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
How does language influence the radicalisation process? A systematic review of research exploring online extremist communication and discussion
2022 Williams, T.J.V. and Tzani, C. Article
Contemporary research has highlighted the steady rise of individuals becoming radicalised via exposure to extremist discussion on the internet, with the ease of communication with other users that the internet provides playing a major role in the radicalisation process of these individuals. The aim of the present systematic review was to explore recent research into the utilisation of language in extremist cyberspaces and how it may influence the radicalisation process. The findings suggest that there are five prominent linguistical behaviours adopted by extremists online: Algorithmic, Conflict, Hate, Positive, and Recruitment. The results demonstrate that the main purpose of extremist language online is to shape the perceptions of users to see their associated group in positive regard, while simultaneously negatively framing outgroup opposition. This is then followed by encouraging conflict against the promoted ideologies’ perceived enemies. Limitations, future research, and implications are discussed in detail.
Cannibalizing the Constitution: On Terrorism, the Second Amendment, and the Threat to Civil Liberties
2022 LaGuardia, F. Article
This article explores the links between internet radicalization, access to weapons, and the current threat from terrorists who have been radicalized online. The prevalence of domestic terrorism, domestic hate groups, and online incitement and radicalization have led to considerable focus on the tension between counterterror efforts and the First Amendment. Many scholars recommend rethinking the extent of First Amendment protection, as well as Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment protections, and some judges appear to be listening. Yet the Second Amendment has avoided this consideration, despite the fact that easy access to weapons is a necessary ingredient for the level of threat posed by online incitement. This article clarifies the way these civil liberties interact to create the threat, suggesting that pro-democracy rights such as protections on speech and privacy should not bear all the burden of compromise for the sake of protection from terrorism.
The Representational Strategies of Lionization and Victimization in ISIS’s Online Magazine, Dabiq
2022 Rasoulikolamaki, S. and Kaur, S. Article
This paper is a multimodal critical discourse study of self-representation in ISIS’s e-magazine, Dabiq, employing Social Movement Theory and Van Leeuwen’s Socio-semantic Inventory. By analyzing the linguistic and non-linguistic features in the representation of social actors and actions in Dabiq, ISIS’s implied ideology at the macro level, which is to convince the prospective recruits and at the same time, to legitimize its brutality, is revealed from both textual and visual perspectives. The results showed an interplay of the contradictory representational choices, namely “lionization” and “victimization” that has enabled ISIS to create a powerful narrative. By portraying its so-called “knights” as undefeatable lions and glorifying their acts of violence, while, excluding its killed, injured or imprisoned agents both textually and visually, ISIS has attempted to provoke admiration among its current or potential followers. Significantly, they simultaneously depict an air of victimhood to further legitimize their act of terror and represent themselves as the godsent saviours of the victims, and confer a sense of security in their hearts. Victimization, however, has rarely been applied to the Mujahidin of the State who are fighting at forefronts, but rather to the State itself as a territory (Caliphate) and to the Muslims who are presumably plagued by the enemies’ transgression and injustice.
More than a Joke: White Supremacist Humor as a Daily Form of Resistance
2022 Windisch, S. Article
We conduct an ethnographic content analysis to examine the social interaction and racial identity constructed through the exchange of white supremacist humor shared on three Stormfront discussion subforums. Overall, white supremacist joke sharing functioned multidimensionally as it simultaneously fostered cohesion and contention among users. By mocking political correctness and non-Whites through the circulation of humorous images and text, white supremacists establish a communal atmosphere and produce a sense of solidarity among members in a more “fun” way than conventional speeches or publications. At the same time, joke sharing may serve as a source of contention when users exchange jokes that violate collective identity norms, such as sharing “blonde jokes” that disparage White females. These findings underscore the ongoing necessity among members of the white supremacist movement to negotiate different ideological tenets. By attending to the social function of white supremacist joke sharing, insights derived from this investigation move beyond more formal social movement events such as marches and demonstrations by attending to the daily activities that white supremacists utilize to resist external threats.
Strain theory, resilience, and far-right extremism: the impact of gender, life experiences and the internet
2022 Skoczylis, J. Article
There has been a notable increase in support for far-right ideologies across the West. The seriousness of this threat has been acknowledged by the UK government which has banned certain far-right groups using terrorism legislation. While criminological theories have been useful in explaining general criminality, they have been under-utilised in explaining extremism and terrorism. Agnew’s General Strain Theory, which hypothesises that negative life events increase the chance of a turn to criminality, is explored in this article alongside Control Theory. Based on a survey (N 1,138) conducted on Facebook in late 2019, we explore how strain and resilience based on participants’ gender, economic situations, life events and their use of the internet impacts individuals’ far-right extremist attitudes and behaviours. We use regression analysis to investigate the impact that strain and resilience, individuals’ gender, economic situations, individual life experiences, and their use of the internet have on their propensity to associate, engage, and support far-right ideologies and linked violence. While strain is not found to be significant, resilience, gender and the use of the internet are.
Relentless villains or fervent netizens?: The alt-right community in Korea, Ilbe
2021 Lee, H. Article
Previous studies on the alt-right, a far-right movement based online, focus on its rise in Western countries. Alt-right communities have emerged more publicly in recent years and have contributed to strengthening overt expressions of hate. Such studies, however, have rarely focused on the alt-right beyond Western countries. It is critical to delve into alt-right communities in other parts of the world in order to understand the institutionalized hate of contemporary digital mediascapes. From an online textual analysis, the current study traces the developmental process of Ilbe, a representative alt-right group of Korea: its transition from a digital storehouse for provocative jokes to an influential alt-right group, and finally, to a virtual hideout where people express their hatred toward others, putting aside its far-right ideology. In doing so, the current study investigates how this alt-right group shares significant characteristics of digital media culture and develop them in its own fashion. This research contributes to understanding Asian Internet histories, including an exploration of the alt-right community and its online culture of hate. Moreover, this study demonstrates how such a trend in digital media culture influences the larger society.
Public support for counterterrorism efforts using probabilistic computing technologies to decipher terrorist communication on the internet
2022 Reimer, T. and Johnson, N. Article
Advancements in big data analytics offer new avenues for the analysis and deciphering of suspicious activities on the internet. One promising new technology to increase the identification of terrorism threats is based on probabilistic computing. The technology promises to provide more efficient problem solutions in encryption and cybersecurity. Probabilistic computing technologies use large amounts of data, though, which raises potential privacy concerns. A study (N = 1,023) was conducted to survey public support for using probabilistic computing technologies to increase counterterrorism efforts. Overall, strong support was found for the use of publicly available personal information (e.g., personal websites). Regarding private personal information (e.g., online conversations), respondents perceived it to be more appropriate to use information from out-group members (non-American citizens) than from in-group members (American citizens). In line with a social-identity account, this form of in-group favoritism was strongest among respondents displaying a combination of strong national identities and strong privacy concerns.
Understanding the Community's Perceptions Towards Online Radicalisation: An Exploratory Analysis
2022 Neo, L.S. Article
This study seeks to understand the community’s perceptions towards detecting signs of online radicalisation and examine whether different community members would exhibit different levels of understanding. A 57-item survey was administered to 160 undergraduates from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and 160 Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers. Based on the ratings of the 42 online radicalisation indicators identified by Neo (2020), two-factor analyses were separately conducted using oblique rotation to undercover a four-factor structure for the NTU sample and a three-factor solution for the MTurk sample. The results revealed valuable insights into how community members would identify terrorist threats. Furthermore, the survey revealed differences in the participants’ views on the role of the internet in radicalisation pathways and their perceptions regarding various counter-terrorism strategies. Together, the findings would contribute to the discussion of how law enforcement could better engage and work together with the community members to detect terrorist threats.
Introduction: Exploring societal resilience to online polarization and extremism
2022 Watkin, A., Gerrand, V. and Conway, M. Article
The seven articles in this special issue were selected from those delivered at a series of workshops undertaken by the European Commission H2020-funded Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism (BRaVE) Project in 2020–2021. Understanding polarization and (violent) extremism as distinct, interlinked, phenomena, the collected articles ask how online platforms can be mobilised to disrupt and reframe ideologies underpinning polarising and extremist messaging. To what extent can social media platforms serve as critical resources that contribute to building pro-social resilience? And, how can we build on what has been effective so far in terms of building online resilience, including what else might social media platforms and their users do to enhance what has already been found to be effective?
Examining Online Indicators of Extremism among Violent and Non-Violent Right-Wing Extremists
2022 Scrivens, R. Article
Although there is an ongoing need for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to identify and assess the online activities of violent extremists prior to their engagement in violence offline, little is empirically known about their online posting patterns generally or differences in their online patterns compared to non-violent extremists who share similar ideological beliefs particularly. Even less is empirically known about how their online patterns compare to those who post in extremist spaces in general. This study addresses this gap through a content analysis of postings from a unique sample of violent and non-violent right-wing extremists as well as from a sample of postings within a sub-forum of the largest white supremacy web-forum, Stormfront. Here the existence of extremist ideologies, personal grievances, and violent extremist mobilization efforts were quantified within each of the three sample groups. Several notable differences in posting patterns were observed across samples, many of which may inform future risk factor frameworks used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to identify credible threats online. This study concludes with a discussion of the implications of the analysis, its limitations, and avenues for future research.
Communicative channels for pro-social resilience in an age of polarization
2022 Gerrand, V. Article
While the messaging tactics of extremist organizations have been studied by researchers, little attention has been devoted to understanding how alternative multimodal communications can enable resistance to polarizing content. This article takes as case studies three grassroots youth arts projects that deploy multimodal resources to educate and build resilience: Build Solid Ground, Jamal al-Khatib and Loulu. The projects won awards at the Horizon 2020 Building Resilience to Violent Extremism and Polarisation (BRaVE) Fair, which was hosted by the Berlin-based intercultural organization Cultures Interactive and took place via Zoom in November 2020. In the pandemic context of increased time spent online, polarization, and growing social and structural vulnerability in which young people face uncertain futures, these projects have been selected for their ability to build channels of communication that support pro-social resilience.
The name of the game: Promoting resilience against extremism through an online gaming campaign
2022 Pisoiu, D. and Lippe, F. Article
Extremist and terrorist groups are known to have used games and gaming successfully in their online recruitment and indoctrination campaigns. What are the possibilities for using online games to generate resilience against extremism? Current research on online counter and alternative narratives generally acknowledges effects in terms of awareness raising, yet is skeptical when it comes to impact, mostly owing to the limited evidence and empirical research in this area. A related problem with the early counter and alternative narrative campaigns, however, has been not only a lack of initial preparatory work on understanding the radicalization process itself — specifically, on how narratives are produced and disseminated — but also on aspects relating to the audience, the messenger, and the communications strategy more broadly. In designing DECOUNT, an online game that incorporates both counter and alternative narratives, we have taken these aspects into consideration and created an accessible, easy-to-use product by first researching the following: individual radicalization processes; extremist online propaganda narratives and imagery; and the preferences and issues of the target population. We then created and tested the game and placed it on particular social media platforms (Instagram, YouTube/Let’s Play), with appropriate targeting. Finally, we carried out a number of evaluation procedures, including a qualitative assessment and two quasi-experiments. This paper outlines this preparatory, creative, and evaluative work, and contextualizes it within the literature on the role played by online platforms and content both in individual radicalization processes and in creating resilience.
The right-leaning be memeing: Extremist uses of Internet memes and insights for CVE design
2022 Bolaños Somoano, I. Article
This article constitutes a first step in understanding how Internet memes are used in extreme-right online milieus and formulating appropriate policy responses. First it looks at existing literature on memes as communication units. Secondly, it looks at the particular ways in which transnational extreme-right groups use Internet memes. Thirdly, it discusses the applicability of these memes to resilience-building projects targeting the extreme right. The article’s conclusions discourage the use of Internet memes by state and security actors, while highlighting positive uses by grassroots organisations. Some notes on further necessary research conclude the piece.
Designing recommender systems to depolarize
2022 Stray, J. Article
Polarization is implicated in the erosion of democracy and the progression to violence, which makes the polarization properties of large algorithmic content selection systems (recommender systems) a matter of concern for peace and security. While algorithm-driven social media do not seem to be a primary driver of polarization at the country level, they could be a useful intervention point in polarized societies. This paper examines algorithmic depolarization interventions aimed at transforming conflict: not suppressing or eliminating conflict, but making it more constructive. Algorithmic intervention is considered at three stages: what content is available (moderation), how content is selected and personalized (ranking), and content presentation and controls (user interface). Empirical studies of online conflict suggest that not only could the exposure-diversity intervention proposed as an antidote to ‘filter bubbles’ be improved: under some conditions, it can even worsen polarization. Using civility metrics in conjunction with diversity in content selection may be more effective. However, diversity-based interventions have not been tested at scale, and may not work in the diverse and dynamic contexts of real platforms. Instead, intervening in platform polarization dynamics will likely require continuous monitoring of polarization metrics, such as the widely used ‘feeling thermometer’. These metrics can be used to evaluate product features, and can potentially be engineered as algorithmic objectives. While using any metric as an optimization target may have harmful consequences, to prevent optimization processes from creating conflict as a side effect it may prove necessary to include polarization measures in the objective function of recommender algorithms.
Building social capital to counter polarization and extremism? A comparative analysis of tech platforms' official blog posts
2022 Watkin, A. and Conway, M. Article
This research employs the concept of social capital to compare the efforts that a range of tech companies have claimed to take to counter polarization and extremism and build resilience on their platforms. The dataset on which our analysis is based is made-up of a purposive sample of official blog posts from three ‘older’ (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and three ‘newer’ (i.e., TikTok, Discord, and Telegram) technology platforms. The selected posts focused on companies’ efforts to make their platform safer, build community resilience, counter violent extremism and/or polarization, or mentioned related topics such as countering hate organizations, radicalization, or misinformation. Revealed were seven themes incorporating, to a greater or lesser extent, the three main types of social capital (i.e., bonding, bridging and linking). These themes were granting user powers, strengthening existing communities, provision of information and education, building community, enhancing user rights, keeping users safe, and building trust and relationships with users. Analysis of these showed that while creation of all three types of social capital was apparent, similar to previous studies, bridging capital dominated here too; while there were some discrepancies between social capital generating activities and their framings on ‘older’ versus ‘newer’ platforms, other factors, including platform size and company values are likely to be equally or more important; and, finally, that companies attempts at generating online social capital can have negative as well as positive impacts with regard to countering polarization and extremism.
Understanding the #plandemic: Core framings on Twitter and what this tells us about countering online far right COVID-19 conspiracies
2022 McNeil-Willson, R. Article
This paper examines the need and possibility for developing online resilience-based approaches in response to COVID-19 vaccine conspiracies, often linked to the far right. Examining three datasets collected between December 2020 and April 2021, this paper details conspiracy narratives that have developed around COVID-19 vaccines, with specific focus on understanding the deployment of the idea of a planned pandemic or so-called ‘#plandemic’. This is then used to consider where existing resilience-based approaches to countering off-line polarisation and extremism might posit an appropriate online response. The article identifies four key #plandemic framings of COVID-19 vaccines — as control, as reset, as unnecessary and as unsafe — and analyses how these themes are constructed, to find that they are often created through hostile and confrontational interaction with other users. Based on these findings, the conclusion suggests companies shift their focus away from ‘negative’ approaches to content moderation (e.g., content removal) and towards resilience-building responses that cultivate flexible individual identities, build community support networks, and/or engage users with national and supranational democratic structures, as a more effective response to the sharing of online conspiracies.
Conspiracy, anxiety, ontology: Theorising QAnon
2022 Fitzgerald, J. Article
The rise of QAnon presents researchers with a number of important questions. While emerging literature provides insights into how QAnon exists online, there is a dearth of theoretical engagement with the questions of why it exists, and what conditions brought it into being. This paper seeks to address this gap by contextualizing QAnon as an ontological phenomenon underpinned by anxiety, and inquiring into the identity formation strategies employed by the movement. Applying the basic precepts of discourse theory and discourse analysis to a representative canon of QAnon content, it finds that, like other formations of collective identity, QAnon is premised on interconnected dynamics of ontological fulfillment that cannot be explained away by pointing to ‘the algorithm’ or ‘madness’. Nor can it be tackled effectively by the content takedowns and de-platforming strategies currently employed. The paper concludes with a call to explore more empathetic engagement with conspiracy adherents, arguing that until we (re)discover a more inclusive, agonistic politics, QAnon and other fantastical conspiracy movements will continue to arise and some may metastasize into violent action. New forms of resilience to (online) polarization can be built on this principle.
The Enemy of My Enemy Is Not My Friend: Arabic Twitter Sentiment toward ISIS and the United States
2021 Romney, D., Jamal, A.A., Keohane, R.O. and Tingley, D. Article
A counter-intuitive finding emerges from an analysis of Arabic Twitter posts from 2014 to 2015: Twitter participants who are negative toward the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) are also more likely to hold negative views of the United States. This surprising correlation is due to the interpretations of two sets of users. One set of users views the United States and ISIS negatively as independent interventionist powers in the region. The other set of users negatively links the United States with ISIS, often asserting a secretive conspiracy between the two. The intense negativity toward the United States in the Middle East seems conducive to views that, in one way or another, cause citizens to link the United States and ISIS in a conspiratorial manner.

A partir de un análisis de publicaciones en árabe en Twitter correspondientes al período 2014–2015, surge una conclusión contraria a la intuición: Quienes participan en Twitter y tienen una actitud negativa con respecto al Estado Islámico de Irak y el Levante (EIIL) también tienen más probabilidades de ostentar una opinión negativa con respecto a los Estados Unidos (EE. UU.). Esta sorprendente correlación se debe a las interpretaciones de dos grupos de usuarios. Uno de dichos grupos tiene una visión negativa de los EE. UU. y del EIIL, ya que los considera poderes intervencionistas independientes en la región. El otro grupo de usuarios establece una vinculación negativa entre los EE. UU. y el EIIL, y suele afirmar que existe una conspiración secreta entre los dos. La intensa negatividad con respecto a los Estados Unidos en el Oriente Medio parece propiciar opiniones que, de una u otra manera, hacen que los ciudadanos establezcan una vinculación conspirativa entre los EE. UU. y el EIIL.

Une conclusion contre-intuitive ressort d'une analyse des publications Twitter en arabe de 2014–2015: les participants à Twitter qui ont une opinion négative de l’État islamique en Irak et au Levant sont également plus susceptibles d'avoir une opinion négative des États-Unis. Cette corrélation surprenante est due aux interprétations de deux ensembles d'utilisateurs. Un ensemble d'utilisateurs voit négativement les États-Unis et l’État islamique en Irak et au Levant puisqu'il les considère comme des puissances interventionnistes indépendantes dans la région. L'autre ensemble d'utilisateurs les associe négativement en affirmant souvent qu'il existe une conspiration secrète entre eux deux. L'intense négativité à l’égard des États-Unis au Moyen-Orient semble propice à des points de vue qui, d'une manière ou d'une autre, amènent les citoyens à établir un lien conspirationniste entre les États-Unis et l’État islamique en Irak et au Levant.
The Role of Honeypots and Sabotage in State-Based Operations Against Online Jihadism, 2001-2020
2022 Torres-Soriano, M.R. Article
This article offers a descriptive analysis of intelligence operations carried out by the United States and its allies against the presence of jihadist groups on the Internet during the period 2001–2020. In contrast to actions aimed at eliminating the virtual spaces in which terrorists operate, the intelligence operations analysed here are designed to erode terrorists’ trust in such spaces without compromising intelligence sources. The article argues that the combination of cyberattacks and psychological operations in the form of honeypots and sabotage have achieved considerable success in terms of reducing terrorist activities on the Internet and undermining the effectiveness of propaganda initiatives undertaken by terrorist groups.
Online Discourses in Post-Soviet Media: The Threat of the Islamic State in Central Asia
2022 Turaeva, R. Article
This article contributes to the growing field of social media and internet research, focusing on questions of securitization and examining the internet politics of Central Asia with a specific focus on Turkmenistan. The article extends the brief analysis introduced by Tucker and Turaeva (2016) concerning Turkmen nationals joining IS (Islamic State). Here, I have contextualized those reported discussions into a wider geopolitical and sociological positioning of the participants (both individual and states) with the aim of uncovering the methods and principles that state and non-state actors use to construct discourses of threat and danger on social media and elsewhere on the internet. I argue that social media and the internet have moved beyond being a means for open communication and exchange; they have also come to be used by authoritarian states to suppress, control, and manipulate certain discourses. In the case of Turkmenistan, social media helps to control security discourse about the ISIS threat and the presence of Turkmenistani nationals in the group, even as it grants open access to information.