Work to predict extreme violence amongst online users wins MRS Presidents Medal

Congratulations to Dr Julia Ebner, Dr Chris Kavanagh & Prof Harvey Whitehouse, awarded MRS Presidents Medal at the  MRS and Research Live Awards 2023!

Their research uses linguistic markers to assess the risk of web users turning to extreme violence.


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President of MRS Saj Arshad presents award to Dr Julia Ebner & Prof Harvey Whitehouse


Their research develops a novel method of assessing the risk that online users will engage in acts of violent extremism based on linguistic markers detectable in terrorist manifestos. It involved comparative Natural Language Processing analysis  across 15 manifestos from violent to moderate political stances.  

The work confirmed the identification of linguistic markers for groups prone to acts of violent extremism. The assessment framework may prove useful to police and security professionals in helping assess the risk that online users will engage in offline violence.

Dr Ebner explained:

For our project, we analysed psycholinguistic patterns in terrorist manifestos and designed a violence risk framework which we then applied to a range of online groups. We hope that our work will inspire future research and will be helpful for the development of better tools to prevent acts of terrorism.

Prof Whitehouse added:

This work is in many ways the culmination of years of collaborative research on the psychological roots of violent extremism, showing how the fusion of personal and group identities can help to explain the willingness of some people to fight and die for a cause. Thanks to Dr Ebner's skills in studying how extremists communicate online, we may finally be able to use our theories to spot would-be attackers before it’s too late.


The Market Research Society (MRS) is the UK professional body for research, insight and analytics. 

Congratulations to the other finalists:

  • Colombe Ladreit, Bocconi University
  • The Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) (Heriot-Watt University) and GISS (Bremen)
  • University of Essex, iCARP and the National Institute for Health and Care Research