The First 100 Days: Coronavirus and Crisis Management on Social Media Platforms

Published: 15th May 2020

Since January 2020, COVID-19 has become the perfect crucible for online harms. Pandemics are by their nature fast-moving, with constantly evolving information even from credible and expert sources. This is set against a backdrop of heightened fear and anxiety, where valid concerns over resource scarcity, economic fallout and personal safety merge with extremist views on race and social order. New conspiracies and coordinated disinformation efforts have exploded online, preying on the uncertainty of this moment and the ambiguity regarding the source and spread of the disease worldwide.

The disinformation crisis surrounding COVID-19 is not an abstract problem. Online content can catalyse real-world harm, and research is already documenting the risks of COVID-19 disinformation to public health and safety. Countries across the globe have seen a spike in anti-Asian, anti-Semitic and other targeted hate, often directly citing or fuelled by conspiracies surrounding the virus’ origin and transfer. At the same time, debunked theories related to 5G have spurred violent attacks against telecoms infrastructure and related personnel in the UK, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands. Conspiracy theories have not only sparked protests in the US, Australia, Germany and the UK (to cite just a few), but are helping promote scepticism and distrust in any future vaccine that might curb the virus’ spread. If such trends continue, they will hinder any efforts to keep the public safe and well- informed.

This report offers an interim review of responses to the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’ from three major technology companies – Facebook, Google and Twitter – from March to May 2020. These platforms have been forced to mobilise at speed, trialling policies and enforcement approaches that can meet such a challenge. The briefing summarises the approaches taken by respective teams at Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google and YouTube, including specific services and policies introduced in recent months and, where possible, the accompanying rationale from companies themselves.

Voices of Pakistani Youth: Lessons for Civil Society in the Development of Effective Counter-Narrative Campaigns

This report provides a series of evidence-based lessons for international NGOs, practitioners and activists working in Pakistan, to improve their capacities in developing counter-narrative campaigns to counter extremism and hate speech. Through YouthCAN, focus groups bringing together 70 young people from Islamabad explored how youth in the country understand extremism and hate speech: how they define these issues, where they encounter them, and who they see as responsible.

The Interplay Between Australia’s Political Fringes on the Right and Left: Online Messaging on Facebook

The Interplay Between Australia’s Political Fringes on the Right and Left: Online Messaging on Facebook

This research briefing outlines findings from an analysis of the far-right and far-left Facebook ecosystem in Australia in the first seven months of 2020. It analyses how the far-right and far-left discuss each other on Facebook and how narratives about the other side of the political spectrum shape the online activity of these groups. It also seeks to understand how central discussion about the ‘other side’ is to the far-right and far-left and how it fits within the broader online activities of these movements.

Krise und Kontrollverlust: Digitaler Extremismus im Kontext der Corona-Pandemie

Dieser Report analysiert die Netzwerke und Narrative deutschsprachiger rechtsextremer, linksextremer und islamistisch-extremistischer Akteure auf Mainstream- und alternativen Social-Media-Plattformen sowie extremistischen Websites im Kontext der Corona-Pandemie. Unsere Ergebnisse zeigen: Extremisten aus Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz konnten ihre Reichweite seit der Einführung der Lockdown-Maßnahmen vergrößern.