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 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.


Full Listing

EEG distinguishes heroic narratives in ISIS online video propaganda
2020 Yoder, K.J., Ruby, K., Pape, R. and Decety, J. Article
The Islamic State (ISIS) was uniquely effective among extremist groups in the Middle East at recruiting Westerners. A major way ISIS accomplished this was by adopting Hollywood-style narrative structures for their propaganda videos. In particular, ISIS utilized a heroic martyr narrative, which focuses on an individual’s personal glory and empowerment, in addition to traditional social martyr narratives, which emphasize duty to kindred and religion. The current work presented adult participants (n = 238) video clips from ISIS propaganda which utilized either heroic or social martyr narratives and collected behavioral measures of appeal, narrative transportation, and psychological dispositions (egoism and empathy) associated with attraction to terrorism. Narrative transportation and the interaction between egoism and empathy predicted video recruitment appeal. A subset of adults (n = 80) underwent electroencephalographic (EEG) measurements while watching a subset of the video-clips. Complementary univariate and multivariate techniques characterized spectral power density differences when perceiving the different types of narratives. Heroic videos show increased beta power over frontal sites, and globally increased alpha. In contrast, social narratives showed greater frontal theta, an index of negative feedback and emotion regulation. The results provide strong evidence that ISIS heroic narratives are specifically processed, and appeal to psychological predispositions distinctly from other recruitment narratives.
Jillian C. York on Freedom of Expression and Safety Online
2016 York, J.C. Lecture
Is it possible to guarantee users online safety while also guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression? If there are limits to be placed on speech, who decides? In her keynote lecture of the VOX-Pol summer school on topics in violent online political extremism hosted by the Center for Media, Data and Society at the CEU School of Public Policy, Jillian C. York examines these questions, and looks at the current state of freedom of expression on the Internet, as well as the grave threats it faces. Jillian C. York is a writer and activist focused on the intersection of technology and policy. Based in Berlin, she serves as the Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where she works on issues of free expression, privacy, and digital security. Jillian is also a fellow at the Center for Internet & Human Rights at the European University Viadrina, and a member of the Deep Lab collective.
Vom Analogen ins Digitale. Eine kurze Geschichte der dschihadistischen Propaganda und ihrer Verbreitung
2020 Zabel, M. Chapter
Der Beitrag bietet eine kurze Einführung in die Geschichte dschihadistischer Propaganda von den 1980er Jahren bis in die Gegenwart. Nicht nur die medientechnologische und -kulturelle Entwicklung, sondern auch geopolitische Konfliktgeschichte mit wichtigen Stationen wie der sowjetischen Intervention in Afghanistan und dem ersten Tschetschenienkrieg sind hier ausschlaggebend. Was die Entwicklung auf dem Feld der Online-Propaganda betrifft, stützt sich der Verfasser auch auf eigenen Erfahrungen im Rahmen der Beobachtung und Analyse dschihadistischer Internet-Auftritte und -Kommunikatverbreitung.
What is Gab? A Bastion of Free Speech or an Alt-Right Echo Chamber?
2018 Zannettou, S., Bradlyn, B., De Cristofaro, E., Kwak, H., Sirivianos, M., Stringhini, G. and Blackburn, J. Article
Over the past few years, a number of new "fringe" communities, like 4chan or certain subreddits, have gained traction on the Web at a rapid pace. However, more often than not, little is known about how they evolve or what kind of activities they attract, despite recent research has shown that they influence how false information reaches mainstream communities. This motivates the need to monitor these communities and analyze their impact on the Web's information ecosystem. In August 2016, a new social network called Gab was created as an alternative to Twitter. It positions itself as putting "people and free speech first'", welcoming users banned or suspended from other social networks. In this paper, we provide, to the best of our knowledge, the first characterization of Gab. We collect and analyze 22M posts produced by 336K users between August 2016 and January 2018, finding that Gab is predominantly used for the dissemination and discussion of news and world events, and that it attracts alt-right users, conspiracy theorists, and other trolls. We also measure the prevalence of hate speech on the platform, finding it to be much higher than Twitter, but lower than 4chan's Politically Incorrect board.
On the Origins of Memes by Means of Fringe Web Communities
2018 Zannettou, S., Caulfield, T., Blackburn, J., De Cristofaro, E., Sirivianos, M., Stringhini, G. and Suarez-Tangil, G. Article
Internet memes are increasingly used to sway and manipulate public opinion. This prompts the need to study their propagation, evolution, and influence across the Web. In this paper, we detect and measure the propagation of memes across multiple Web communities, using a processing pipeline based on perceptual hashing and clustering techniques, and a dataset of 160M images from 2.6B posts gathered from Twitter, Reddit, 4chan's Politically Incorrect board (/pol/), and Gab, over the course of 13 months. We group the images posted on fringe Web communities (/pol/, Gab, and The_Donald subreddit) into clusters, annotate them using meme metadata obtained from Know Your Meme, and also map images from mainstream communities (Twitter and Reddit) to the clusters. Our analysis provides an assessment of the popularity and diversity of memes in the context of each community, showing, e.g., that racist memes are extremely common in fringe Web communities. We also find a substantial number of politics-related memes on both mainstream and fringe Web communities, supporting media reports that memes might be used to enhance or harm politicians. Finally, we use Hawkes processes to model the interplay between Web communities and quantify their reciprocal influence, finding that /pol/ substantially influences the meme ecosystem with the number of memes it produces, while td has a higher success rate in pushing them to other communities.
Countering terrorism or criminalizing curiosity? The troubled history of UK responses to right-wing and other extremism
2021 Zedner, L. Article
The growth of right-wing extremism, especially where it segues into hate crime and terrorism, poses new challenges for governments, not least because its perpetrators are typically lone actors, often radicalized online. The United Kingdom has struggled to define, tackle or legitimate against extremism, though it already has an extensive array of terrorism-related offences that target expression, encouragement, publication and possession of terrorist material. In 2019, the United Kingdom went further to make viewing terrorist-related material online on a single occasion a crime carrying a 15-year maximum sentence. This article considers whether UK responses to extremism, particularly those that target non-violent extremism, are necessary, proportionate, effective and compliant with fundamental rights. It explores whether criminalizing the curiosity of those who explore radical political ideas constitutes legitimate criminalization or overextends state power and risks chilling effects on freedom of speech, association, academic freedom, journalistic enquiry and informed public debate—all of which are the lifeblood of a liberal democracy.
Countering Violent Extremism: Developing an evidence-base for policy and practice
2015 Zeiger, S. and Aly, A. Report
This volume reports on the range of papers presented at the Annual Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Research Conference 2014 from 7-8 December 2014 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The Conference was organized and hosted by Hedayah (the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism), Curtin University, People Against Violent Extremism (PaVE), and the Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The Conference was also sponsored in part by the European Commission and the United States Department of State. The event was attended by approximately 100 academics, practitioners and policymakers from over 25 countries. The 2014 CVE Research Conference follows from the inaugural CVE Symposium hosted by Curtin University, PaVE, Macquarie University and Hedayah in Perth, Australia in 2013. As the first of its kind in the region, the 2013 Symposium brought together national and international scholars, practitioners, policymakers and former extremists to discuss and debate the current state and future directions for CVE. The intention for the CVE Research Conference is to be an annual event at which the yearly highlights of cutting-edge CVE research and innovation can be presented to academics, researchers, practitioners and policymakers on a global scale.
From Inspire to Rumiyah: does instructional content in online jihadist magazines lead to attacks?
2020 Zekulin, M. Article
Considerable time has been spent examining how groups like AQAP and ISIS used their online magazines to reach and radicalize individuals in Western democratic states. This paper continues this investigation but shifts its analysis to focus on the ‘how-to’ or instructional content of these publications, an understudied part of the literature. One of the stated goals of these magazines was to provide tactical know-how and assist supporters conducting terror plots in their home states. The question: did the tactics outlined in the magazines materialize in actual plots/attacks and how quickly were they put into practice? The paper examines this question by creating an overview of the tactics which appear in these publications and cross referencing them with a dataset of 166 Islamist-inspired homegrown terror plots/attacks in 14 Western democratic states to determine if, and when, they first appeared in relation to their publication date. It concluded that while some of the suggested strategies did appear following their publication, often it occurred after considerable time had elapsed. This suggests the instructional content did not resonate with readers in real time.
Shades of hatred online: 4chan duplicate circulation surge during hybrid media events
2020 Zelenkauskaite, A., Toivanen, P., Huhtamäki, J. and Valaskivi, K. Article
The 4chan /pol/ platform is a controversial online space on which a surge in hate speech has been observed. While recent research indicates that events may lead to more hate speech, empirical evidence on the phenomenon remains limited. This study analyzes 4chan /pol/ user activity during the mass shootings in Christchurch and Pittsburgh and compares the frequency and nature of user activity prior to these events. We find not only a surge in the use of hate speech and anti-Semitism but also increased circulation of duplicate messages, links, and images and an overall increase in messages from users who self-identify as “white supremacist” or “fascist” primarily voiced from English-speaking IP-based locations: the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Great Britain. Finally, we show how these hybrid media events share the arena with other prominent events involving different agendas, such as the U.S. midterm elections. The significant increase in duplicates during the hybrid media events in this study is interpreted beyond their memetic logic. This increase can be interpreted through what we refer to as activism of hate. Our findings indicate that there is either a group of dedicated users who are compelled to support the causes for which shooting took place and/or that users use automated means to achieve duplication.
The State of Global Jihad Online: A Qualitative, Quantitative, and Cross-Lingual Analysis
2013 Zelin, A.Y. Report
It is only a matter of time before terrorists begin routinely using Twitter, Instagram, and other services in ongoing operations. We have already seen this in a limited manner from al-Shabaab, which tweets its #JihadDispatches on recent battles. But those delivery mechanisms are unlikely to replace the forums as the main environment for conversation and information distribution among jihadis. Twitter and the like provide a more public platform than a password-protected forum, but one critical utility of forums for jihadis is the ability to have relatively private conversations.
Picture Or It Didn’t Happen: A Snapshot of the Islamic State’s Official Media Output
2015 Zelin, A.Y. Journal
This article seeks to examine, quantitatively and qualitatively, one week of official media releases of the Islamic State (IS). Due to the breadth of IS official media releases, this provides a snapshot upon which to better understand the different styles and messaging streams IS releases on a weekly basis. The article shows that IS produces much more material, and on a broader range of topics, than what gets reported in the mainstream media. Execution videos make up just a fraction of the overall output and are dwarfed by the number of IS productions on military affairs, governance, preaching, moral policing, and other themes. The analysis also shows that IS relies very heavily on visual as opposed to text-based propaganda, and that most of its military activities take place in Iraq, not Syria.
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.
Detecting Hate Speech on Twitter Using a Convolution-GRU Based Deep Neural Network
2018 Zhang, Z., Robinson, D. and Tepper, J. Article
In recent years, the increasing propagation of hate speech on social media and the urgent need for effective counter-measures have drawn significant investment from governments, companies, and empirical research. Despite a large number of emerging scientific studies to address the problem, a major limitation of existing work is the lack of comparative evaluations, which makes it difficult to assess the contribution of individual works. This paper introduces a new method based on a deep neural network combining convolutional and gated recurrent networks. We conduct an extensive evaluation of the method against several baselines and state of the art on the largest collection of publicly available Twitter datasets to date, and show that compared to previously reported results on these datasets, our proposed method is able to capture both word sequence and order information in short texts, and it sets new benchmark by outperforming on 6 out of 7 datasets by between 1 and 13% in F1. We also extend the existing dataset collection on this task by creating a new dataset covering different topics.
Elites and foreign actors among the alt-right: The Gab social media platform
2019 Zhou, Y., Dredze, M., Broniatowski, D. A. and Adler, W. D. Article
Content regulation and censorship of social media platforms is increasingly discussed by governments and the platforms themselves. To date, there has been little data-driven analysis of the effects of regulated content deemed inappropriate on online user behavior. We therefore compared Twitter — a popular social media platform that occasionally removes content in violation of its Terms of Service — to Gab — a platform that markets itself as completely unregulated. Launched in mid 2016, Gab is, in practice, dominated by individuals who associate with the “alt right” political movement in the United States. Despite its billing as “The Free Speech Social Network,” Gab users display more extreme social hierarchy and elitism when compared to Twitter. Although the framing of the site welcomes all people, Gab users’ content is more homogeneous, preferentially sharing material from sites traditionally associated with the extremes of American political discourse, especially the far right. Furthermore, many of these sites are associated with state-sponsored propaganda from foreign governments. Finally, we discovered a significant presence of German language posts on Gab, with several topics focusing on German domestic politics, yet sharing significant amounts of content from U.S. and Russian sources. These results indicate possible emergent linkages between domestic politics in European and American far right political movements. Implications for regulation of social media platforms are discussed.
Online Political Hate Speech in Europe: The Rise of New Extremisms
2020 Ziccardi, G. Book
Thought-provoking and timely, this book addresses the increasingly widespread issue of online political hatred in Europe. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, it examines both the contributions of new technologies, in particular social networks, to the rise of this phenomenon, and the legal and political contexts in which it is taking place. Giovanni Ziccardi also evaluates possible remedies for the situation, including both legal and technological solutions, and outlines the potential for a unified European framework to counter the spread of hatred online.