ISD Insights

Our newsletter that delivers all the latest research and ISD activities directly to your inbox
November, 2022
Insights No. 43

On the night of November 19, five people were killed and dozens injured in a mass shooting at an LGBTQ+ bar in Colorado Springs. The alleged shooter faces hate crime charges. Details continue to emerge, but the attack has exacerbated an already heated discourse. As ISD has noted, LGBTQ+ people in the US and elsewhere are increasingly being slurred as ‘groomers’ and ‘pedophiles’, with politicians and commentators invoking old baseless myths to roll back years of progress on rights and acceptance.

ISD found a substantial increase in engagement with posts using the terms ‘groomers’ and ‘pedophiles’ in the aftermath of the attack, as well as celebration from accelerationist neo-Nazi groups, and posts sympathetic to the attack from right-wing influencers.

 

Also in this newsletter:

  • Colorado Springs shooting: The latest in a transnational, upward trend of anti-LGBTQ hate
  • What the UK migrant centre attack tells us about contemporary extremism trends
  • Explainer spotlight: Sovereign Citizens movement
  • ISD analysts feature in news pieces from Mother Jones, MSNC, Euro News, Axios and more.
Read More

November, 2022
Insights No. 42

ISD and CASM Technology are pleased to announce the launch of our Beam website. Beam began as a partnership between ISD and CASM in 2015 which, from the beginning, had two key emphases: the capability to detect information threats at scale, and empowering more effective ways of responding to them. Since then, our award-winning technology has paved the way for researchers to custom design their own data collection and analysis ‘architectures’ by bringing data from various social media platforms under a single format. Users can then categorise data, analyse behaviour and identify trends among communities. Information can be synthesised into outputs including dashboards, data visualisations, regular reporting and alerts. This technology has been the basis for investigations of election disinformation in the US, Australia and France; information operations and disinformation about the Ukraine and Syria conflicts; climate disinformation in and around COP26 and COP27; and more. More information on Beam and how to get involved is available on our website.

 

Also in this newsletter:

  • Election disinformation thrives following social media platforms’ shift to short-form video content
  • Social media platforms and the drop box monitoring ecosystem
  • Explainer feature on the ‘New World Order’
  • ISD analysts feature in news pieces from BBC Panorama, POLITICO, Bloomberg, AP, the Washington Post and more.
Read More

November, 2022
Insights No. 41

As the US midterms approach, ISD analysts are monitoring threats to officials, election workers and voters, across a range of online spaces, with increased concern. On the same day as Head of Elections Jiore Craig spoke to CNN about the risks posed by poll watchers, a man allegedly sought to kidnap or assassinate Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Suspect David DePape is alleged to have attacked her husband with a hammer and has being charged with, among other things, attempted murder. ISD’s analysis of suspect DePape’s online footprint and conspiratorial beliefs led ABC News’ coverage of the attack.

 

Also in this newsletter:

  • 100 Days after US Supreme Court decision overturns Roe v. Wade: Are platforms doing enough?
  • First evaluation of London’s Shared Endeavour Fund: £800,000 awarded to 31 projects addressing intolerance, hate & extremism
  • ISD Germany researches right-wing extremist online subcultures: reports now available in English
  • Climate Action Against Disinformation’s (CAAD) COP27 Intelligence Unit, overseen by ISD, launches its COP27 newsletter
Read More

October, 2022
Insights No. 40

New research from ISD highlights the failure of social media platforms to set policy, and act, on abortion misinformation. In the aftermath of the leaking of the US Supreme Court’s decision on the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which had the effect of overturning Roe v Wade, misinformation about abortions as well as about ‘abortion reversal’ pills and procedures ran rampant across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

 

As the US midterms loom, platforms are under pressure to make the right calls on preventing the spread of mis- and disinformation about the elections. Their reaction to the overturning of Roe v Wade and the resulting huge change in access to abortions for many, is in some sense a test-run for this. The platforms had substantial notice that this outcome was likely, and therefore had time to create and enforce policies on misinformation about abortion. They mostly failed to adopt policies to deal with this, and where they did so those policies were inadequately enforced. This does not bode well for the likelihood that they will act decisively on mis- and disinformation related to the midterms. This is especially concerning given the importance of these midterms, which will act as an inflection point for the survival of American democracy itself.

 

Also in this newsletter:

  • Violence in Leicester, UK: Understanding online escalation and offline fallout
  • Eight trends from election denialists to watch in the US midterm elections
  • How QAnon conspiracy theories legitimise coordinated and targeted gender-based violence
  • Have the EU sanctions against Russian-state media worked? ISD finds steady website traffic & circumvention methods at play
  • Inside the ‘Journalisten Friekorps’, a pro-Kremlin influence operation
Read More

October, 2022
Insights No. 39

ISD CEO Sasha Havlicek was honoured to address the Christchurch Call Leaders’ Summit, convened by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron in New York during the margins of the UN General Assembly on 20 September. The two-hour roundtable brought together heads of state, including from Canada, Spain and Jordan, alongside senior representatives from social media platforms and civil society for a frank discussion of the Call’s progress in addressing terrorist and violent extremist activity online.

 

Drawing on ISD’s extensive digital research in this domain, Sasha spoke to the enduring challenges of platform moderation of such content, especially in non-English speaking contexts. She called for better data access for independent, third party review of social media platform algorithmic systems: ISD has long advocated for meaningful transparency and accountability of platform systems including independent audits to assess the extent of algorithmic amplification of harmful content. Sasha underscored the need to better understand the role of algorithms in the promotion of borderline content – such as disinformation, hate and conspiracy – that can lead users to more extreme content online and can itself inspire violence. She advocated for the extension of data access rules coming into effect under the EU’s Digital Services Act to other liberal democratic environments.

 

Also in this newsletter:

  • Pro-Kremlin network impersonates legitimate websites and floods social media with lies
  • Understanding Italian pro-Kremlin Twitter users’ behaviour in the lead up to the elections
  • How Eric Zemmour’s election campaign used petitions to distort online support ahead of the French elections
  • ISD panels several sessions at the 2022 Eradicate Hate Global Summit
  • ISD staff feature in articles and news segments such as WaPo, Insider, USA Today, Grid News, Le Monde, ZDF, the Irish Examiner and more.
Read More

September, 2022
Insights No. 38

ISD released a new report detailing the depth and breadth of the ecosystem of pro-Islamic State ‘media outlets’ across social media. Our study, “The Terror Times“, authored by Moustafa Ayad, ISD Executive Director for Africa, Middle East and Asia, and researchers Nadeem Khan and Aymenn al-Tamimi, found 38 outlets across Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram, with a collective following of 108,268. Some of the posts from these pages had garnered over a million views in a year, a number far larger than their following, indicating their propaganda has spread much wider than their core audience.

 

This report details the resilience mechanisms pro-Islamic State outlets are using to remain online despite the moderation efforts of social media companies. It also provides key recommendations for how both tech companies and governments can tackle the problem of terrorist propaganda being spread online.

 

Also in this newsletter:

  • Dispatch: Unpicking pro-Kremlin attempts to link the Baltic States with Nazism
  • Dispatch: The conversation about Australia’s Indigenous Voice to Parliament is at risk from disinformation and conspiracy theories
  • ISD research featured in articles and news segments such as  CBS’s Face the Nation, ABC, Insider, DW and more.
Read More

August, 2022
Insights No. 37

A mere handful of Western influencers who are spreading pro-Kremlin misinformation about the war in Ukraine are enabling Russia to circumvent attempts to prevent its spread. ISD researchers identified 12 influencers from eight Western countries who have been reporting from Ukraine. The influencers have successfully amplified pro-Kremlin narratives, reaching hundreds of millions worldwide. Their content also features copies of Russian state media outputs, such as RT videos, which allows them to evade platform moderation and automatic disclaimer labels. Their posts have also been boosted by various Russian actors, such as government officials, diplomatic accounts and state media actors. To read this report, please contact us here.

 

Also in this newsletter:

  • Monkeypox and ‘groomers’: How Twitter facilitated a hate-riddled public health disinformation campaign
  • Error 404: RELIABLE INFORMATION NOT FOUND
  • The impact of election disinformation narratives on France’s online communities
  • Russian sympathisers label Finland fascist following its bid to join NATO
  • Tales from the underside: A Kremlin-approved hack, leak & doxxing operation
  • Intimidation tactics: A case study of digital violence against election candidates
  • ISD staff feature in articles and news segments such as  C-SPAN, NPRSalonNewsy, The HillNew Lines, Yahoo News and Insider.
Read More

August, 2022
Insights No. 36

The rights of LGBTQ+ people in the US are under sustained assault from far-right pundits, politicians and social media influencers.

 

These groups are using the monkeypox outbreak as a new opportunity to attack these people. ISD Analyst Aoife Gallagher wrote about the failure of Twitter to take seriously the threat to LGBTQ+ people posed by public health disinformation narratives attempting to link monkeypox in children to sexual contact with gay men. This ties in to the homophobic ‘groomer’ narrative, pioneered by the Twitter account ‘Libs of TikTok’, which directs a swarm of followers towards, among others, teachers in the US who are openly LGBTQ+, accusing them of ‘grooming’ their students.

 

Also in this newsletter:

  • Contextualising rhetoric around ‘fascism’ targeting Ukraine and Western support
  • A snapshot of pro-Kremlin narratives framing NATO as a ‘neo-Nazi’ and ‘White Supremacist’ organisation
  • The aftermath of pandemic disinformation trends: what can be done now?
  • Odysee, the latest right-wing extremist alt-platform with a twist
  • ISD staff feature in articles and news segments such as  LBC, Irish Examiner, Guardian, Washington Post and CNN.
Read More

August, 2022
Insights No. 35

In July, ISD’s Head of Digital Integrity, Jiore Craig, testified before the U.S. House Committee on Administration on the growing threat of election disinformation from foreign and domestic sources. Domestic disinformation targeting voters remains a substantial threat to democracy. It is critical for platforms and policymakers to address systemic failures rather than focusing on content alone.

Jiore told Congress, “We cannot just debate which meme is more rooted in fact, or we will stay frozen in false debate around content where only those benefitting from disinformation win and the American people lose. We need to debate which systems at play in disinformation should change to end the downward spiral of trust that Americans have started to have in their own democracy and even more important, in each other”.

 

The full hearing, including Jiore’s statement and answers to questions by members of the Committee, is available on ISD’s website.

 

Also in this newsletter:

 

  • Propaganda primping: The ‘Kremlinistas’ of Twitter
  • RT articles are finding their way to European audiences – but how?
  • Iraqi gun sales on Facebook: The very real consequences of moderation failures
  • Researching the evolving online ecosystem: barriers, methods and future challanges
  • The impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on French-speaking fringe communities online
  • The 2022 French elections expose the divisions wrought by the pandemic
  • Our staff feature in various media pieces including POLITICO, the New York Times, the AD,  Axios, and El País.
Read More

July, 2022
Insights No. 34

On 4th July, a shooter opened fire at a parade in Highland Park, Chicago, killing seven. ISD’s rapid response and analysis identified this as a clear example of the awful form that hybridised threats to democracy can take. The suspect has no explicit ideological motive. He was, instead, immersed in communities that glorify violence, as explained by Melanie Smith, Head of ISD’s Digital Analysis Unit, in an interview with NPR. This shooter’s actions resemble more those of a school shooter than a typical terrorist, but the deadly effects are the same.

 

The Highland Park shooting underlines how critical it is to better understand the hybridised nature of the online threat landscape. ISD’s report Mainstreamed Extremism and the Future of Prevention outlines the very real risks that this folding together of extreme ideologies and aesthetics, simmering hatred, and ubiquitous conspiracy theories, pose to democracy.

 

Also in this newsletter:

  • Our analysis of deadly disinformation about Syria
  • Russia Today digs deep to stay on YouTube
  • The ‘Info Defense’ network: Crowdsourcing soldiers for the information war
  • ISD insights features in various media pieces including leading German investigative TV magazine ARD Kontraste, Bloomberg, VICE and NPR.
Read More

July, 2022
Insights No. 33

During the recent French elections, Russia’s ability to undermine the legitimacy of the presidental and parliamentary elections through social media manipulation was dampened. This was mainly thanks to the EU-wide ban on its state-controlled media as a result of its invasion of Ukraine.

 

However, elections remain a moment when social media’s vulnerability to manipulation to bad actors is exposed. It is heartening therefore that this recently published report by the Online Election Integrity Watch Group, in which ISD participates, showed that the impact of attempts to manipulate the information environment during the French elections was limited. This was primarily due to a more robust information ecosystem that is structurally difficult to manipulate without a substantial resource investment. Our recently released report explains why bad actors were unable to impact the election.

 

Nevertheless, pro-Kremlin information operations are continuing. An ISD investigation explored how Project Nemesis, a pre-Kremlin doxxing operation, is being used in Ukraine, with doxxing – the malicious sharing of opponents’ personal information – rapdily becoming a new frontier of informational warfare. Also in this newsletter:

Read More

June, 2022
Insights No. 32

During COP26, ISD’s “war room” monitored online climate mis- and disinformation content intended to undermine climate action. This work put climate disinformation on the map, with the most recent IPCC report referring for the first time to deliberate attempts to undermine climate science by those with vested economic and political interests. This week, ISD followed up with a major report, Deny, deceive, delay: Documenting and responding to climate disinformation at COP26 and beyond, launched at the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. The report maps and analyses the climate disinformation ecosystem, and provides recommendations for actions by policymakers, regulators and tech companies.

 

Also this week, we launched a report based on two years of research into terrorist content on Facebook in East Africa. This report documents the unmoderated and unchecked spread of pro-al-Shabaab and Islamic State content on the platform and beyond. Also in this newsletter:

  • Amnesty International released a statement expressing concern over our findings in East Africa, and calling on Facebook and government agencies to assist in mitigating further threats to digital democracies.
  • Dispatch: Unsubstantiated claims of foreign meddling will sow division and damage democracy
  • Antisemitic hate network manipulates media coverage to amplify its propaganda
  • ISD joined the Spotify Safety Advisory Council
  • ISD analysts offer commentary in various media pieces including The Conduit, Radio Télévision Suisse, the BBC, Newsweek.

 

Read More

June, 2022
Insights No. 31

Conspiracy theories “thrive” in the immediate aftermath of a crisis, said ISD’s Head of Analysis Unit Melanie Smith in a conversation with Grid News about the horrific Uvalde, Texas, school shooting in late May. Following the tragedy that left 21 dead, including 19 children, fringe media and extremists once again began to post “false flag” operation narratives and revived other theories related to the timing the massacre.

 

But this pattern isn’t limited to events like these. Since our last Insights, ISD has been monitoring online discourse related to the ongoing outbreak of monkeypox. In a recent Dispatch, we outline the most prominent conspiracy theories from right after the outbreaks began and found they were “cut-and-paste” versions of COVID-19 narratives that emerged in 2020. In similar fashion, following the defeat of Australia’s self-described “freedom friendly minor parties”, many in Australia adopted US fraud narratives to justify their almost-complete loss. Also in this newsletter:

 

  • The ‘Great Reset’ conspiracy in Australia
  • What China’s sweeping algorithm regulation means for digital governance globally
  • Russian propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine spreads on Facebook around Victory Day
  • ISD analysts offer commentary in various media pieces including Grid News, the BBC, ABC News and VICE News.

 

Read More

May, 2022
Insights No. 30

Following the 14 May act of terrorism in Buffalo, New York, ISD analysed the resulting discussion online. We produced a Dispatch on the attempts made by a variety of actors to link the perpetrator to Azov Battalion, a regiment in the Ukrainian army with white supremacist links. Much like other recent acts of white supremacist terrorism, the shooter claims to have been inspired by the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory. ISD has warned that this is becoming increasingly mainstreamed in 2019 in the aftermath of the Christchurch attack. This attack and the ecosystem in which the shooter was radicalised demonstrate the hybrid nature of the threat: extremist ideology, bolstered by radicalised conspiracy theories, motivated by hate. We will continue to work tirelessly to mitigate these threats. Also in this newsletter:

  • Our practical guide to tackling antisemitism is now available in German
  • Dark MAGA: The latest cycle in the far-right aesthetics laundromat
  • Unprompted and unwarranted: YouTube’s algorithm is putting young men at risk in Australia
  • After Bucha, here’s what to expect from the next phase of Russian disinformation in Ukraine
  • YouTube’s Super Chats tool enables the platform to profit from misinformation
  • ISD features in various media pieces including, Channel 4, BBC World News, VICE News, Tortoise, NBC, and Bloomberg.
Read More

May, 2022
Insights No. 29

Given the ongoing war in Ukraine, ISD is continuing to analyse Russian information operations. We have identified the origins of the #IStandWithRussia campaign, explored an antisemitic conspiracy theory being used to justify the invasion, and uncovered a network of Twitter accounts that appeared to have been hijacked to spread pro-Chinese Communist Party narratives including blaming the US for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Also in this newsletter:

Read More

April, 2022
Insights No. 28

ISD has launched a new hub to keep up with the latest in our analysis of the Russia-Ukraine war, focusing on online disinformation, conspiracy theories and extremist mobilisation. Since the last edition of Insights, we’ve explored how pro-Putin “power-users” are faking grassroots support for the Kremlin on Facebook; shown that the most shared posts on the Bucha atrocities on Facebook engaged in war crimes denialism; and analysed the consequences the RT and Sputnik ban is having in France during the election period.

In the media, ISD’s Ciarán O’Connor is featured in a VICE documentary about the anti-government ‘Sovereign-Citizen’ movement, while Julia Smirnova spoke to VICE News about a pro-Kremlin ‘cyber army’  movement, and Jiore Craig featured on Australian national broadcaster ABC, explaining our new project to track disinformation around the Australian elections. Also in this newsletter:

For more of our ongoing Russia-Ukraine analysis, visit our regularly updated hub.

Read More

April, 2022
Insights No. 27

ISD continues to monitor the situation in Ukraine and the spread of disinformation by pro-Kremlin actors in Russia and abroad. Our latest research shows how the war has sparked an influx of disinformation among conspiracy groups, and how a network of accounts linked with the Chinese Communist Party is supporting Putin’s war. We also explore the policy precedent set by the banning of RT and Sputnik across Europe.

 

ISD’s Ciarán O’Connor appeared on a panel discussing the narratives being pushed by Russia and Ukraine, while Tim Squirrell spoke to UnHerd about the splits that may be created within the far-right because of the war, and Jasmine El-Gamal wrote an op-ed about the future of refugee policy within Europe after the exodus of millions of Ukrainians fleeing the conflict. Also in this newsletter:

For more of our ongoing Russia-Ukraine analysis, visit our newly launched hub.

Read More

March, 2022
Insights No. 26

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its second month, ISD is focussing on the concurrent information war. Our research shows how pro-Kremlin narratives are seeping into the mainstream, slowly engraining into conspiracy groups, exploiting wedge issues to create a chaotic information environment and prevent public opinion hardening against Russia.

 

We’ve exposed how RT is circumventing social media restrictions with the assistance of their fanbase, and the Kremlin’s use of traditional Cold War propaganda in the form of ‘whataboutisms’. Our CEO Sasha Havlicek appeared on Radio 4’s Today discussing the last two decades of Western response to Putin, while Julia Smirnova helped the Washington Post debunk a viral video claiming the death of a German boy was caused by Ukrainian refugees, and Elise Thomas spoke with the New York Times about the Kremlin’s pragmatic approach to propaganda narratives. Also in this newsletter:

  • QAnon’s imminent pro-China shift?
  • Gettr’s failure to launch in France and Germany
  • Anti-lockdown analysis: US and Italy
  • New war, old Soviet propaganda tactic: ‘whataboutism’
  • Why Western conspiracy influencers are promoting pro-Kremlin propaganda

ISD News:

  • Webinar alert: The Strong Cities Network invites you to their next Together for Safety series webinar, Safe City Governance: The Role of Networks and Alliances, on 7 April. More info here.

For more of our ongoing Russia-Ukraine analysis, visit our regularly updated hub.

Read More

March, 2022
Insights No. 25

The ISD team has been mobilising its counter-disinformation operation around the unfolding human tragedy in Ukraine, which will shape our geopolitical landscape for decades to come.

We are providing continuous analysis across our areas of expertise, focusing on the spread of disinformation on TikTokFacebook and Telegram, while also identifying pro-Kremlin influence operations on Twitter. Our CEO, Sasha Havlicek, joined Sky News’ ‘The Great Debate’ discussing the Ukraine/Russia conflict, while Julia Smirnova helped POLITICO understand how Telegram has become a central hub for Russian state narratives, and Ciaran O’Connor spoke to AP News about his research on pro-Kremlin disinformation on TikTok. Also in this newsletter:

  • Hate and harassment during the 2021 German federal elections
  • Conspiracy clickbait networks seize opportunity to run ‘Freedom convoy’ Facebook groups
  • The problem with preprints

ISD News:

  • Last call for our final session of the Be Internet Citizens programme
  • Webinar alerts: Conversions & convergence: Side-switching extremists and the threat of reciprocal radicalisation (16 March); Safeguarding Local Democracies (17 March).
  • Podcast: Jennie King talks to Stop Funding Heat about the latest trends in climate mis- and disinformation.
Read More

February, 2022
Insights No. 24

In this issue of Insights, ISD reports on two years of research on Australian political fringes, analyses identitarian mobilisation around the 2022 French presidential election, tracks growing online sales of fake COVID-19 health passes in France, and takes an in-depth look at German-language antisemitic YouTube video comments. Also in this newsletter:

Events:

Media: 

  • Ciarán O’Connor speaks to France 24 on the connections between the Canadian truckers’ convoy, the North American far right, and how that translates across the Atlantic.
  • ISD’s CEO Sasha Havlicek featured on BBC Radio 4’s series ‘Death by Conspiracy’ to talk about the changing social media landscape, algorithms and the pressure the pandemic put on existing models.
  • Elise Thomas features in Australia’s national broadcaster’s (ABC) 7.30 on the ‘Canberra Convoy,’ discussing the eclectic nature of the protests taking place in the country’s capital, a movement that may be small in numbers but loud in significance.
  • Moustafa Ayad spoke to POLITICO about ISD’s research into online Islamist networks on mainstream social media, despite platform policies banning extremist content.
Read More

February, 2022
Insights No 23
In this issue of Insights, ISD tracks the uptick in far-right Identitarian activity during the ongoing French presidential campaign; releases two new country profiles in the anti-lockdown series; and offers analysis and commentary on the Canadian truckers’ convoy and its international copies. Also in this newsletter:

Events: 

Media: 

  • Ciaran O’Connor speaks to POLITICO on how support for the Canadian truckers’ convoy from U.S. political figures and content creators gave the protests the push needed to appeal to a global audience.
  • Iris Boyer and Zoe Fourel were featured by Ouest France regarding their research on the sale of French COVID-19 vaccination certificates across social media platforms.
  • Tim Squirrell spoke to LBC about mainstreamed extremist narratives in the wake of the confrontation of Sir Keir Starmer outside of Parliament after false accusations that he chose not to prosecute Jimmy Savile.
  • Simeon Dukic discusses leading ISD research on online extremism in North Macedonian during a television interview with Sitel TV.
Read More

January, 2022
Insights No 22

Highlights:

In this issue of Insights, ISD sheds light on the highly lucrative business behind conspiracy clickbait, exposes signals of coordinated behaviour between pro-CCP influencers and analyses Novak Djokovic’s influence in the Australian anti-vaxx sceneAlso in this newsletter:

Events: 

  • Strong Cities Network webinar on 2 February: Rehabilitation & reintegration of family members of foreign terrorist fighters: the roles of cities and other local actors. Sign up here.
  • ISD’s Jiore Craig joins Doctors for America for a virtual event on 10 February. Sign up here.

Media: 

  • Aoife Gallagher and Ciarán O’Connor spoke with VICE News about the recent controversy surrounding Djokovic’s vaccine status at the 2022 Australian Open.
  • ISD’s Tim Squirrell comments to The Guardian about the need for support services “and other kinds of non-securitised intervention” for at-risk young men in online incel forums who are instead getting caught up in counter-terrorism programmes.
  • Analyst Richard Kuchta spoke with RTVS, the national Slovak broadcaster, about how social media bans are rarely applied in cases of community standard violations as platforms attempt to retain users from going elsewhere.
  • Speaking with AP News on his latest reportCiarán O’Connor explains how COVID-19 fears have ultimately been exploited by conspiracists to attract new recruits “whose loyalty may outlast the pandemic.”
Read More

January, 2022
ISD’s Year Ahead: 2022

In this special issue, we share with you an exciting preview of what lies ahead in 2022 across our regional teams, research and programming, and hope you’ll join us as we continue to work for a brighter and more hopeful year! 

 

With 2021 now in the rearview, our teams are gearing up to bring you the latest analyses around disinformation, hate and extremism in numerous spheres and as many countries prepare for election years. We are particularly excited about the expansion of ISD-US in 2022, and the Strong Cities Network soon to be running regional hubs in the Balkans, West Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Here are some highlights from this issue:

Read More

December, 2021
Insights No 21

Highlights:

In this issue of Insights, ISD breaks down the anti-lockdown movements in Canada and Ireland, releases a prototype taxonomy for classifying terrorist and violent extremist content, and lays bare a global network pushing to undermine women’s and LGBTQ+ rights in Hungary. Also in this newsletter:

Events:

  • ISD’s Milo Comerford and Moustafa Ayad were hosted by the Program on Extremism at George Washington University for a virtual discussion event on Salafism and Alt-Right Online Subcultures.
  • Jennie King, who recently led ISD’s efforts in tracking climate change misinformation during COP26, joins Kantar Public experts to discuss climate change disinformation.

ISD in the Media:

  • Moustafa Ayad wrote an op-ed for WIRED about Gen-Z jihadists and the varying aspects that influence their outlooks and social media use as the post-September 11 generation.
  • ISD’s Jacob Davey spoke with Sky News on their investigation into openly available antisemitic, racist, and generally extremist podcast material on Spotify.
  • Aoife Gallagher features in this article by VICE News on the growing interconnectedness between the far-right and antivaccine movements in countries around the world.
  • ISD’s Paula Matlach spoke with the Berliner Morgenpost on our findings from the 2021 German federal elections.
Read More

December, 2021
Shutterstock
Insights No 20

Highlights:
In this issue of Insights, ISD sheds light on a significant but little-known extremist ecosystem on Instagram, the German far-right’s tactics during the recent federal elections, and how to better detect hate speech on video platforms like YouTubeAlso in this newsletter: 

Events:

  • As part of the United States Summit for Democracy series, ISD brought together experts for a closed discussion on the issue of data provision from online platforms for research.
  • Our Strong Cities Network hosted the virtual Africa Summit: Supporting City-Led Efforts to Address Hate, Polarisation and Extremism, alongside the County Government of Mombasa and the Kilindini Coalition. 
  • On 1 December, ISD convened government officials and regulators from Five Eyes and European countries for a session of the Digital Policy Lab focused on threats to election integrity.
  • As part of a project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV), ISD Germany recently held its first annual expert conference “In the Blind Spot – How Right-Wing Extremists Use Alternative Online Platforms for Radicalisation” in Berlin.

ISD in the Media:

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November, 2021
Shutterstock
Insights No 19

Highlights:
In this issue of Insights, ISD takes a deeper look at the rapidly evolving online Salafi ecosystem, uncovers the re-emergence of a pro-Russian propaganda outlet on Facebook, and finds that TikTok is failing to tag almost 60% of COVID-19 vaccine-related content, while YouTube is failing to remove antivaxx misinformation more broadly. Also in this newsletter: 

Events:

ISD in the Media:

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November, 2021
Shutterstock
Insights No 18

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

  • ISD’s Jennie King and Chloe Colliver joined the EU Disinfo Lab’s annual conference in their return to physical format in Brussels.
  • Our Jacob Davey participated in the opening conference of RUSI’s Far-Right Extremism and Terrorism (FRET) Research Programme. Watch it here.

ISD in the Media:

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October, 2021
Shutterstock
Insights No 17

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media:

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September, 2021
Shutterstock
Insights No 16

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

  • Web panel: ISD’s Sasha Havlicek on the threat of disinformation to European Democracy
  • Event: A plan for action: Ten years since the terrorist attacks in Norway

ISD in the Media:

  • Sky News, “What is the legacy of 9/11?” – our CEO, Sasha Havlicek, sat down with Sky News to speak about the legacy of the ‘War on Terror.’ Watch it here.
  • ARD Media Thek (German), “Die Story im Ersten: Wahlkampf undercover” – ISD’s Chloe Colliver and Jakob Guhl are featured in a documentary following PR firms’ interests and involvement with political parties around elections.
  • POLITICO, “Jihadists flood pro-Trump social network with propaganda” – Moustafa Ayad comments on the Islamists extremists exploiting GETTR, the alt-right social media platform started by Trump’s inner circle.
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July, 2021
Hernán Piñera
Insights No 15

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media:

  • BBC’s Newsnight, Chloe Colliver speaks with Newsnight about the risks of radicalization, and radicalization toward violence, after prolonged exposure to extremists and disinformation narratives such as antivaxx conspiracies.
  • The Wall Street Journal, “After Trump Ban, Facebook Oversight Panel Pushes for More Say” – Our CEO Sasha Havlicek comments on Facebook’s Oversight Board and how it could better orient its focus toward its business practices, the design of its product and algorithms.
  • POLITICO, “Voter fraud misinformation gains momentum in Germany” – Julia Smirnova and Chloe Colliver spoke with POLITICO about ISD‘s research on the far-right and voter fraud narratives in Germany ahead of nationwide elections.
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June, 2021
Insights No 14

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media:

  • BBC News Africa, “The Door Closed and Then I Heard the Shots” – Aoife Gallagher contributes to a short documentary on a fatal shooting by the Gardaí (Irish police) and the role of disinformation in the case.
  • POLITICO, “Boris Johnson’s phone number breach fails to prompt tighter security” – Daniel Maki talks with Politico about how government officials should use disposable burners in order to deter hackers.
  • The Irish Times, “Why are women more hesitant to get the Covid-19 vaccine?” – Cecile Guerin quoted in this article looking at COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among women.
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May, 2021
Photo: Hello I'm Nik
Insights No 13

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media:

  • Tortoise Media, “Climate is the new front in the culture wars” – A long read article by Jennie King outlining how climate disinformation is the next big topic to be exploited by extremists to serve their interests.
  • Bild, “Antisemitische Hetze bleibt oft unbestraft” – Coverage of ISD’s research on antisemitic online hate speech in Germany, with comment from Huberta von Voss of ISD Germany.
  • USA Today, “Is Amazon recommending books on QAnon and white nationalism? Browsing books can lead to extremist rabbit hole” – Chloe Colliver discusses ISD’s recent report on Amazon algorithms promotion of extremist content.
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April, 2021
Insights No 12

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media:

  • The Times (UK), “Facebook ads lure users to conspiracy videos” – Milo Comerford remarks on how anti-vaxx and conspiracy-laden ads target users in Ireland through Facebook.
  • The Independent, “QAnon: How the US Satanic paedophile cult conspiracy theory took root in Europe” – Jakob Guhl comments on QAnon’s resonance in Germany
  • Vice, “Canadian Facebook Groups Spreading Anti-Vax Conspiracies Jumped by Almost 50%: Study” – More coverage of ISD’s COVID-19 disinformation monitor for Canada, as seen in Digital Dispatches.
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February, 2021
Insights No 11

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media:

  • CNN, Don Lemon Tonight: Chloe Colliver spoke to Don Lemon as a featured guest on January 15th and January 21st
  • Cécile Guerin talks about the interaction between the yoga world and QAnon from her personal experience in Wired
  • BBC News, “Biden inauguration: What are far-right Trump supporters saying?” – Ciaran O’Connor looks at the aftermath of the Biden inauguration and its effect on the far right.
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January, 2021
photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona
Insights No 10

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media:

  • New York Times, “QAnon is still spreading on Facebook, despite a ban.” – Exclusive coverage of ISD’s reporting with NewsGuard on QAnon and Facebook
  • Slate, “Keep Calm and QAnon” – Amarnath Amarasingam writes on how pro-Trump conspiracy theories may have actually discouraged postelection violence
  • GNET Research, “Digital Extremism in German-Speaking Countries During the COVID-19 Crisis” – Op-ed by ISD’s Jakob Guhl covering research on the COVID-19 crisis in Germany

 

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November, 2020
Photo by NeONBRAND
Insights No 9

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media:

  • BBC Two’s “In the Face of Terror” features Jacob Davey and the digital analysis team (UK only)
  • BBC News “The TikTok Election,” features Jennie King, Chloe Colliver, and Ciaran O’Connor
  • NBC News, “Tech platforms continue to let U.S.-based hate groups use them to make payments” – Jacob Davey discusses ISD’s recent report, “Bankrolling Bigotry.”
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October, 2020
Image by visuals/unsplash
Insights No 8

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media:

  • BBC World Service, Newshour – Rashad Ali speaks on on the arrest of a hoax ISIS foreign fighter in Canada (Listen from 14:00).
  • National Public Radio, “Social Media Companies Brace For Post-Election Threats” – Chloe Colliver discusses what social media platforms should be doing to respond to election misinformation and voter suppression.
  • The Today Show (NBC) – Aoife Gallagher discusses the rise of QAnon and Facebook’s recent ban of QAnon content.
Read More

September, 2020
Insights No 7

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media:

  • CNN.com: ISD’s Farah Pandith on what we’ve learned 19 years after the September 11th attacks.
  • BBC Click: ISD’s Moustafa Ayad and Carl Miller discuss the finding of the largest ISIS digital archive online
  • The Real Story, BBC World Service: ISD’s Aoife Gallagher joins a panel of experts to discuss whether QAnon is a harmless online fantasy or a dangerous threat to truth, democracy and public safety around the world.
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August, 2020
Insights No 6

Highlights

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media:

  • The Stream, Al Jazeera: ISD’s Moustafa Ayad and Amar Amarasingam discuss the ways ISIS are resurging amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Scope, Indus News: ISD’s Zahed Amanullah speaks to Pakistan’s Indus News on on anti-Muslim Covid-19 related racism in the UK.
  • News at Ten, BBC: ISD’s Chloe Colliver speaks to BBC’s News at Ten about privacy and security concerns regarding TikTok and the Chinese government.
Read More

July, 2020
Image by Lewis Parsons
Insights No 5

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media: 

  • BBC News: Chloe Colliver, head of digital policy & analysis, joined Facebook’s vice president of northern europe to discuss a growing advertising boycott over hate speech and misinformation on its platform.
  • RTE: Milo Comerford, Senior Policy Manager, spoke about Ireland’s ‘new nationalists’ and their relationship to the transnational far-right.
  • BBC News: Two decades on, Sasha Havlicek, CEO, discussed the difference between the War on Terror’s rhetoric and reality with Security Correspondent Frank Gardner
Read More

June, 2020
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra
Insights No 4

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

  • Podcast: Julia Ebner (Senior Research Fellow) talked to Hannah MacInnes (journalist) about what she discovered on her journey undercover in extremist circles for How To Academy

ISD in the Media:

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May, 2020
Insights No 3

Highlights:

Speaking engagements: 

ISD in the Media: 

 

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May, 2020
Insights No 2

Highlights:

Speaking engagements: 

ISD in the Media:

  • ISD’s Digital Analysis Unit provided data and commentary to the New York Times for its article The Coronavirus Becomes a Battle Cry for U.S. Extremists.
  • BBC News interviewed Chloe Colliver in a report examining the sources and spread of misinformation online about the pandemic.
  • Sasha Havlicek (CEO) joined Damian Collins MP and journalist Edward Lucas on the Infotagion podcast to discuss state-sponsored disinformation surrounding the COVID-19 crisis.
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April, 2020
Photo by Engin Akyurt
Insights No 1

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

  • Webinar: ‘Using Social Listening to confront Covid 19,’ Skoll World Forum. Sasha Havlicek, Carl Miller, Chloe Colliver, and Zahed Amanullah explored the intersection between the current Covid 19 pandemic and the polarisation of global societies through hate and disinformation.

ISD in the Media:

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