Welcome to the third issue of the VOX-Pol Newsletter!
The VOX-Pol Network of Excellence is a European Union Framework Programme 7 funded academic research network focused on researching the prevalence, contours, functions, and impacts of Violent Online Political Extremism and responses to it. It is a five-year programme which commenced on 1 January, 2014.
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The VOX-Pol Team
Workshop on Behavioural Underpinnings of Violent Online Political Extremism, 2 – 3 December 2014, Berlin
In early December, VOX-Pol will be hosting a workshop focusing on Behavioural Underpinnings of Violent Online Political Extremism. The two-day event will be held in Berlin and will revolve around the ongoing VOX-Pol funded research at the Department of Security and Crime Science in University College London investigating the relationship between the Internet and terrorism.
An increasing number of studies argue that the rise of so-called ‘self-starter’ terrorism, is linked to the Internet. Much of the existing research on this topic has, however, focused on theory building and illustrative examples. The result has been research rich in disjointed anecdotes, but poor in attempts to test explanations and predictions and/or replicate previous case studies. This workshop will seek to go some way toward remedying this.
The workshop will outline preliminary results based on a database of al-Qaeda related offenders investigating whether there are marked differences between the experiences (e.g. radicalisation, preparation, and attack outcomes) of those who learn online and those who do not. Both quantitative and qualitative key findings will be shared with participants. The workshop aims to present these preliminary findings to practitioners and to obtain their feedback on where research on the topic could be most useful for their understanding and daily decision-making processes. For more information, please email Paul Gill at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Worskhop on Ethics and Politics of Online Monitoring of Violent Extremism, 19 – 20 January 2015, Brussels
VOX-Pol will be kick-starting its 2015 events calendar with a workshop in Brussels from 19-20 January focused on the ethics and politics of monitoring violent extremism online. For many—researchers, police, intelligence agencies, the Internet industry, private groups, and individuals—monitoring the Net for material promoting violent political extremism is a daily occupation. What are the ethics and politics of doing so? The upcoming workshop will be a fully participative event involving experts from a variety of academic disciplines, stakeholders from civil society, technology companies, and law enforcement agencies. For more details on what promises to be an event packed with intensive debate and discussion, visit the VOX-Pol website or email: email@example.com
VOX-Pol’s Inaugural Conference: Violent Online Political Extremism: Setting a Research Agenda, 28 – 29 August 2014, King’s College London
VOX-Pol’s Inaugural Conference, ‘Violent Online Political Extremism: Setting a Research Agenda’, was held in London from 28-29 August. Hosted at the Strand Campus of King’s College London, over 120 participants from diverse backgrounds and countries—including Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Maldives, Netherlands, Nigeria, United Kingdom and the United States—attended the event.
Thomas Hegghammer, Director of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) opened the conference with a keynote speech focusing on the direction which future research on violent online radicalisation should take. It is important to remember, he said, that the Internet does not just empower terrorists but also poses significant risks for them.
Manuela Caiani, Assistant Professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) in Vienna gave the concluding keynote speech. She shared her findings on a groundbreaking comparative study on the online behaviour of various European and US far right groups.
The conference ended with a round-table discussion of some of the key issues for researchers in this area. The roundtable was chaired by Peter Neumann (Director, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at KCL) with participation by VOX-Pol Co-ordinator Maura Conway (Dublin City University), Cristina Archetti (University of Salford), Nico Prucha (University of Vienna) and Aaron Zelin (KCL and Washington Institute).
Special issues of two journals—Policy & Internet, and Perspectives on Terrorism— emerging from the papers presented at VOX-Pol’s inaugural conference will be published in early 2015. If you attended the conference and want to publish the research you presented, submission guidelines and other details can be found here.
RESEARCH AND COMMENTARY BY VOX-POL PARTNERS
Derek O’Callaghan, Derek Greene, Maura Conway, Joe Carthy and Pádraig Cunningham. 2014. ‘Down the (White) Rabbit Hole: The Extreme Right and Online recommender Systems.’ Social Science Computer Review 33(1).
Anne Aly, Dana Weimann-Saks, Gabriel Weimann. 2014. ‘Making “Noise” Online: An Analysis of the Say No to Terror Online Campaign.’ Perspectives on Terrorism 8(5).
How can a liberal democracy defend itself against extremist challengers without undermining its core values? VOX-Pol Academic Advisory Board Member Cas Mudde (University of Georgia) examines the dos and don’ts of banning political extremism in a liberal democracy on Open Democracy’s Europe forum.
VOX-Pol Ethics Advisory Board member Philip Seib (University of Southern California), meanwhile, argues that the real social media battleground is not the original messages by protagonists in a conflict, but the commentary that stems from these messages. “What kind of conversations do the original messages stimulate on Facebook, Twitter, and their like?’, he asks in The Huffington Post.
VOX-Pol has started a weekly blog on its site discussing issues related to violent online political extremism. If your research is related to this topic, please take the opportunity to share your thoughts, ideas and findings on the VOX-Pol blog. Book reviews are welcome and we are also happy to cross-post your contributions to other blogs. Here are some of the blogs we posted recently:
The Online Life of a Modern Terrorist: Anders Behring Breivik’s Use of the Internet by Jacob Asland Ravndal
Review: Jihadi Culture on the World Wide Web by Anne Stenersen
We look forward to more such content from you. Details about how to submit can be found here.
VOX-Pol is also in the process of compiling an online bibliography of research related to violent online political extremism. If you know of any material, authored by you or by others, that should be included in the bibliography, please drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org. References for articles, chapters, reports, and books published in languages other than English—especially in other European languages—are particularly welcome.