“Shooting in the right direction”: Anti-ISIS Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq

HENRY TUCK, TANYA SILVERMAN AND CANDACE SMALLEY, AUGUST 2016

This report represents the first publication in ISD’s new “Horizons” series, launched to examine emerging trends related to violent extremism or CVE.

Whilst the term “foreign fighter” is commonly associated with these individuals joining ISIS and other extreme Islamist groups, there has been far less attention on the hundreds of other foreign fighters that have travelled to fight against ISIS. This report builds on ISD’s research into the Islamist foreign fighter and female migrant phenomenon, and is based on a dataset of 300 anti-ISIS foreign fighters. It sheds light on this understudied group, examining who they are, who they are fighting with, and why they are prepared to participate in a far-away conflict. It also considers the legal frameworks of the countries providing the largest numbers of anti-ISIS fighters and the possible future implications for the fighters themselves, as well as their national governments.

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The Online Ecosystem of the German Far-Right

This report presents the findings of a research project of ISD’s Digital Analysis Unit about the alternative online-ecosystem of the far-right, including alternative social media platforms and alternative media outlets. While these platforms draw in a global audience this report focuses specifically on the German speaking and Germany-focused communities and outlets within this ecosystem. Drawing together ISD’s digital ethnographic work across dozens of forums and channels with the latest in machine learning and natural language processing, this report provides an overview over the size and nature of the far-right communities on these platforms the motivations for participating in these communities and assesses whether banning far-right groups from mainstream platforms leads to the displacement of their followers to ‘alternative’ platforms. We also analyse the role of alternative ‘news’ outlets in disseminating far right concepts, drawing on the‘Hate Observatory’, a joint initiative of ISD and the MIT Media Lab , based on their Media Cloud software, and compare the frequency and types of coverage of far-right themes in mainstream and alternative media. This report also recommends steps to be taken by tech companies, government, civil society and researchers to counter the far-right online.