Online Extremism and Terrorism Research Ethics: Researcher Safety, Informed Consent, and the Need for Tailored Guidelines
Comparing the Online Posting Behaviors of Violent and Non-Violent Right-Wing Extremists
A Snapshot of the Syrian Jihadi Online Ecology: Differential Disruption, Community Strength, and Preferred Other Platforms
Upvoting Extremism: Collective Identity Formation and the Extreme Right on Reddit
Examining the Developmental Pathways of Online Posting Behavior in Violent Right-Wing Extremist Forums
Uniting the far right: how the far-right extremist, New Right, and populist frames overlap on Twitter – a German case study
A “Europe des Nations”: far right imaginative geographies and the politicization of cultural crisis on Twitter in Western Europe
Repeated and Extensive Exposure to Online Terrorist Content: Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit Perceived Stresses and Strategies
The Role of the Internet in Facilitating Violent Extremism: Insights from Former Right-Wing Extremists
Wie Extrem ist die Rechte in Europa? Untersuchung von Überschneidungen in der deutschen Rechtsaußenszene auf Twitter
Exploring Radical Right-Wing Posting Behaviors Online
The Legal Response Of Western Democracies To Online Terrorism And Extremism
Routing the Extreme Right: Challenges for Social Media Platforms
Echo Chambers Exist! (But They're Full of Opposing Views)
Weaponizing white thymos: flows of rage in the online audiences of the alt-right
Interactive Search and Exploration in Discussion Forums Using Multimodal Embeddings
Extreme Digital Speech: Contexts, Responses and Solutions
Islamic State's Online Activity And Responses
'Islamic State’s Online Activity and Responses' is essential reading for researchers, students, policymakers, and all those interested in the contemporary challenges posed by online terrorist propaganda and radicalisation. The chapters were originally published as a special issue of Studies in Conflict & Terrorism.
The Roles of ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Media Tools and Technologies in the Facilitation of Violent Extremism and Terrorism
How Extreme Is The European Far Right? Investigating Overlaps in the German Far-Right Scene on Twitter
Right-Wing Extremists’ Persistent Online Presence: History and Contemporary Trends
Predicting Behavioural Patterns in Discussion Forums using Deep Learning on Hypergraphs
What Do Closed Source Data Tell Us About Lone Actor Terrorist Behavior? A Research Note
Engaging With Online Extremist Material: Experimental Evidence
engage with extremist material.
Reconciling Impact And Ethics: An Ethnography of Research in Violent Online Political Extremism
The Role of the Internet in Facilitating Violent Extremism and Terrorism: Suggestions for Progressing Research
Violent Extremism and Terrorism Online in 2018: The Year in Review
In terms of overarching trends, the focus of policymakers, internet companies, media, and thus also publics has, since 2014, been almost exclusively on IS’s online activity. A growing concern with extreme right activity, both its online and offline variants, began to be apparent in 2017 however, especially in the wake of events in Charlottesville. This solidified in 2018 due to a number of factors, including a decrease in IS terrorist attacks in the West and an uptick in extreme right and hate attacks and terrorist events, a number of the latter of which appeared to have significant online components. Having said this, IS is still active on the ground in numerous locales globally and continues to produce and widely disseminate online content, as do a large number of other groups that share core tenets of its ideology. IS may be down therefore, but it is certainly not out.
Immigrant, Nationalist And Proud: A Twitter Analysis Of Indian Diaspora Supporters For Brexit And Trump
"The Lions Of Tomorrow": A News Value Analysis Of Child Images In Jihadi Magazines
The Ungovernability of Digital Hate Culture
Disrupting Daesh: Measuring Takedown of Online Terrorist Material and Its Impacts
Alt-Right Twitter Census
Erratum: Due to a collection error discovered after publication, some tweets in this dataset were truncated. This mainly affected the precise counts of top hashtags and may also have had a minor impact on the order in which hashtags were ranked. We do not believe the impact is material to the study’s overall findings.
Horizons of Hate: A Comparative Approach to Social Media Hate Speech
A critical-comparative analysis of social media hate speech can help us to assess the dangers of this speech, and can provide the necessary conceptual distance needed to come up with new ideas and strategies that can help to prevent violence.
Race, Religion, or Culture? Framing Islam between Racism and Neo-Racism in the Online Network of the French Far Right
I offer a novel mixed-method approach to study political discourses, combining social network analysis of the links between seventy-seven far-right websites with a qualitative frame analysis of online material. It also includes measures of online visibility of these websites to assess their audiences. The results confirm that anti-Islam frames are couched along a spectrum of discursive opportunity, where actors can either opt to justify opposition to Islam based on interpretations of core national values (culture and religion) or mobilize on strictly oppositional values (biological racism). The framing strategy providing most online visibility is based on neo-racist arguments. While this strategy allows distortion of baseline national values of secularity and republicanism, without breaching the social contract, it is also a danger for organizations that made “opposition to the system” their trademark. While the results owe much to the French context, the conclusions draw broader implications as to the far right going mainstream.
The Transnationalisation of Far Right Discourse on Twitter
A Tale Of Two Caliphates: Comparing the Islamic State's Internal and External Messaging Priorities
Violent Extremism and Terrorism Online in 2017: The Year in Review
Explaining the Emergence of Political Fragmentation on Social Media: The Role of Ideology and Extremism
Multimodal Classification of Violent Online Political Extremism Content with Graph Convolutional Networks
Considering the Ethics of Big Data Research: A Case of Twitter and ISIS/ISIL
Literature Review: The Impact of Digital Communications Technology on Radicalisation and Recruitment
Online as the New Frontline: Affect, Gender, and ISIS-Take-Down on Social Media
This research was produced with the aid of VOX-Pol Research Mobility Programme funding and supervision by VOX-Pol colleagues at Dublin City University.
Disrupting Daesh: Measuring Takedown of Online Terrorist Material and Its Impacts
Terrorist Use of the Internet by the Numbers: Quantifying Behaviors, Patterns, and Processes
This article is a revised and updated version of the 2015 VOX-Pol report 'What are the Roles of the Internet In Terrorism? Measuring Online Behaviors of Convicted UK Terrorists.'
Online Jihadi Instructional Content: The Role of Magazines
Terrorists’ Use of the Internet
Research Perspectives on Online Radicalisation: A Literature Review 2006–2016
• In recent years, the overwhelming focus of this avenue of research has been on the global jihad movement. This is therefore reflected in the review, but an effort has also been made to highlight similar research on other movements;
• As with the wider debate on radicalisation, there is little agreement on what constitutes online radicalisation and how, if at all, it happens. The influence of online interactions and propaganda on processes of radicalisation therefore remains a highly contested subject. It is a topic that has produced a broad swathe of literature, using different methodologies from a variety of disciplines;
• Consensus is that the Internet alone is not a cause of radicalisation, but a facilitator and catalyser of an individual’s trajectory towards violent political acts; • Use of empirical evidence to draw convincing conclusions remains scarce, and this has negatively impacted on the strength of research on this topic. Nonetheless, the exponential rise in violent extremist use of social media platforms has been the catalyst for an increase in research on the topic, and has begun to provide researchers with new forms of primary source data;
• Extremist use of the Internet has rapidly evolved and effectively adapted to a constantly shifting online media environment. Indeed, organisations – both public and private – that seek to respond to this are still playing catch-up, and have yet to mount a convincing response;
• One of the most celebrated aspects of social media – its ability to tailor content that appears on users’ feeds that appeals to their specific values and interests and plugs them into networks of like-minded individuals – is also what makes it a key asset for extremist groups. Both in the physical and virtual realm, such groups rely heavily upon isolating potential recruits from views and opinions that diverge from their prevailing ideologies and narratives. Extremists seek to insert people into echo chambers that amplify their message and suppress any contrary opinions. Thus, by its very nature, social media creates for its users an environment that, in some cases, is conducive to radicalisation. This is neither a criticism of social media companies nor a call for them to fundamentally change the services they provide, but rather a comment on the complexity of the challenge of online radicalisation;
• While some analysts and scholars call for measures such as censorship, others argue that softer approaches, such as creating online so-called ‘counter-narratives’ and educating Internet users, would be more effective. However, it is clear that there remains both a lack of understanding of how this would occur, or how such narratives could be effectively disseminated. While very few studies provide a convincing explanation of either, there are signs that a more sophisticated approach is beginning to take shape.
Determining The Role Of The Internet In Violent Extremism And Terrorism Six Suggestions For Progressing Research
Future Trends: Live-streaming Terrorist Attacks
Online Behaviours of Convicted Terrorists
Violent Extremism and Terrorism Online In 2016: The Year In Review
Check the Web - Assessing the Ethics and Politics of Policing the Internet for Extremist Material
the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – whilst not conducting a legal analysis. It draws where appropriate upon interpretations by the UN Human Rights Committee, UN experts (such as the High Commissioner for Human Rights and special mandate holders), and regional human rights bodies and courts (such as the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights). The report looks at definitions of ‘extremist material’; the types of monitoring and blocking being undertaken by government agencies and the private sector; and considers the roles of these key stakeholders, along with private individuals and civil society groups. It is based on a two-day workshop in January 2015 with thirty expert stakeholders from law enforcement and intelligence agencies, governments and parliaments, civil society, and universities. Short versions of ten papers were presented to stimulate discussion, following an open call for extended abstracts. These are available on the VOX-Pol website: https://www.voxpol.eu/.
The authors conducted seven follow-up semi-structured interviews with stakeholders from law enforcement, industry, government and civil society; and background policy analysis. The first author also co-organised a workshop on privacy and online policing with the UK’s National Crime Agency in March 2015, and participated in three further workshops where the topics of this report were addressed: two on law enforcement use of communications data, and a third at the United Nations on the relationship between encryption and freedom of expression. Both authors are grateful for the assistance of interviewees, co-organisers, and workshop participants.
The report is produced by the EU-funded VOX-Pol Network of Excellence, and takes particular account of the network’s development of semi-automated search for violent online extremist content and deployment of available tools for search and analytics, including text, video, sentiment, etc., currently employed in other domains for analysis of violent online extremist content. The network’s focus 6 CHECK THE WEB is on making these tools freely available for research purposes to academics, but may also extend to others professionally tasked in this area (such as activists and law enforcement agencies). It is also centrally concerned with the ethical aspects of deployment of such tools and technologies.
What are the Roles of the Internet In Terrorism? Measuring Online Behaviors of Convicted UK Terrorists
Down the (White) Rabbit Hole: The Extreme Right and Online Recommender Systems
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.
Despite the ongoing need for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to identify and assess the online activities of violent extremists prior to their engagement in violence offline, little is empirically known about their online behaviors generally or differences in their posting behaviors compared to non-violent extremists who share similar ideological beliefs particularly. In this study, we drew from a unique sample of violent and non-violent right-wing extremists to compare their posting behaviors within a sub-forum of the largest white supremacy web-forum. Analyses for the current study proceeded in three phases. First, we plotted the average posting trajectory for users in the sample, followed by an assessment of the rates at which they stayed active or went dormant in the sub-forum. We then used logistic regression to examine whether specific posting behaviors were characteristic of users’ violence status. The results highlight a number of noteworthy differences in the posting behaviors of violent and non-violent right-wing extremists, many of which may inform future risk factor frameworks used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to identify credible threats online. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of this analysis, its limitations and avenues for future research.
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.
Since the advent of the Internet, right-wing extremists and those who subscribe to extreme right views have exploited online platforms to build a collective identity among the like-minded. Research in this area has largely focused on extremists’ use of websites, forums, and mainstream social media sites, but overlooked in this research has been an exploration of the popular social news aggregation site Reddit. The current study explores the role of Reddit’s unique voting algorithm in facilitating “othering” discourse and, by extension, collective identity formation among members of a notoriously hateful subreddit community, r/The_Donald. The results of the thematic analysis indicate that those who post extreme-right content on r/The_Donald use Reddit’s voting algorithm as a tool to mobilize like-minded members by promoting extreme discourses against two prominent out-groups: Muslims and the Left. Overall, r/The_Donald’s “sense of community” facilitates identity work among its members by creating an environment wherein extreme right views are continuously validated.
Many researchers, practitioners, and policymakers are concerned about online communities that are known to facilitate violent right-wing extremism, but little is empirically known about these digital spaces in general and the developmental posting behaviors that make up these spaces in particular. In this study, group-based trajectory modeling—derived from a criminal career paradigm—was used to identify posting trajectories found in the open-access sections of the Iron March and Fascist Forge forums, both of which have gained notoriety for their members’ online advocacy of violence and acts of violence carried out by them. Multinomial logistic regression and analysis of variance were then used to assess whether posters’ time of entry into the violent forums predicted trajectory group assignment. Overall, the results highlight a number of similarities and differences in posting behaviors within and across platforms, many of which may inform future risk factor frameworks used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to identify credible threats online. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of this analysis, followed by a discussion of study limitations and avenues for future research.
Recent elections in Europe have demonstrated a steady rise in the success of right-wing populist parties. While advancing an anti-immigration agenda, these parties have been adamant to distance themselves from ‘right-wing extremism’. This article analyses a sample of tweets collected from the Twitter accounts of the German AfD, Identitarian Movement and the Autonomous Nationalists by employing frame analysis. We conclude that the frames of far-right actors classified as extremist, New Right, and populist in fact converge and we discuss our findings in the context of related case studies in other European countries.
Contestation over European integration has been widely studied in the rhetoric of parties, leaders, and movements on the far right in a variety of media. Focusing on Twitter use by far right actors in Western Europe, we apply corpus-aided discourse analysis to explore how imaginative geographies are used to politicize Europe among their digital publics. We find that the idea of a crisis of cultural identity pervades imaginaries of Europe amongst far right digital publics. While Europe is presented as facing a crisis of cultural identity, we find that the far right articulates an aspirational imaginary of Europe, the ‘Europe des Nations’ that rejects liberal-democratic pluralism in the EU and the ‘establishment’. We find that the contestation of Europe in far right digital publics relies on a crisis of cultural identity, representing a translation of Nouvelle Droite imaginaries of Europe into the social media space.
U.K. Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) Case Officers (COs) are tasked with identifying, and facilitating the removal of material that breaches the Terrorism Act 2006. COs are extensively and repeatedly exposed to material deemed illegal and harmful (including but not restricted to graphic terrorist and non-terrorist material). However, there is little research on the impact of this work, or how COs manage and mitigate the risks of their roles. Semi-structured interviews reveal the adaptive coping mechanisms that promote good perceived health and wellbeing in CTIRU, as well as areas of concern and improvement.
While a growing body of evidence suggests that the Internet is a key facilitator of violent extremism, research in this area has rarely incorporated former extremists’ experiences with the Internet when they were involved in violent extremism. To address this gap, in-depth interviews were conducted with ten Canadian former right-wing extremists who were involved in violent racist skinhead groups, with interview questions provided by thirty Canadian law enforcement officials and ten community activists. Participants were asked about their use of the Internet and the connection between their on- and offline worlds during their involvement in the violent right-wing extremist movement. Overall, our study findings highlight the interplay between the Internet and violent extremism as well as the interactions between the on- and offline worlds of violent extremists. We conclude with a discussion of study limitations and avenues for future research.
Ziel dieser Arbeit ist es, die Überschneidungen in der Rechtsaußenszene auf Twitter zu ermitteln und insbesondere festzustellen, inwieweit verschiedene Gruppen in der Szene tatsächlich auf die gleiche Weise über dieselben Themen sprechen, trotz offensichtlicher Unterschiede im Tonfall und den zugrunde liegenden Ideologien. Wir verwenden einen Mischmethodenansatz: Zunächst wollen wir einen oberflächlichen Einblick in die extrem rechte Szene auf Twitter in ganz Europa gewinnen, und dann führen wir bei drei ausgewählten Gruppen in Deutschland eine detaillierte Frame-Analyse aus, um die impliziten und expliziten Überschneidungen zwischen ihnen zu bestimmen und so die quantitativen Angaben zu ergänzen, damit die Bedeutung detailliert analysiert werden kann.
In recent years, researchers have shown a vested interest in developing advanced information technologies, machine-learning algorithms, and risk-assessment tools to detect and analyze radical content online, with increased attention on identifying violent extremists or measuring digital pathways of violent radicalization. Yet overlooked in this evolving space has been a systematic examination of what constitutes radical posting behaviors in general. This study uses a sentiment analysis-based algorithm that adapts criminal career measures – and is guided by communication research on social influence – to develop and describe three radical posting behaviors (high-intensity, high-frequency, and high-duration) found on a sub-forum of the most conspicuous right-wing extremist forum. The results highlight the multi-dimensional nature of radical right-wing posting behaviors, many of which may inform future risk factor frameworks used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to identify credible threats online.
Extremists and terrorists have found the online sphere, and specifically its social networks, to be an efficient tool for advancing their methods and political needs. The legal responses to the resulting threats from this online activity vary from country to country. The immense importance of the Internet in the everyday life of billions of people worldwide has raised difficult questions regarding the attempt to regulate online activity, especially in relation to the right of privacy and freedom of speech. This report examines how western democracies balance, from a legal point of view, the need to protect their populations from terrorist attacks and their duty to preserve the democratic rights of privacy and free speech.
Between 2014 and 2017, the Islamic State maintained vibrant communities on a range of social media platforms. Due to aggressive account and content takedown policies by the major platforms, these visible communities are now almost non-existent. Following the March 2019 Christchurch attack, the question as to why major platforms cannot rout the extreme right in the same way has repeatedly arisen. In this article, Maura Conway explores why this is not as straightforward as it may seem.
The theory of echo chambers, which suggests that online political discussions take place in conditions of ideological homogeneity, has recently gained popularity as an explanation for patterns of political polarization and radicalization observed in many democratic countries. However, while micro-level experimental work has shown evidence that individuals may gravitate towards information that supports their beliefs, recent macro-level studies have cast doubt on whether this tendency generates echo chambers in practice, instead suggesting that cross-cutting exposures are a common feature of digital life. In this article, we offer an explanation for these diverging results. Building on cognitive dissonance theory, and making use of observational trace data taken from an online white nationalist website, we explore how individuals in an ideological 'echo chamber' engage with opposing viewpoints. We show that this type of exposure, far from being detrimental to radical online discussions, is actually a core feature of such spaces that encourages people to stay engaged. The most common 'echoes' in this echo chamber are in fact the sound of opposing viewpoints being undermined and marginalized. Hence echo chambers exist not only in spite of but thanks to the unifying presence of oppositional viewpoints. We conclude with reflections on policy implications of our study for those seeking to promote a more moderate political internet.
The alt-right is a growing radical right-wing network that is particularly effective at mobilizing emotion through digital communications. Introducing ‘white thymos’ as a framework to theorize the role of rage, anger, and indignation in alt-right communications, this study argues that emotive communication connects alt-right users and mobilizes white thymos to the benefit of populist radical right politics. By combining linguistic, computational, and interpretive techniques on data collected from Twitter, this study demonstrates that the alt-right weaponizes white thymos in three ways: visual documentation of white victimization, processes of legitimization of racialized pride, and reinforcement of the rectitude of rage and indignation. The weaponization of white thymos is then shown to be central to the culture of the alt-right and its connectivity with populist radical right politics.
In this paper we present a novel interactive multimodal learning system, which facilitates search and exploration in large networks of social multimedia users. It allows the analyst to identify and select users of interest, and to find similar users in an interactive learning setting. Our approach is based on novel multimodal representations of users, words and concepts, which we simultaneously learn by deploying a general-purpose neural embedding model. The usefulness of the approach is evaluated using artificial actors, which simulate user behavior in a relevance feedback scenario. Multiple experiments were conducted in order to evaluate the quality of our multimodal representations and compare different embedding strategies. We demonstrate the capabilities of the proposed approach on a multimedia collection originating from the violent online extremism forum Stormfront, which is particularly interesting due to the high semantic level of the discussions it features.
Extreme digital speech (EDS) is an emerging challenge that requires co-ordination between governments, civil society and the private sector. In this report, a range of experts on countering extremism consider the challenges that EDS presents to these stakeholders, the impact that EDS has and the responses taken by these actors to counter it. By focusing on EDS, consideration of the topic is limited to the forms of extreme speech that take place online, often on social media platforms and multimedia messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Furthermore, by focusing on EDS rather than explicitly violent forms of extreme speech online, the report departs from a focus on violence and incorporates a broader range of issues such as hateful and dehumanising speech and the complex cultures and politics that have formed around EDS.
'Islamic State’s Online Activity and Responses' provides a unique examination of Islamic State’s online activity at the peak of its "golden age" between 2014 and 2017 and evaluates some of the principal responses to this phenomenon. Featuring contributions from experts across a range of disciplines, the volume examines a variety of aspects of IS’s online activity, including their strategic objectives, the content and nature of their magazines and videos, and their online targeting of females and depiction of children. It also details and analyses responses to IS’s online activity – from content moderation and account suspensions to informal counter-messaging and disrupting terrorist financing – and explores the possible impact of technological developments, such as decentralised and peer-to-peer networks, going forward. Platforms discussed include dedicated jihadi forums, major social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and newer services, including Twister.
The media and communication strategies of two particular ideologies are focused on herein: right-wing extremists and violent jihadis – albeit an array of others is referred to also (e.g. nationalist-separatists such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and violent Islamists such as Hezbollah). Violent jihadists are inspired by Sunni Islamist-Salafism and seek to establish an Islamist society governed by their version of Islamic or Sharia law imposed by violence (Moghadam, 2008). Right-wing extremists may also subscribe to some radical interpretation of religion, but unlike those inspired by radical Islam, many extreme right adherents are not inspired by religious beliefs per se. Instead, what binds these actors is a racially, ethnically, and sexually defined nationalism, which is typically framed in terms of white power and grounded in xenophobic and exclusionary understandings of the perceived threats posed by such groups as non-whites, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, homosexuals, and feminists. Here the state is perceived as an illegitimate power serving the interests of all but the white man and, as such, right-wing extremists are willing to assume both an offensive and defensive stance in the interests of “preserving” their heritage and their “homeland” (Perry & Scrivens, 2016). With regard to the chapter’s structuring, the following sections are ordered chronologically, treating, in turn, early low-tech communication methods or what we term ‘pre-media,’ followed by other relatively low-tech tools, such as print and photocopying. The high-tech tools reviewed are film, radio, and television, followed by the Internet, especially social media.
The aim of the report is to determine the overlaps apparent in the far-right scene on Twitter, and specifically, to ascertain the extent to which different groups on the scene are indeed talking about the same issues in the same way, in spite of apparent differences in tone and underlying ideologies. The authors utilise a mixed-methods approach: first, gaining a cursory insight into the extreme right-wing scene on Twitter across Europe; and then applying a detailed frame analysis to three selected groups in Germany to determine the implicit and explicit overlaps between them, thus complementing the quantitative findings to offer an in-depth analysis of meaning.
This policy brief traces how Western right-wing extremists have exploited the power of the internet from early dial-up bulletin board systems to contemporary social media and messaging apps. It demonstrates how the extreme right has been quick to adopt a variety of emerging online tools, not only to connect with the like-minded, but to radicalise some audiences while intimidating others, and ultimately to recruit new members, some of whom have engaged in hate crimes and/or terrorism. Highlighted throughout is the fast pace of change of both the internet and its associated platforms and technologies, on the one hand, and the extreme right, on the other, as well as how these have interacted and evolved over time. Underlined too is the persistence, despite these changes, of rightwing extremists’ online presence, which poses challenges for effectively responding to this activity moving forward.
Online discussion forums provide open workspace allowing users to share information, exchange ideas, address problems, and form groups. These forums feature multimodal posts and analyzing them requires a framework that can integrate heterogeneous information extracted from the posts, i.e. text, visual content and the information about user interactions with the online platform and each other. In this paper, we develop a generic framework that can be trained to identify communication behavior and patterns in relation to an entity of interest, be it user, image or text in internet forums. As the case study we use the analysis of violent online political extremism content, which has been a major challenge for domain experts. We demonstrate the generalizability and flexibility of our framework in predicting relational information between multimodal entities by conducting extensive experimentation around four practical use cases.
This article contributes to the growing body of knowledge on loneactor terrorism with the incorporation of closed-source data. The analyses presented investigate the antecedent behaviors of U.K.- based lone-actor terrorists leading up to their planning or conducting a terrorist event. The results suggest that prior to their attack or arrest the vast majority of lone-actor terrorists each demonstrated elements concerning (a) their grievance, (b) an escalation in their intent to act, (c) gaining capability—both psychologically and technically and (d) attack planning. The results also disaggregate our understanding of lone-actor terrorists in two ways. First, we compare the behaviors of the jihadist actors to those of the extreme-right. Second, we visualize Borum’s (2012) continuums of loneness, direction, and motivation. Collectively the results provide insight into the threat assessment and management of potential lone actors
Despite calls from governments to clamp down on violent extremist material in the online sphere, in the name of preventing radicalisation and therefore terrorism research investigating how people engage with extremist material online is surprisingly scarce. The current paper addresses this gap in knowledge with an online experiment. A fictional extremist webpage was designed and (student) participants chose how to engage with it. A mortality salience prime (being primed to think of death) was also included. Mortality salience did not influence engagement with the material but the material itself may have led to disidentification with the ingroup. Whilst interaction with the material was fairly low, those that did engage tended to indicate preference for hierarchy and dominance in society, stronger identification with the ingroup, higher levels of radicalism, and outgroup hostility. More engagement with the online extremist material was also associated with increased likelihood of explicitly supporting the extremist group. These findings show that indoctrination, socialisation, and ideology are not necessarily required for individuals to engage attitudinally or behaviourally with extremist material. This study is not conducted on the dependent variable, therefore shedding light on individuals who do not
Gathering empirical evidence from interviews and focus groups, this study highlights some of the ethical dilemmas faced by the academic community tasked with developing new methodological tools and conceptual frameworks for the study of violent online political extremism. At the same time, it examines how academics position themselves in relation to a broad range of non-academic stakeholders involved in the public debate about where violent extremism, terrorism and the Internet intersect. It argues that these external actors are introducing a multisectoral ‘market’ for research on online violent extremism, which creates both opportunities and limitations for the academic community. Finally, it analyses how academics from across a range of disciplines will be able to secure access to data and competitive research tools, while also engaging in a critical reflection about the ethical considerations at stake.
Many researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers continue to raise questions about the role of the Internet in facilitating violent extremism and terrorism. A surge in research on this issue notwithstanding, relatively few empirically grounded analyses are yet available. This chapter provides researchers with five key suggestions for progressing knowledge on the role of the Internet in facilitating violent extremism and terrorism so that we may be better placed to determine the significance of online content and activity in the latter going forward. These five suggestions relate to (1) collecting primary data across multiple types of populations; (2) making archives of violent extremist online content accessible for use by researchers and on user-friendly platforms; (3) outreaching beyond terrorism studies to become acquainted with, for example, the Internet studies literature and engaging in interdisciplinary research with, for example, computer scientists; (4) including former extremists in research projects, either as study participants or project collaborators; and (5) drawing connections between the on- and offline worlds of violent extremists.
This report treats developments in the violent extremist and terrorist online scene(s) in the 12-month period from 1 December 2017 to 30 November 2018.1 It is divided into three parts: Part I focuses on the online activities of violent jihadis, particularly the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (hereafter IS); Part II supplies information on contemporary extreme right online activity; and Part III identifies issues in the violent extremism and terrorism online realm that bear watching in 2019.
The Brexit referendum to leave the EU and Trump’s success in the US general election in 2016 sparked new waves of discussion on nativism, nationalism, and the far right. Within these analyses, however, very little attention has been devoted towards exploring the transnational ideological circulation of Islamophobia and anti-establishment sentiment, especially amongst diaspora and migrant networks. This article thus explores the role of the Indian diaspora as mediators in populist radical right discourse in the West. During the Brexit referendum and Trump’s election and presidency, a number of Indian diaspora voices took to Twitter to express pro-Brexit and pro-Trump views. This article presents a year-long qualitative study of these users. It highlights how these diasporic Indians interact and engage on Twitter in order to signal belonging on multiple levels: as individuals, as an imaginary collective non-Muslim diaspora, and as members of (populist radical right) Twitter society. By analysing these users’ social media performativity, we obtain insight into how social media spaces may help construct ethnic and (trans)national identities according to boundaries of inclusion/exclusion. This article demonstrates how some Indian diaspora individuals are embedded into exclusivist national political agendas of the populist radical right in Western societies.
This article reports and discusses the results of a study that investigated photographic images of children in five online terrorist magazines to understand the roles of children in these groups. The analysis encompasses issues of Inspire, Dabiq, Jihad Recollections (JR), Azan, and Gaidi Mtanni (GM) from 2009 to 2016. The total number of images was ninety-four. A news value framework was applied that systematically investigated what values the images held that resulted in them being “newsworthy” enough to be published. This article discusses the key findings, which were that Dabiq distinguished different roles for boys and girls, portrayed fierce and prestigious boy child perpetrators, and children flourishing under the caliphate; Inspire and Azan focused on portraying children as victims of Western-backed warfare; GM portrayed children supporting the cause peacefully; and JR contained no re-occurring findings.
Social media and the Internet play an important role in the proliferation of hateful and extreme speech. Looking to contemporary networks of digitally mediated extreme right-wing communication, this essay explores the form, dynamics, and potential governance of digital hate culture. It focuses on the cultural practices and imagination present in the networks of digital hate culture to illuminate how two frames, the Red Pill and white genocide, unify the different groups that take part in these networks. After providing a high-level overview of these networks, this essay explains three formal features of digital hate culture that make it ungovernable: its swarm structure, its exploitation of inconsistencies in web governance between different actors, and its use of coded language to avoid moderation by government or private sector actors. By outlining its cultural style and ungovernable features, this essay provides policy professionals and researchers with an understanding of contemporary digital hate culture and provides suggestions for future approaches to consider when attempting to counter and disrupt the networks on which it depends.
This article contributes to public and policy debates on the value of social media disruption activity with respect to terrorist material. In particular, it explores aggressive account and content takedown, with the aim of accurately measuring this activity and its impacts. The major emphasis of the analysis is the so-called Islamic State (IS) and disruption of their online activity, but a catchall “Other Jihadi” category is also utilized for comparison purposes. Our findings challenge the notion that Twitter remains a conducive space for pro-IS accounts and communities to flourish. However, not all jihadists on Twitter are subject to the same high levels of disruption as IS, and we show that there is differential disruption taking place. IS’s and other jihadists’ online activity was never solely restricted to Twitter; it is just one node in a wider jihadist social media ecology. This is described and some preliminary analysis of disruption trends in this area supplied too.
The so-called ‘alt-right’ is an amorphous but synchronized collection of far-right people and movements, an umbrella label for a number of loosely affiliated social movements around the world, although its centre of gravity is in the United States. Many factors have contributed to the alt-right’s rise to prominence, but one of the most visible is its online presence. Alt-right views have been promoted online by a small army of trolls and activists staging harassment campaigns, pushing hashtags and posting links to extremist content and conspiracy theories on social media. Since 2016, the alt-right and its allies have held an increasingly prominent place in American and European politics, rallying support behind a variety of causes and candidates. This study seeks to evaluate the alt-right’s online presence with robust metrics and an analysis of content shared by adherents. The alt-right has many components online; this report will primarily examine its presence on Twitter, in part because the movement is particularly active on that platform, and in part because Twitter’s data access policies allow for more robust evaluation than is possible on other platforms.
A comparative approach to social media hate speech. This study compares a Finnish anti-refugee and anti-immigration Facebook group criticised for hate speech and links to the extreme right, with a Finnish anti-racist Facebook group that opposed it, alongside a Facebook group aimed at dialogue between the two.
When debates about Islam acquire importance in the public sphere, does the far right adhere to traditional racist arguments, risking marginalization, or does it conform to mainstream values to attain legitimacy in the political system? Focusing on the aftermath of the 2015 terrorist attacks in France, I explore the framing of Islam, discussing how the far right’s nativist arguments were reformulated to engage with available discursive opportunities and dominant conceptions of the national identity. By looking at actors in the protest and the electoral arenas, I examine the interplay between the choice of anti-Islam frames and baseline national values.
How transnational are the audiences of far right parties and movements on Twitter? While an increasing number of contributions addresses the topic of transnationalism in far right politics, few systematic investigations exist on the actors and discourses favored in transnational exchanges on social media. Building on the literature on the far right, social movements, transnationalism and the Internet, the paper addresses this gap by studying the initiators and the issues that are favored in online exchanges between audiences of far right organizations, e.g. political parties and movements across France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. We use a new dataset on the activities of far right Twitter users that is analyzed through a mixed methods approach. Using social network analysis, we detect transnational links between far right organizations across countries based on retweets from audiences of far right Twitter users. Retweets are qualitatively coded for content and compared to the content retweeted within national communities. Finally, using a logistic regression, we quantify the level to which specific issues and organizations enjoy high levels of attention across borders. Subsequently, we use discourse analysis to qualitatively reconstruct the interpretative frames accompanying these patterns. We find that although social media are often ascribed much power in favoring transnational exchanges between far right organizations, there is little evidence of this. Only a few issues (anti-immigration and nativist interpretations of the economy) garner transnational far right audiences on Twitter. In addition, we find that more than movements, political parties play a prominent role in the construction of a transnational far right discourse.
In recent years, the media department of the self-proclaimed Islamic State has proven itself to be highly adept at strategic communication. While much research has gone into the group’s digital and online capabilities, there remains a significant gap in the knowledge regarding its in-country propaganda operations and objectives. In recognition of this, the following research paper approaches the issue from a different angle, attempting to better understand how and why the group communicates its brand through the lens of two publications – al-Naba’, its Arabic-language newspaper, which appears to be designed primarily for offline dissemination in the caliphate itself, and Rumiyah, its foreign-language electronic magazine, which has only ever appeared online. Using content analysis to identify and compare each publication’s internal (local) and external (global) media priorities over the four-month period between September and December 2016, we develop an empirical evaluation of the group’s recent forays into targeted outreach.
The use of the Internet, particularly social media, by violent extremists and terrorists and their supporters received an increasing amount of attention from policymakers, media, Internet companies, and civil society organisations in 2017. In addition to politicians stepping-up their rhetoric regarding the threat posed by consumption of and networking around violent extremist and terrorist online content, prominent and heavily trafficked social media platforms also took a stronger stand on the issue this year, which caused civil liberties organisations considerable disquiet. This report treats developments in the violent extremist and terrorist online scene(s) and responses to them in the 12-month period from 1 December 2016 to 30 November 2017.
This article is a systematic large-scale study of the reasons driving political fragmentation on social media. Making use of a comparative dataset of the Twitter discussion activities of 115 political groups in 26 countries, it shows that groups that are further apart in ideological terms interact less, and that groups that sit at the extremes of the ideological scale are particularly likely to have lower patterns of interaction. Indeed, exchanges between centrists who sit on different sides of the left–right divide are more likely than connections between centrists and extremists who are from the same ideological wing. In light of the results, theory about exposure to different ideological viewpoints online is enhanced.
In this paper we present a multimodal approach to categorizing user posts based on their discussion topic. To integrate heterogeneous information extracted from the posts, i.e. text, visual content and the information about user interactions with the online platform, we deploy graph convolutional networks that were recently proven effective in classification tasks on knowledge graphs. As the case study we use the analysis of violent online political extremism content, a challenging task due to a particularly high semantic level at which extremist ideas are discussed. Here we demonstrate the potential of using neural networks on graphs for classifying multimedia content and, perhaps more importantly, the effectiveness of multimedia analysis techniques in aiding the domain experts performing qualitative data analysis. Our conclusions are supported by extensive experiments on a large collection of extremist posts. This research was produced with the aid of VOX-Pol Research Mobility Programme funding and supervision by VOX-Pol colleagues at Dublin City University.
This is a formal commentary, responding to Matthew Curran Benigni, Kenneth Joseph, and Kathleen Carley’s contribution, “Online extremism and the communities that sustain it: Detecting the ISIS supporting community on Twitter”. This brief review reflects on the ethics of big data research methodologies, and how novel methods complicate long-standing principles of research ethics. Specifically, the concept of the “data subject” as a corollary, or replacement, of “human subject” is considered.
This literature review seeks to reorient the discourse on radicalization to consider the connection between communication technology and violent extremism. By interrogating three central questions vexing policy-makers, law enforcement officials and academics, this review moves away from a monolithic understanding of the internet and showcases the opportunities afforded by different communications technologies within the context of radicalization and recruitment. As this discussion shows, there is a consensus that despite significant exceptions to the rule, the internet alone does not act as a radicalizing agent, but rather serves as a facilitator and catalyst for terrorist organizations and their respective networks. Despite varying analyses produced within the literature, there is agreement that the virtual sphere does not replace the real world in most instances. Above all, a review of the current literature demonstrates that to answer the crucial questions posed in this article, more empirically-based research is required. This article is a revised and updated version of the 2017 VOX-Pol report Research Perspectives on Online Radicalisation: A Literature Review 2006 to 2016.
Using a dataset of more than 80 accounts during 2015, this article explores the gendered ways in which self-proclaiming Twitter Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) supporters construct community around “suspension.” The article argues that suspension is an integral event in the online lives of ISIS supporters, which is reproduced in online identities. The highly gendered roles of ISIS males and females frame responses to suspension, enforcing norms that benefit the group: the shaming of men into battle and policing of women into modesty. Both male and female members of “Wilayat Twitter” regard online as a frontline, with suspension an act of war against the “baqiya family.” The findings have implications for broader repressive measures against ISIS online.
This report seeks to contribute to public and policy debates on the value of social media disruption activity with respect to terrorist material. We look in particular at aggressive account and content takedown, with the aim of accurately measuring this activity and its impacts. Our findings challenge the notion that Twitter remains a conducive space for Islamic State (IS) accounts and communities to flourish, although IS continues to distribute propaganda through this channel. However, not all jihadists on Twitter are subject to the same high levels of disruption as IS, and we show that there is differential disruption taking place. IS’s and other jihadists’ online activity was never solely restricted to Twitter. Twitter is just one node in a wider jihadist social media ecology. We describe and discuss this, and supply some preliminary analysis of disruption trends in this area.
Public interest and policy debates surrounding the role of the Internet in terrorist activities is increasing. Criminology has said very little on the matter. By using a unique data set of 223 convicted United Kingdom–based terrorists, this article focuses on how they used the Internet in the commission of their crimes. As most samples of terrorist offenders vary in terms of capabilities (lone-actor vs. group offenders) and criminal sophistication (improvised explosive devices vs. stabbings), we tested whether the affordances they sought from the Internet significantly differed. The results suggest that extreme-right-wing individuals, those who planned an attack (as opposed to merely providing material support), conducted a lethal attack, committed an improvised explosive device (IED) attack, committed an armed assault, acted within a cell, attempted to recruit others, and engaged in non-virtual network activities and non-virtual place interactions were significantly more likely to learn online compared with those who did not engage in these behaviours. Those undertaking unarmed assaults were significantly less likely to display online learning. The results also suggested that extreme-right-wing individuals who perpetrated an IED attack, associated with a wider network, attempted to recruit others, and engaged in non-virtual network activities and non-virtual place interactions were significantly more likely to communicate online with co-ideologues.
This chapter focuses on the instructional content, both text and images, published in 26 issues of three jihadi magazines: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire, Inspire’s forerunner Jihad Recollections, and Somali Al-Shabab’s Gaidi M’taani. Instruction was found to be a core component of Inspire as distinct from the varying types and levels of instruction appearing in Jihad Recollections and Gaidi M’taani. Noticeable too was that the text and images composing bomb-making instructional guides were not only the commonest, but also the most detailed types of guides contained in Inspire, with both a high number of images and lengthy supporting text. A clear finding is thus that the purpose of AQAP’s Inspire was not just to inspire readers, in the sense of infusing them with some thought or feeling, but also to supply them with instructions on how these thoughts or feelings could be violently actuated.
Terrorist use of the Internet has become a focus of media, policy, and scholarly attention in recent years. Terrorists use the Internet in a variety of ways, the most important being for propaganda purposes and operations-related content, but it is also potentially a means or target of attack. This book presents revised versions of a selection of papers delivered at the NATO Advanced Research Workshop (ARW) on ‘Terrorists’ Use of the Internet’ held in Dublin, Ireland in June 2016. One aim of the workshop was to nurture dialogue between members of the academic, policy and practitioner communities, so the 60 delegates from 13 countries who attended the workshop included representatives from each of these. The participants encompassed a wide range of expertise (including engineering, computer science, law, criminology, political science, international relations, history, and linguistics) and the chapters contained herein reflect these diverse professional and disciplinary backgrounds. The workshop also aimed to address the convergence of threats. Following an introduction which provides an overview of the various ways in which terrorists use the Internet, the book’s remaining 25 chapters are grouped into 5 sections on cyber terrorism and critical infrastructure protection; cyber-enabled terrorist financing; jihadi online propaganda; online counterterrorism; and innovative approaches and responses. The book will be of interest to all those who need to maintain an awareness of the ways in which terrorists use the Internet and require an insight into how the threats posed by this use can be countered.
This literature review seeks to recalibrate our understanding of online radicalisation, how it is conceptualised within the literature and the extent to which the policy debate has advanced in response to technological and legal developments. Among the findings are the following:
Some scholars and others are sceptical of a significant role for the Internet in processes of violent radicalisation. There is increasing concern on the part of other scholars, and increasingly also policymakers and publics, that easy availability of violent extremist content online may have violent radicalising effects. This article identifies a number of core questions regarding the interaction of violent extremism and terrorism and the Internet, particularly social media, that have yet to be adequately addressed and supplies a series of six follow-up suggestions, flowing from these questions, for progressing research in this area. These suggestions relate to (1) widening the range of types of violent online extremism being studied beyond violent jihadis; (2) engaging in more comparative research, not just across ideologies, but also groups, countries, languages, and social media platforms; (3) deepening our analyses to include interviewing and virtual ethnographic approaches; (4) up-scaling or improving our capacity to undertake “big data” collection and analysis; (5) outreaching beyond terrorism studies to become acquainted with, for example, the Internet Studies literature and engaging in interdisciplinary research with, for example, computer scientists; and (6) paying more attention to gender as a factor in violent online extremism. This research was produced with the aid of VOX-Pol Research Mobility Programme funding and supervision by VOX-Pol colleagues at Dublin City University.
Magnanville, 13 June, 2016, around 8pm: policeman, Jean-Baptiste Salvaing has been stabbed to death outside his home. Forcing his way into the house, the attacker murders Jessica Schneider, who also worked for the police, by cutting her throat. The couple’s three year-old son is taken hostage by the killer, Larossi Abballa. Prior to a three hour stand-off with police negotiators, Aballa turns to social media to broadcast and justify his actions, dedicating them to his ‘Emir’ Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (Hume et al 2016). It is the first time a terrorist has used a live-streaming service in the midst of an attack. It is unlikely to be the last.
Previous research on terrorist use of the Internet generally discusses the opportunities offered by the Internet to terrorist groups (Tsfati & Weimann, 2002; Weimann, 2006; Holt et al., 2015; Rudner, 2016). Such accounts implicitly view the interaction between the Internet and the user as uni-directional (i.e. exposure to Internet content may cause behaviour change). This lacks an acknowledgement that not every potential user will make use available opportunities, nor use these in the same way. The degree to which an individual makes use of an opportunity is modulated based upon their goals, plans, values, beliefs, and experiences (Norman, 1988). At present, there are only three data-driven studies examining how convicted terrorists have used the Internet: Von Behr et al., 2013, Gill et al., 2014, and Gill and Corner 2015. These studies shift the focus from the Internet as a potentially causal factor to how individuals use the Internet based upon their motivations, needs, expectations, and histories. They acknowledge, in other words, the way in which the interaction between Internet and user is a two-way person-situation interactive process in which the individual leads the way. Reported herein are two complementary pieces of research, one large scale and based on open source data and another smaller scale and based on closed sources, that build significantly upon the above described research.
The use of the Internet, including social media, by violent extremists and terrorists and their supporters has been a source of anxiety for policymakers and publics for a number of years. This is based on the idea that there is a connection between consumption of and networking around violent extremist and terrorist online content and adoption of extremist ideology (i.e. so-called ‘online radicalisation’) and/or recruitment into violent extremist or terrorist groups or movements and/or attack planning and preparation and/or, ultimately, engagement in violent extremism and terrorism. Concerns have been raised, in particular, regarding easy access to large volumes of potentially influencing violent extremist and terrorist content on prominent and heavily trafficked social media platforms.
This report assesses the ethics and politics of policing online extremist material, using the normative framework of international human rights law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, European Convention on Human Rights and
Using a unique dataset of 227 convicted UK-based terrorists, this report fills a large gap in the existing literature. Using descriptive statistics, we first outline the degree to which various online activities related to radicalisation were present within the sample. The results illustrate the variance in behaviours often attributed to ‘online radicalisation’. Second, we conducted a smallest-space analysis to illustrate two clusters of commonly co-occurring behaviours that delineate behaviours from those directly associated with attack planning. Third, we conduct a series of bivariate and multivariate analyses to question whether those who interact virtually with like-minded individuals or learn online, exhibit markedly different experiences (e.g. radicalisation, event preparation, attack outcomes) than those who do not.
In addition to hosting user-generated video content, YouTube provides recommendation services, where sets of related and recommended videos are presented to users, based on factors such as co-visitation count and prior viewing history. This article is specifically concerned with extreme right (ER) video content, portions of which contravene hate laws and are thus illegal in certain countries, which are recommended by YouTube to some users. We develop a categorization of this content based on various schema found in a selection of academic literature on the ER, which is then used to demonstrate the political articulations of YouTube’s recommender system, particularly the narrowing of the range of content to which users are exposed and the potential impacts of this. For this purpose, we use two data sets of English and German language ER YouTube channels, along with channels suggested by YouTube’s related video service. A process is observable whereby users accessing an ER YouTube video are likely to be recommended further ER content, leading to immersion in an ideological bubble in just a few short clicks. The evidence presented in this article supports a shift of the almost exclusive focus on users as content creators and protagonists in extremist cyberspaces to also consider online platform providers as important actors in these same spaces.