Black Lives Matter: a letter from our CEO

Dear Friends and Partners,

As individuals and as a team we watch in horror the killing of George Floyd, another desperate reminder of how far we still are from achieving our goals, how far we are from putting human rights into meaningful practice. For fifteen years we have worked as an organisation to stop the spread of hate, to stop the normalisation of supremacist ideologies across our societies, to stop the heinous actions they inspire. And we are asking ourselves now what we can and must we do better, starting with an honest look at our own practices and prejudices. Nobody is blameless.

Over the past two weeks, we have been asked by the media to comment on the role of extremists across the ideological spectrum in the protest movement against racial injustice that has mobilised across the US and around the world. We have refrained from commenting publicly, except where we are able to refocus the conversation onto the social justice issues at the heart of these events. Of course, we are seeing extremists exploit this situation, as they do with all crises, but there is little evidence so far of them playing anything but a peripheral role. There are those, including state actors that we are tracking with our research, that are keen to co-opt the narrative of the protests, and ultimately to undermine their core objective. That objective is to ensure justice is served and that it is served equitably and durably in our society, with all that that entails in terms of legal and institutional reform. We must not be distracted by hate and disinformation actors from that core mission and from that core message.

We must also acknowledge that the cold-blooded police murder of yet another Black man in America goes beyond the visible spread of hate we’ve experienced this last decade. It is a function of engrained, long-term, systemic racism, and a failure to drive out the discrimination and abuse so pervasive across various institutions of the state and beyond. We should also be reminded that many vulnerable communities around the world continue to be targeted and harmed by the institutions designed to protect them. Many receive little to no global attention.

As a team dedicated to defending human rights and fighting racist and supremacist ideologies, we will double down on our efforts over the coming months to support our civic partners at the front line of this social movement for justice. We will provide them and the public with all insights we have through our research into those that are mobilising attacks on them and that are working to manipulate or distort the public’s view of their legitimate activities. There are fringe elements agitating in their own narrow interests (looters etc.). But they do not represent the goals of this movement. We will expose the activities of extremist, hate and disinformation actors where they seek to exploit the situation to their own ends, while being mindful of not allowing that to become the story.

Our team here at ISD stands in strong support of this movement against racial injustice and hope to play our small part in ensuring its goals are achieved. This is of existential importance to the survival of liberal democracy. We feel this to be not only our professional calling, but a moral imperative.

As part of our community of partners and friends, please do contact us ([email protected]) if you feel there is more we can be doing and if there are ways in which we can work together to this end.

Yours sincerely,

Sasha Havlicek,
Founding CEO at ISD


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