Call for Papers: Government, Industry, Civil Society Responses to Online Extremism

The process of radicalization still lacks clarity, and relies on theorizing that is rife with assumptions. Image of flowers left at London Bridge in June 2017, by Gerry Popplestone (Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

We are calling for articles for a Special Issue of the journal Policy & Internet on “Online Extremism: Government, Private Sector, and Civil Society Responses”, edited by Jonathan Bright and Bharath Ganesh, to be published in 2019. The submission deadline is October 30, 2018.

Issue Outline

Governments, the private sector, and civil society are beginning to work together to challenge extremist exploitation of digital communications. Both Islamic and right-wing extremists use websites, blogs, social media, encrypted messaging, and filesharing websites to spread narratives and propaganda, influence mainstream public spheres, recruit members, and advise audiences on undertaking attacks.

Across the world, public-private partnerships have emerged to counter this problem. For example, the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) organized by the UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate has organized a “shared hash database” that provides “digital fingerprints” of ISIS visual content to help platforms quickly take down content. In another case, the UK government funded ASI Data Science to build a tool to accurately detect jihadist content. Elsewhere, Jigsaw (a Google-owned company) has developed techniques to use content recommendations on YouTube to “redirect” viewers of extremist content to content that might challenge their views.

While these are important and admirable efforts, their impacts and effectiveness is unclear. The purpose of this special issue is to map and evaluate emerging public-private partnerships, technologies, and responses to online extremism. There are three main areas of concern that the issue will address:

(1) the changing role of content moderation, including taking down content and user accounts, as well as the use of AI techniques to assist;

(2) the increasing focus on “counter-narrative” campaigns and strategic communication; and

(3) the inclusion of global civil society in this agenda.

This mapping will contribute to understanding how power is distributed across these actors, the ways in which technology is expected to address the problem, and the design of the measures currently being undertaken.

Topics of Interest

Papers exploring one or more of the following areas are invited for consideration:

Content moderation

  • Efficacy of user and content takedown (and effects it has on extremist audiences);
  • Navigating the politics of freedom of speech in light of the proliferation of hateful and extreme speech online;
  • Development of content and community guidelines on social media platforms;
  • Effect of government policy, recent inquiries, and civil society on content moderation practices by the private sector (e.g. recent laws in Germany, Parliamentary inquiries in the UK);
  • Role and efficacy of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning in countering extremism.

Counter-narrative Campaigns and Strategic Communication

  • Effectiveness of counter-narrative campaigns in dissuading potential extremists;
  • Formal and informal approaches to counter narratives;
  • Emerging governmental or parastatal bodies to produce and disseminate counter-narratives;
  • Involvement of media and third sector in counter-narrative programming;
  • Research on counter-narrative practitioners;
  • Use of technology in supporting counter-narrative production and dissemination.

Inclusion of Global Civil Society

  • Concentration of decision making power between government, private sector, and civil society actors;
  • Diversity of global civil society actors involved in informing content moderation and counter-narrative campaigns;
  • Extent to which inclusion of diverse civil society/third sector actors improves content moderation and counter-narrative campaigns;
  • Challenges and opportunities faced by global civil society in informing agendas to respond to online extremism.

Submitting your Paper

We encourage interested scholars to submit 6,000 to 8,000 word papers that address one or more of the issues raised in the call. Submissions should be made through Policy & Internet’s manuscript submission system. Interested authors are encouraged to contact Jonathan Bright ( and Bharath Ganesh ( to check the suitability of their paper.

Special Issue Schedule

The special issue will proceed according to the following timeline:

Paper submission: 30 October 2018

First round of reviews: January 2019

Revisions received: March 2019

Final review and decision: May 2019

Publication (estimated): December 2019

The special issue as a whole will be published at some time in late 2019, though individual papers will be published online in EarlyView as soon as they are accepted.