Countering Online Propaganda and Extremism: The Dark Side of Digital Diplomacy, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Countering Online Propaganda and Extremism

The Dark Side of Digital Diplomacy, 1st Edition

Edited by Corneliu Bjola, James Pamment


214 pages | 20 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2018-12-07
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Exploring the ‘dark side’ of digital diplomacy, this volume highlights some of the major problems facing democratic institutions in the West and provides concrete examples of best practice in reversing the tide of digital propaganda.

Digital diplomacy is now part of the regular conduct of International Relations, but Information Warfare is characterised by the exploitation or weaponisation of media systems to undermine confidence in institutions: the resilience of open, democratic discourse is tested by techniques such as propaganda, disinformation, fake news, trolling and conspiracy theories. This book introduces a thematic framework by which to better understand the nature and scope of the threats that the weaponization of digital technologies increasingly pose to Western societies. The editors instigate interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration between scholars and practitioners on the purpose, methods and impact of strategic communication in the Digital Age and its diplomatic implications. What opportunities and challenges does strategic communication face in the digital context? What diplomatic implications need to be considered when governments employ strategies for countering disinformation and propaganda? Exploring such issues, the contributors demonstrate that responses to the weaponisation of digital technologies must be tailored to the political context that make it possible for digital propaganda to reach and influence vulnerable publics and audiences.

This book will be of much interest to students of diplomacy studies, counter-radicalisation, media and communication studies, and International Relations in general.


'Disinformation is a plague that resists efforts to eradicate it. Truth – a foundation of democratic discourse – is its principal victim. Countering Online Propaganda and Extremism presents thoughtful and comprehensive analyses of this phenomenon written by an all-star, multidisciplinary roster of experts. For anyone who is teaching courses about these matters or is just personally committed to preserving open and free debate about important issues, this book is essential reading.'-- Philip Seib, University of Southern California, USA

I highly recommend reading this book, if you want to know more about the dark side of digital diplomacy. The authors reveal how the use of digital technologies as disinformation and propaganda tools has started to threaten the global order. The book is a page-turner.'--Matti Saarelainen, Director of The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, Helsinki, Finland

'Countering Online Propaganda and Extremism is a remarkably prescient and prodigious interdisciplinary volume situating the catalytic challenge of disinformation – including its sources, its drivers, and its consequences – within a succinct conceptual framework that researchers, practitioners, and students will find tremendously useful. It weaves together policy and research expertise to tackle some remarkably thorny questions, ranging from attribution and deterrence, the line between public diplomacy and propaganda, the dark side of digital diplomacy to the value and character of moral authority in this space. The book has lasting power and will certainly serve as a cardinal text for all those interested in understanding, studying, and addressing the internecine threat disinformation presents to our democratic institutions.'-- Shawn Powers, Senior Advisor, Global Strategy & Innovation, US Agency for Global Media

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of tables

List of contributors


Introduction: the ‘dark side’ of digital diplomacy

Corneliu Bjola and James Pamment

Part I

Strategic communication

1 Propaganda as reflexive control: the digital dimension

Corneliu Bjola

2 Information influence in Western democracies: a model of systemic vulnerabilities

Howard Nothhaft, James Pamment, Henrik Agardh-Twetman and Alicia Fjällhed

3 A digital ménage à trois: strategic leaks, propaganda and journalism

Emma L. Briant and Alicia Wanless

4 The use of political communication by international organizations: the case of EU and NATO

Eva-Karin Olsson, Charlotte Wagnsson and Kajsa Hammargård

5 The unbearable thinness of strategic communication

Cristina Archetti

Part II

Countering violent extremism

6 The democratisation of hybrid warfare and practical approaches to defeat violent extremism in the Digital Age

Alicia Kearns

7 The aesthetics of violent extremist and counter-violent extremist communication

Ilan Manor and Rhys Crilley

8 Virtual violence: understanding the potential power of ISIS’ violent videos to buttress strategic narratives and persuade foreign recruits

Sean Aday

9 The battle for the battle of the narratives: sidestepping the double fetish of digital and CVE

Akil N. Awan, Alister Miskimmon and Ben O’Loughlin

Conclusion: rethinking strategic communication in the Digital Age

James Pamment and Corneliu Bjola

Works cited


About the Editors

Corneliu Bjola is Associate Professor in Diplomatic Studies at the University of Oxford and Chair of the Oxford Digital Diplomacy Research Group.

James Pamment is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Strategic Communication at Lund University, Sweden, and an external faculty member at the University of Southern California (USC) Center on Public Diplomacy.

About the Series

Routledge New Diplomacy Studies

This new series publishes theoretically challenging and empirically authoritative studies of the traditions, functions, paradigms and institutions of modern diplomacy. Taking a comparative approach, the New Diplomacy Studies series aims to advance research on international diplomacy, publishing innovative accounts of how “old” and 'new' diplomats help steer international conduct between anarchy and hegemony, handle demands for international stability vs. international justice, facilitate transitions between international orders, and address global governance challenges. Dedicated to the exchange of different scholarly perspectives, the series aims to be a forum for inter-paradigm and inter-disciplinary debates, and an opportunity for dialogue between scholars and practitioners.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / Diplomacy
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies