Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 3 - VOX-POL (Virtual Centre of Excellence for Research in Violent Online Political Extremism)

Project Context and Objectives:
VOX-Pol is a 60-month, €5.13 million Network of Excellence project that integrates the world's leading researchers and research groups in Violent Online Political Extremism, to include those researching the intersection of terrorism and the Internet (incl. violent jihadists, violent separatists, etc.), the online activities of the extreme Right, the potential for violent online radicalisation, and related topics, in order to:

1. Create a sustainable critical mass of innovative activity among what is currently a burgeoning, but fragmented group of researchers and research topics;
2. Ensure that EU and Member State strategies and policies targeting violent online political extremism are based on concrete evidence, experience, and knowledge about the contours and workings of violent online political extremism thus increasing their likelihood of success.

VOX-Pol (Violent Online Political Extremism) is led by Dublin City University and has eight additional partner institutions: King's College London, University of Oxford, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Central European University, Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) at the University of Hamburg, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology-Delhi (IIITD), and University College London.

The VOX-Pol team is multi-disciplinary, drawing on Communications, Computer Science, Criminology, Ethics, International Relations, and Politics.

Since the project's kick-off in January 2014, VOX-Pol has been working to:

• Integrate and network the research activities of those, within the EU and globally, working in the area of violent online extremism;
• Create and develop long-term relationships between established national research groups, new researchers and research groups, security practitioners, the Internet industry, civil society, and policymakers;
• Produce new analytical tools and methodologies for research into the prevalence, contours, functions, and impacts of violent online political extremism;
• Raise awareness of the challenges of research and decision-making in this area by exploring the interplay of e-research ethics, privacy, surveillance, freedom of speech, and practices of and responses to violent online extremism and terrorism;
• Influence research agendas on the European and world stages in key aspects of violent online extremism and responses to it.
Project Results:
In February 2014, VOX-Pol launched a website, www.voxpol.eu, to disseminate information about the Network and its activities and provide visitors access to resources related to the field. In October 2014, a weekly Blog was added to the site, contributions to which are made by graduate students, faculty, independent and other researchers. By early September 2017, over 58,741 users from 181 countries had accessed VOX-Pol’s website over 52,785 times for over 137,500 pageviews.

VOX-Pol has also developed a substantial online social media presence, with accounts on Twitter, YouTube, and Storify. By early September 2017, @VOX_Pol had over 2,100 Followers on Twitter. What’s more, the YouTube channel hosts a collection of 89 videos related to research on violent online political extremism and terrorism, which have collectively been viewed over 6,400 times. In addition to social media, VOX-Pol also disseminates information on its activities and events to a wide audience through its Quarterly Newsletter, which has over 1,190 subscribers across the globe.

During the period from 1 July 2016 - 30 September 2017, VOX-Pol hosted eight events in five European cities: a Summer School in Budapest; the Lunch Briefing Series in Brussels; Joint INFOCORE, MeCoDEM and VOX-Pol Workshop on Social Media, Conflict and Democracy in Brussels; International seminar on ‘Turkey and the Middle East Crisis: What’s the Price of Stability?’ in Dublin; Workshop on Comparative Approaches to Understanding Violent and Non-Violent Online Extremism in London; Joint ASGARD, DANTE, TITANIUM, VALCRI and VOX-Pol Closed Workshop on Data Protection in Dublin; Joint VOX-Pol-Tech Against Terrorism Start-up Workshop in Dublin; and the final Training Academy in The Hague

Each event attracted the participation of substantial numbers of academics and researchers in fields related to violent online political extremism as well as law enforcement personnel, journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, policymakers and others professionally tasked in the area.

VOX-Pol has continued to update the Online Library on the website, which provides visitors with an easily accessible and searchable collection of publications related to violent online political extremism and terrorism. The Library contains links to hundreds of scientific journal articles, policy papers and reports, books, PhD theses, and other material.

VOX-Pol has also continued publishing its original research online and in hardcopy, with a number of new reports released and articles published. This includes a Year in Review, a report titled ‘Research Perspectives on Online Radicalisation: A Literature Review 2006–2016,’ and ‘Disrupting Daesh: Measuring Takedown of Online Terrorist Material and its Impacts.’

VOX-Pol’s Researcher Mobility Programme (RMP) was active throughout the review period. UOXF was pleased to host our 2016 - 2017 Research Fellow, Dr. Caterina Froio, for her 12-month posting.

VOX-Pol's growing profile has resulted in increased interest regarding the short-term opportunities provided by the RMP. Just one external research visit took place in Period 1, but 6 took place in Period 2. Five short term exchanges took place in Period 3.
Potential Impact:
VOX-Pol is expected to greatly improve integration of fragmented research in the field of violent online political extremism and boost related learning and training activities. As a consequence, VOX-Pol will significantly impact the future direction of this new field. It will also significantly influence European and global policy discussion on violent online political extremism, its impacts, and responses to it, as well as enhance teaching, learning, and training for PhD students, young researchers, and all those with professional interests in violent online political extremism MISM. At a technical level, VOX-Pol plans on harnessing and deploying several types of tools for analysis of online content, exploiting complementarity between text, audio, video, sentiment, and social network analysis applications, and eventually providing a Platform and services for data- driven empirical research on violent online political extremism. At the same time, the Network also has as a core mission consideration of the ethical quandaries faced by those researching and responding to violent online political extremism.

Research into violent online political extremism is still in its infancy. The careful combination of expertise and research institutes in the VOX-Pol consortium provides an effective way for the EU to lead the way on this topic. VOX-Pol is unique not just in its wide breadth and inter-disciplinarity, but also in its combination of technological tool deployment, training, and ethical aspects. We are confident that this effort will yield radically new research and analyses of violent online political extremism widely conceived and processes of violent online radicalisation particularly, thus helping to guarantee EU leadership in this research field while at the same time ensuring that policy on violent online political extremism violent online political extremism and surrounding issues is based on sound research and extensive, in-depth, and informed discussion of all relevant issues.

List of Websites:
http://voxpol.eu/

Reported by

DUBLIN CITY UNIVERSITY
Ireland
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