December 17, 2021 | AP News

Ciarán O’Connor: “COVID-19 has served as a catalyst for radicalisation”

ISD’s Ciarán O’Connor speaks with AP News about his latest report ‘The Conspiracy Consortium’ and how extremist actors and conspiracists on Telegram are coming together on COVID-19 narratives.

“COVID-19 has served as a catalyst for radicalisation,” Ciarán said to the wire news service. “It allows conspiracy theorists or extremists to create simple narratives, framing it as us versus them, good versus evil.”

Ciarán analysed data from over 200 Telegram channels between January 2020 and June 2021 and found that the pandemic paved a way for conspiracy theorists to have a whole new reach. These narratives about the severity of coronavirus or the origins of the disease often include hate speech toward minorities and live openly in lowly-monitored social media spaces like Telegram. As the pandemic has gone on, a lot of these groups and channels that offer this material have only multiplied in following. More concerning, a string of offline incidents may be an indication this rhetoric is moving from online to the real world. To read more about our findings click here.

Ciarán O’Connor is an Analyst at ISD, working in the Research and Policy unit. You can find a range of his work in our publications section.