ISD Insights

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May, 2021
Photo: Hello I'm Nik
Insights No 13


New report finds Amazon’s algorithms drive traffic to extremist content
Linking Irish far-right activity on the Telegram to real life consequences
New compendium of Digital Policy briefs now available: Digital Policy Lab ’20 – Companion Papers
Making sense of Arabic COVID-19 misinformation in the MENA region
Charting 21 ways forward with ISD’s Together for Safety webinars

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


ISD study shows spike in anti-vaxx disinfo in France in last 6 months
PROACT: ISD’s grassroots capacity building programme in Kenya underway
Major German corporations pilot ISD Germany’s Business Council for Democracy (#BC4D)
We’re growing! Exciting new opportunities available at ISD


Webinar: Open Discourse and Fighting Extremism in the Virtual World
Webinar: Antisemitism and hate movements after Trump
Webinar: Unmasking Influence Operators: What are Best Practices in Attribution?

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 Atlantic, “The Vaccine-Hesitant Man of Europe” – Cooper Gatewood on how anti-vaxx conspiracies align with long held political grievances.
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

Strong Cities Network hosts 70 mayors in conversation with the Dalai Lama,
How Russian Influence Operations Travel Across the Internet,
New SCN report highlights resilience-building in the Balkans,
New toolkit compiles insights for local authorities on how to respond to a terror attack

Nordic Safe Cities launches new Together for Safety series of webinars (soon available as archived video),
ISD conducted its first training for its Young Digital Leaders educational tools

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

Read More

January, 2021
photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona
Insights No 10

Coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook
A deeper look at how QAnon’s presence grew on Facebook
How terrorist organisations have exploited COVID-19
ISD launches Digital Policy Lab
How far-right narratives cross the Atlantic
How right-wing extremists have capitalised on the COVID-19 crisis in Germany
Australian far-right and far-left’s interactions
ISD launches new curriculum for schools and youth groups to tackle online harms

Podcasts and Webinars

Podcast: Aspen Initiative UK – The future of disinformation
Webinar: Trust in Journalism – Who regulates free speech?
Webinar: Lessons Learnt and ‘New Normals’ in a Post-COVID World

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

BBC News, “Kyle Rittenhouse: YouTube struggles with hero worship” – Chloe Colliver discusses responses by Facebook and Twitter to supporters of Kyle Rittenhouse

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

Financial Times, “‘Rudderless’ QAnon may reinvent itself after US election, warn experts” – Exclusive coverage of ISD’s report with NewsGuard on QAnon and Facebook

Wired, “How France is confronting its big anti-vaxx problem” – Coverage of ISD’s reporting on anti-vaccine views featuring prominently in France’s most popular Covid-related posts on Facebook and Twitter.

NBC News, “Accused hate groups receive pandemic aid” – Further coverage of ISD research with the Global Disinformation Index that analyzed how hate groups fundraise and collect payments online.

Brookings, “How Biden can take the high road on misinformation” – Further coverage of ISD’s research with Politico on how “a small number of conservative users routinely outpace their liberal rivals”

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Gamifying Extremism: Refighting (And Rewriting) The Balkan Wars As A Video Game” – ISD’s Jacob Davey discusses the gamification of terror online.

Radio Canada International, “New research points to growth of right-wing extremism in Atlantic Canada” – Further coverage of ISD’s research on Canadian far right extremist channels online.

Politico, “Conspiracy theories run wild on Amazon” – Commentary by Ciaran O’Connor on conspiracy theories allowed to flourish on Amazon.

Forbes (Austria), “Auf Der Suche Nach Extremen” – Extensive profile of Julia Ebner and her work infiltrating far right cells in Europe. Julia also took part in Forbes DACH’s U30 DACH Meetup, where you can watch her interview in full.

Der Standard (Austria): “Angriff aufs Kapitol: Ein Sturm entsteht nicht im Vakuum” – The violent storm on Capitol Hill was the result of a long and open disinformation campaign, explain ISD’s Huberta von Voss-Wittig and Jakob Guhl explain in the Austrian newspaper, Der Standard.

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November, 2020
Photo by NeONBRAND
Insights No 9

Bankrolling Hate: New report into online funding strategies used by hate movements
Krise und Kontrolverlust: COVID-19 and German online extremism (in German)
Hoodwinked: Coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook

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.”

Politico, “QAnon goes European” – Jakob Guhl comments on QAnon’s growing allure in Europe.

Glamour Magazine, “Who are QANon? Why British mothers are spreading a dangerous far-right conspiracy theory” – Jacob Davey speaks about QAnon’s appeal to youth.

Politico, “Crazy Nancy, Crooked Donald — two linked Facebook pages show the allure of political discord” – Daniel Maki identifies how one person pushed anti-Trump and anti-Biden messages to Spanish speakers in the US.

New York Times, “Riled Up: Misinformation Stokes Calls for Violence on Election Day” – ISD research cited in an article discussing misinformation stoking calls for violence.

BBC Newsnight – Chloe Colliver speaks about how fake news can spread quickly if appealing to emotion, using a viral tweet hailing the false return of the Woolworths store to the UK.

Politico (Europe) “EU’s Michel wants school for imams to combat terrorism and radicalisation” – Rashad Ali comments on the proposal by European Council President Charles Michel to train imams that preach in Europe.

Vice “Facebook Can’t Seem to do Anything About ‘Stop the Steal’ Groups” – Ciaran O’Connor speaks about the challenge of banning copycat “Stop the Steal” groups on Facebook.

The Forward, “Iran is using fake Facebook pages to weaken US support for Israel” – Chloe Colliver discusses how Iran leverages Facebook pages for propaganda purposes.

Metro (UK), “5G, child trafficking and Covid-19 cover ups – how does someone end up a conspiracy theorist?” – This article cites ISD research citing the increase in conspiracy theories during periods of lockdown.

European Western Balkans – Sasha Havlicek discusses extremisms in the Western Balkans in this extensive interview.

USA Today, “Were voters manipulated by QAnon a force behind Trump’s ‘red wave’ in 2020 election?” – Aoife Gallagher comments on QAnon activity in the run up to the 2020 US elections.

re:Jerusalem, “Online extremism in Halle trial again at center stage” – Jakob Guhl speaks about the radicalisation process of the Halle terrorist attacker during his trial in progress.

Read More

October, 2020
Image by visuals/unsplash
Insights No 8

Online abuse of candidates in the US 2020 Elections
ISD launches Digital Dispatches
Global Mayors and Practitioners Convene for Strong Cities Network 5 Year Anniversary
Announcement: ISD’s Farah Pandith is First Muhammad Ali Global Peace Laureate

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).

Agence France Presse“QAnon conspiracies go global in pandemic ‘perfect storm’ “ – Mackenzie Hart comments on QAnon as a global phenomenon.

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.

New York Times“Riled Up: Misinformation Stokes Calls for Violence on Election Day,” – This article cites ISD research about misinformation alleging a Democrat-led coup on Election Day in the US.

Vice, “Facebook’s QAnon Ban Is Too Little, Too Late” – Aoife Gallagher and Ciarán O’Connor both discuss Facebook’s recent ban on QAnon content.

The Today Show (NBC) – Aoife Gallagher discusses the rise of QAnon and Facebook’s recent ban of QAnon content.

The Times (UK), “Far right recruiting children on YouTube” – Jacob Davey discusses recruitment of children by the far right on YouTube.

The Telegraph (UK), “Social media must clean up their algorithms – for the sake of our kids – and of our health” – ISD research used in this analysis of the responsibilities of social media companies.

The New Statesman, “The rise of the Proud Boys in the US” – Jacob Davey discusses the activism of the Proud Boys, cited in the first Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Politico“Crazy Nancy, Crooked Donald — two linked Facebook pages show the allure of political discord” – Daniel Maki comments on how two opposing Spanish language political pages on Facebook, orchestrated by the same individual, reached more people than mainstream newspaper sites.

Reuters, “Factbox: What is QAnon and how are online platforms taking action on it?” – ISD’s research on QAnon is cited in a “Factbox” article for the global syndication service Reuters.

The Sun, “How QAnon conspiracy extremists are luring in Brits with warped theories about Covid & tortured kids ‘hidden in tunnels’” – Aoife Gallagher pens an op-ed offering a comprehensive overview of QAnon for one of Britain’s leading tabloids.

Global News (Canada), “Facebook bans QAnon conspiracy theory groups” – Mackenzie Hart discusses the rise of QAnon in Canada and Facebook’s recent ban of QAnon content.

Buzzfeed, “Here’s How A Group Of Radical Militants Hatched A Plan To Kidnap Michigan’s Governor Before The Election” – Ciarán O’Connor discusses the use of private Facebook groups by militia members arrested for attempting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Wired, “QAnon Supporters Aren’t Quite Who You Think They Are” – ISD’s recent report on QAnon is cited in this article on QAnon supporters.

Washington Post, The Technology 202 – This article features coverage of ISD’s recent report on candidate abuse.

Vox, “Facebook and Twitter said they would crack down on QAnon, but the delusion seems unstoppable” – Aoife Gallagher discusses Facebook’s crackdown on QAnon.

BBC World Service, “US election 2020: TikTok gets pulled into the campaigns” – Ciarán O’Connor discusses the use of TikTok in the US2020 election campaigns.

MIT Technology Review, “How much more abuse do female politicians face? A lot.” – This story includes coverage of ISD’s recent report on candidate abuse.

The Times (Ireland), “Ireland’s far right unmasked” – Aoife Gallagher contributes to a story about the resurgence of Ireland’s far right.

Al Jazeera, “Canada rights organisations urge PM to dismantle far-right groups” – ISD’s research on Canada’s far right is cited in an article covering pressure on PM Justin Trudeau to establish a plan to dismantle 300 far-right groups.

Der Spiegel, “QAnon’s Inexorable Spread Beyond the U.S.” – Julia Ebner discusses the impact of QAnon in Germany.

France 24 (en français), “Holocauste : la tardive volte-face de Facebook sur le négationnisme” – Jakob Guhl discusses Facebook’s ban on Holocaust denial following ISD’s recent research report on the subject.

El Diario (en Español), “Julia Ebner, infiltrada en grupos radicales: ‘La extrema derecha y los yihadistas se parecen en sus frustraciones y su deseo de volver al pasado'” – This interview with Julia Ebner addresses the rise of the far right in America and Europe. Her recent book, The Secret Life of Extremists, will be published in Spanish this month.

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September, 2020
Insights No 7

ISD Uncovers Substantial Online Jihadist Cache:  BBC Click (video available to UK viewers only)
Lens on Hate is launched: weekly briefing on online hate during the US 2020 elections.
Launch of London’s Shared Endeavour Fund
The Strong Cities Network Celebrates its Five Year Anniversary


Webinar: Current and Future Terrorist Threats and Trends
Webinar: Tinfoil Trust: Mapping Conspiracy Theories During COVID-19
Webinar: 9/11: What Have We Learned?
Webinar: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and Israel/Palestine

ISD in the Media

CNN.comISD’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 (available to UK viewers only)

“Defying crackdowns, QAnon continues its relentless global spread,” Financial Times: ISD’s Aoife Gallagher discusses how QAnon avoids detection on social media platforms.

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

ISD responds to the crisis in Lebanon:
We have worked in Lebanon for many years, and with the support of the Norwegian government, our team on the ground were able to mobilise resources to provide some immediate aid to Beirut’s residents, including food and water.


Hosting the Holohoax: A Snapshot of Holocaust Denial Across Social Media
ISD identifies pro-Chinese Communist Party Twitter networks
How QAnon gained traction: The Genesis of a Conspiracy Theory
Investigation: A look at jihadists’ evolving digital tactics
Toolkit: The 101 of Disinformation Detection
Report: Developing a Civil Society Response to Online Manipulation
Information Manipulations around COVID-19: France Under Attack


Webinar: France under attack: responses to information manipulations around Covid-19
Webinar: In the Streets and Online – Peace, human security and civil unrest after COVID-19
Webinar: Supporting African youth in the COVID-19 era
Webinar: Terror in Times of COVID: Experiences and Trends
Podcast: Are lies winning? (En Francais)

ISD in the Media

The Stream, Al JazeeraISD’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.

Newsnight, BBCISD research was featured in this episode of BBC’s Newsnight exploring the QAnon phenomenon.

Talkbalk, BBC Radio UlsterISD’s Aoife Gallagher spoke to BBC Radio Ulster’s William Crawley on the growing QAnon phenomenon. 

“Facebook algorithm found to ‘actively promote’ Holocaust denial,” The Observer: ISD’s Jakob Guhl discusses our research on the algorithms behind Holocaust denial content.

“QAnon is a ‘delivery mechanism for many different disinformation campaigns,” The BeaconISD’s Aoife Gallagher spoke to about the global impact of conspiracy group Qanon.

“QAnon Is Running Amok, and the Time Has Come for Interventions,” Bloomberg: ISD’s Jacob Davey spoke about the limitations of bans for QAnon content.

“A propaganda battle is playing out in the replies to Trump’s tweets,” CNN Business: ISD’s Chloe Colliver discusses ISD’s report on the Chinese Communist Party engaging with replies to President Trump’s Twitter feed.

Read More

July, 2020
Image by Lewis Parsons
Insights No 5

Anatomy of a disinformation empire: Investigating NaturalNews,
An online environmental scan of right-wing extremism in Canada,
Telegram: A safe space for white supremacy?
Disinformation in the EU Parliamentary Elections 2019: Click Here For Outrage,
ISD gives testimony on disinformation used to interfere in elections and spur division

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

Podcast: Aoife Gallagher, Analyst at ISD, joined the ‘Una & Andrea’s United Ireland’ to discuss the growing conspiracy group Qanon.

Read More

June, 2020
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra
Insights No 4

COVID-19 Disinformation Briefing No.4,
How to support BAME communities during COVID-19,
COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India

ISD in the media 

Financial Times: Chloe Colliver (Head of Digital Policy & Strategy) spoke about disinformation on social media platforms. EU tussle with WhatsApp highlights false information battle lines’

Deutschlandfunk Nova: Jakob Guhl (Researcher) spoke to this German radio station about extremism, disinformation and conspiracy theories in the context of COVID-19 and called for greater transparency around algorithms and content moderation. Listen now (auf Deutsch).

How To Academy Podcast: Julia Ebner (Senior Research Fellow) talked to Hannah MacInnes (journalist) about what she discovered on her journey undercover in extremist circles. This conversation was recorded at the launch event of Julia’s book ‘Going Dark: the secret social lives of extremists’ in February 2020. Listen now.

Die Welt: Jakob Guhl (Researcher) spoke about the widespread speculation that social media platforms are biased against conservative voices. Read: ‘Turn the anger in the country into money‘.

Read More

May, 2020
Insights No 3

COVID-19 Disinformation Briefing No.3,
Webinar to Watch: ‘Preventing Violent Extremism in the Classroom’ at SXSW,

ISD in the media 

Chloe Colliver (Head of Digital Policy & Strategy) speaks about how the transnational far-right are mobilising around COVID-19 for this POLITICO article ‘Conspiracy theorists, far-right extremists around the world seize on the pandemic’

Jacob Davey (Senior Research Manager) spoke to The Guardian about how COVID-19 may be giving extremists opportunities to recruit.

ISD spoke to The Spectator about how extremists, on all sides of the ideological spectrum, are using the pandemic to spread hateful narratives.


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May, 2020
Insights No 2

ISD Investigation with BBC Click: Far-right spreads COVID-19 ‘infodemic’ on Facebook,
Comparing Jihadist and Far-Right Extremist Narratives on COVID-19,
Strong Cities Network: Helping local leaders respond to COVID-19,
Education during lockdown: ISD’s digital citizenship resources,

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 (Head of Digital Policy and Strategy) 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.

Read More

April, 2020
Photo by Engin Akyurt
Insights No 1

Covid 19 Briefing #2: How White Supremacists and the far-right are mobilising in the US,
Webinar of the Week: ‘Using Social Listening to confront Covid 19’ as part of the Skoll World Forum, Zahed Amanullah (Resident Fellow) spoke out about his experience being ‘Zoom-bombed’ by an unidentified user sharing racist slurs and images.

ISD in the Media: a selection of commentary

‘Zoombombing’ Becomes a Dangerous Organized Effort – New York Times. Zahed Amanullah (Resident Fellow) spoke out about his experience being ‘Zoom-bombed’ by an unidentified user sharing racist slurs and images.

Social Media Companies Open New Front in Fight with EU – Financial Times. Chloe Colliver (Head of Digital Analysis Unit) spoke about the need to continue to push for better regulation of social media platforms amidst Covid 19 despite their response so far.

Facebook is Crawling with Fake News – POLITICO. Chloe Colliver warned about the scale of disinformation in relation to Covid 19 on Facebook.

White Supremacist Groups Are Recruiting With Help From Coronavirus – and a Popular Messaging App – TIME. Jacob Davey (Senior Research Manager) on how Telegram is becoming the go-to social media platform for extremists.

Read More