This report outlines a prototype taxonomy for classifying terrorist and violent extremist content. It is designed to inform content moderation decisions made by social media platforms, including adjustments to the hash sharing database of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) which provides unique digital “fingerprints” of known terrorist content which has been removed from social media platforms.
In particular, this taxonomy is developed in recognition of ‘post-organisational’ violent extremism and terrorism – that is to say violent extremist and terrorism where the influence or direction of activity by particular groups or organisations is ambiguous or loose. Accordingly, it is designed to be group-agnostic and is instead shaped around analysis of content which is influential to violent extremism and terrorism beyond that produced by proscribed terrorist organisations.
The creation of this taxonomy was informed by analysis of content shared in post-organisational violent extremist and terrorist spaces online, and online material which has been referenced in the conviction of terror offenders in the United Kingdom and in inquiries into terrorist attacks. This included analysis of the ‘Terrorgram’ network of violent white supremacist channels on Telegram; the conviction of Jack Reed, the youngest individual to be convicted of terror offences in the UK; the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 2019 Christchurch attack; a cache of online content maintained by supporters of ISIS; and analysis of material referenced in the convictions of Islamist terrorists in the UK.
Based on assessments of these emblematic case studies relating to contemporary post-organisational terrorism our group-agnostic taxonomy divides violent extremist and terrorist content into three overarching categories: ‘inspirational’ content designed to reinforce a violent extremist mind-set; ‘ideological’ content designed to further a violent extremist world-view; and ‘instructional’ content designed to inform operational aspects of violent extremist activity.
This paper provides an overview of the taxonomy and the process behind its creation, a discussion of the parameters of content included in the content and ‘edge cases’, case studies demonstrating its application, and considerations around the its practical implementation.