazi and Alt-Right Movements in Sweden
2021 Askanius, T. Article
This article is based on a case study of the online media practices of the militant neo-Nazi organization the Nordic Resistance Movement, currently the biggest and most active extreme-right actor in Scandinavia. I trace a recent turn to humor, irony, and ambiguity in their online communication and the increasing adaptation of stylistic strategies and visual aesthetics of the Alt-Right inspired by online communities such as 4chan, 8chan, Reddit, and Imgur. Drawing on a visual content analysis of memes (N = 634) created and circulated by the organization, the analysis explores the place of humor, irony, and ambiguity across these cultural expressions of neo-Nazism and how ideas, symbols, and layers of meaning travel back and forth between neo-Nazi and Alt-right groups within Sweden today.
Online Extremism and Terrorism Research Ethics: Researcher Safety, Informed Consent, and the Need for Tailored Guidelines
2021 Conway, M. Article
This article reflects on two core issues of human subjects’ research ethics and how they play out for online extremism and terrorism researchers. Medical research ethics, on which social science research ethics are based, centers the protection of research subjects, but what of the protection of researchers? Greater attention to researcher safety, including online security and privacy and mental and emotional wellbeing, is called for herein. Researching hostile or dangerous communities does not, on the other hand, exempt us from our responsibilities to protect our research subjects, which is generally ensured via informed consent. This is complicated in data-intensive research settings, especially with the former type of communities, however. Also grappled with in this article therefore are the pros and cons of waived consent and deception and the allied issue of prevention of harm to subjects in online extremism and terrorism research. The best path forward it is argued—besides talking through the diversity of ethical issues arising in online extremism and terrorism research and committing our thinking and decision-making around them to paper to a much greater extent than we have done to-date—may be development of ethics guidelines tailored to our sub-field.
Discourse patterns used by extremist Salafists on Facebook: identifying potential triggers to cognitive biases in radicalized content
2021 Bouko, C., Naderer, B., Rieger, D., Van Ostaeyen, P. and Voué, P. Article
Understanding how extremist Salafists communicate, and not only what, is key to gaining insights into the ways they construct their social order and use psychological forces to radicalize potential sympathizers on social media. With a view to contributing to the existing body of research which mainly focuses on terrorist organizations, we analyzed accounts that advocate violent jihad without supporting (at least publicly) any terrorist group and hence might be able to reach a large and not yet radicalized audience. We constructed a critical multimodal and multidisciplinary framework of discourse patterns that may work as potential triggers to a selection of key cognitive biases and we applied it to a corpus of Facebook posts published by seven extremist Salafists. Results reveal how these posts are either based on an intense crisis construct (through negative outgroup nomination, intensification and emotion) or on simplistic solutions composed of taken-for-granted statements. Devoid of any grey zone, these posts do not seek to convince the reader; polarization is framed as a presuppositional established reality. These observations reveal that extremist Salafist communication is constructed in a way that may trigger specific cognitive biases, which are discussed in the paper.
Rushing to Judgement: Are Short Mandatory Takedown Limits for Online Hate Speech Compatible with The Freedom of Expression?
2021 Mchangama, J., Alkiviadou, N. and Mendiratta, R. Report
PROTOCOL: What are the effects of different elements of media on radicalization outcomes? A systematic review
2021 Wolfowicz, M., Hasisi, B. and Weisburd, D. Article
Objectives: In this systematic review and meta analysis we will collate and synthesize the evidence on media‐effects for radicalization, focusing on both cognitive
and behavioral outcomes. The goal is to identify the relative magnitudes of the effects for different mediums, types of content, and elements of human‐media
relationships.
Methodology: Random‐effects meta analysis will be used and the results will be rank‐ordered according to the size of the pooled estimates for the different factors.
Meta‐regressions, moderator analysis, and sub‐group analyses will be used to investigate sources of heterogeneity.
Implications: The results of this review will provide a better understanding of the relative magnitude of the effects of media‐related factors. This information should
help the development of more evidence‐based policies.
Content personalisation and the online dissemination of terrorist and violent extremist content
2021 Tech Against Terrorism Policy
We welcome the increased focus amongst policymakers on the role played by content personalisation and other algorithmic recommendation systems on online platforms. Such scrutiny is warranted. Terrorist groups exploit platforms that make use of recommendation algorithms, and there are examples of individuals coming into contact with terrorist and violent extremist content via platforms using content personalisation. However, we are concerned that the current debate is, on a policy level, based on an incomplete understanding of terrorist use of the internet, and that a focus on content personalisation is a distraction from more important steps that should be taken to tackle terrorist use of the internet.
Echo Chambers on Social Media: A Systematic Review of the Literature
2021 Terren, L., and Borge Bravo, R. Article
The increasing pervasiveness of social media has been matched by growing concerns regarding their potential impact on democracy and public debate. While some theorists have claimed that ICTs and social media would bring about a new independent public sphere and increase exposure to political divergence, others have warned that they would lead to polarization, through the formation of echo chambers. The issue of social media echo chambers is both crucial and widely debated. This article attempts to provide a comprehensive account of the scientific literature on this issue, highlighting the different approaches, their similarities, differences, benefits and drawbacks, and offering a consolidated and critical perspective that can hopefully support future research in this area. Concretely, it presents the results of a systematic review of 55 studies investigating the existence of echo chambers on social media, identifying patterns across their foci, methods and findings, and shedding light on the contradictory nature of the literature. We found that the results of research on this issue seem largely influenced by methodological and data collection choices. Indeed, articles that found clear evidence of echo chambers on social media were all based on digital trace data, while those that found no evidence were all based on self-reported data. Future studies should take into account the potential biases of the different approaches and the significant potential of combining self-reported data with digital trace data.
The Case of Jihadology and the Securitization of Academia
2021 Zelin, A.Y. Article
This paper goes to the heart of this special issue by exploring the case of the web site, Jihadology, which the author founded and has managed for the past ten-plus years. It explores various issues including why such a site is necessary and/or useful, questions about dissemination and open access, lessons learned about responsibility and interaction with jihadis online, the evolution of the website that has the largest repository of jihadi content, interactions with governments and technology companies and how they viewed and dealt with the website. The paper also explores how the experience gained might help other researchers interested in creating primary source-first websites to assist in their research as well as to the benefit of others in the field. Therefore, this paper aims to shed light not only on this unique case, but also on the moral and ethical questions that have arisen through maintaining the Jihadology website for more than a decade in a time of changing online environments and more recent calls for censorship.