ISD Insights

Our newsletter that delivers all the latest research and ISD activities directly to your inbox
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:

Read More

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:

Read More

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:

Read More

October, 2021
Shutterstock
Insights No 17

Highlights:

Speaking engagements:

ISD in the Media:

Read More

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.
Read More

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.
Read More

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.
Read More

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.
Read More

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.
Read More

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.
Read More

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

 

Read More

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.”
Read More

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.
Read More

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:

Read More

May, 2020
Insights No 3

Highlights:

Speaking engagements: 

ISD in the Media: 

 

Read More

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.
Read More

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:

Read More