COVID-19 Disinformation

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a direct impact on the challenges ISD seeks to address: hate, extremism and disinformation.

Bad actors and extremist groups are exploiting the pandemic and the anxieties emerging across the globe to further their extreme narratives and spread division and hate. Since March 2020, ISD has worked to understand the ways this global health crisis is being used, co-opted and manipulated for extremist ends.

Beyond the immediate public health emergency, this global crisis has profound effects on governance, social polarisation, the information landscape and political discourse, all of which have significant relevance to how extremist ideologies are constructed and disseminated. Crises also present opportune moments for extremists across the ideological spectrum to mobilise.

ISD’s Digital Analysis Unit is analysing the unfolding ‘infodemic’ surrounding COVID-19, producing regular analysis and commentary on emerging trends and issues. This includes working with high-profile media outlets around the world on focused investigations. In particular, ISD has been monitoring key issues emerging from the crisis including:

Extremist groups
Extremist groups, polarising forces and hostile state actors seizing on anxieties and grievances emerging across societies during the COVID-19 pandemic, positing supremacist, and violent solutions.

Populist authoritarian and national political groups
The political manipulation of this COVID-19 crisis by populist authoritarian and nationalist voices to mainstream divisive and polarising narratives.

Othering
The promulgation of othering ‘us and them’ narratives around COVID-19 and the targeting of vulnerable groups, through anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-migrant, and sectarian rhetoric.

Disinformation
The health of the wider COVID-19 information ecosystem, including the use of inauthentic coordinated information campaigns by state and non-state actors to distort or disrupt public information about the virus through online platforms.

Policy advice
Our Digital Policy Lab advises governments, cities and tech companies on policies and strategies to mitigate the online harms we face today and achieve a ‘Good Web’ that reflects our liberal democratic values, prioritises safety and public health, and sanctions harmful activity online.

Latest Publications on COVID-19 Disinformation

Click here for more related ISD Publications

ISD’s Disinformation team

Chloe Colliver
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Chloe Colliver

Head of Digital Policy and Strategy

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Chloe Colliver
Chloe Colliver

Head of Digital Policy and Strategy

Chloe Colliver is Head of Digital Policy and Strategy at ISD, where she leads a global team of analysts studying disinformation and extremism online, including programmes of work focusing on the German, European Parliamentary, UK, Swedish and US Elections. She has worked on the development of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism and has provided expert testimony to the UK Home Affairs Select Committee, the Swedish, New Zealand, Canadian, French and German governments on digital policy and tech regulation. She has been featured at CNN, the BBC, Sky News, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired and Bloomberg. She is the co-author of ISD reports Spin Cycle: Information Laundering on Facebook, Developing a Civil Society Response to Online Manipulation, The 101 of Disinformation Detection, Click Here For Outrage: Disinformation in the European Parliamentary Elections 2019, The First 100 Days: Coronavirus and Crisis Management on Social Media Platforms, and Hoodwinked: Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour on Facebook. Chloe is a Yale Mellon Fellow and sits on the Advisory Board for Accountable Tech.
Henry Tuck
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Henry Tuck

Head of Policy & Programmes

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Henry Tuck
Henry Tuck

Head of Policy & Programmes

Henry Tuck is Head of Policy & Programmes at ISD for work across Europe and the Five Eyes countries. He is responsible for the overall management of the Institute’s research programme, including oversight of all publications, research methods, and ethics across a variety of topics, from disinformation to the far-right and extremism online. Henry also leads ISD’s policy-focused work to counter online harms in collaboration with a range of key stakeholders, advising leading governments, international organisations and major private sector tech companies. He is the co-author of ISD reports An imprecise science: Assessing interventions for the prevention, disengagement and de-radicalisation of left and right-wing extremists, The Counter-Narrative Monitoring & Evaluation Handbook, Shooting in the right direction: Anti-ISIS Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq, and The Counter-narrative Handbook. Henry holds a Masters in International Conflict Studies from Kings College London, and a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Durham University.
Jacob Davey
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Jacob Davey

Head of Research & Policy, Far-right and Hate Movements

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Jacob Davey
Jacob Davey

Head of Research & Policy, Far-right and Hate Movements

Jacob Davey is Head of Research & Policy of Far-right and Hate Movements. His research focuses on the role of digital communications in inter-communal conflict, internet culture, online hate speech and the international far-right. He has led a number of projects piloting novel models for identifying extremist conversation online as well as interventions to counter this phenomenon. He has advised national and local policymakers on right-wing extremism, including the Home Affairs Select Committee, and has lead trainings with frontline practitioners on the mobilisation strategies of extremist groups. He has provided commentary on extremism-related issues in a number of platforms including The Guardian, The Independent, and The BBC, and also sits as a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right. He is the co-author of ISD reports Hosting the ‘Holohoax’: A Snapshot of Holocaust Denial Across Social Media, The Interplay Between Australia’s Political Fringes on the Right and Left: Online Messaging on Facebook, The Genesis of a Conspiracy Theory, A Safe Space to Hate: White Supremacist Mobilisation on Telegram, An Online Environmental Scan of Right-wing Extremism in Canada, The Fringe Insurgency – Connectivity, Convergence and Mainstreaming of the Extreme Right, Counter-Conversations: A model for direct engagement with individuals showing signs of radicalisation online, “Mainstreaming Mussolini” – How the Extreme Right Attempted to ‘Make Italy Great Again’ in the 2018 Italian Election, ‘The Great Replacement’: The Violent Consequences of Mainstreamed Extremism, and An imprecise science: Assessing interventions for the prevention, disengagement and de-radicalisation of left and right-wing extremists.
Jiore Craig
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Jiore Craig

Head of Political Integrity and Digital Communication

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Jiore Craig
Jiore Craig

Head of Political Integrity and Digital Communication

Jiore Craig is the Head of Political Integrity and Digital Communication at ISD. She has extensive international experience, previously spending eight years helping elected officials, political leaders, media organisations, academic institutions and civic society organisations across five continents to measure the impact of digital communication and influence campaigns on public opinion and communicate effectively in the wake of the threat of disinformation around elections. She was previously a Vice President at a global political consulting firm, where she built a digital practice serving Europe, Asia, Africa, South and Central America and the US. Jiore’s work informed the design of major coalition efforts to counter disinformation in the 2020 US and 2019 European Parliament elections. Her work is cited in The Washington Post, New York Magazine, The L.A. Times, The New Yorker, and she has been a featured guest on the election podcast, Pod Save America.
Milo Comerford
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Milo Comerford

Head of Policy & Research, Counter-Extremism

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Milo Comerford
Milo Comerford

Head of Policy & Research, Counter-Extremism

Milo Comerford is Head of Policy & Research, Counter Extremism, leading ISD’s work developing innovative research approaches and policy responses to extremism. Milo regularly briefs senior decision makers around the world on the challenge posed by extremist ideologies, and advises governments and international agencies on building effective strategies for countering extremism. He was previously Senior Analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, where he led major research projects on Salafi-jihadi propaganda, international educational responses to extremism, and the transnational far right. His writing and research features frequently in international media and he has made recent broadcast appearances on BBC News, Sky News and Al Jazeera.
Cooper Gatewood
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Cooper Gatewood

Senior Digital Research Manager

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Cooper Gatewood
Cooper Gatewood

Senior Digital Research Manager

Cooper Gatewood is a Senior Digital Research Manager within ISD’s Digital Research Unit, focusing on quantitative research into the spread of hateful and polarising narratives online, and how they are leveraged by extremist actors. Cooper is currently contributing to ISD’s research on disinformation campaigns, particularly those aimed to influence and disrupt election processes. He also manages on the Online Civil Courage Initiative in France, coordinating activities to support civil society’s response to hate and extremism online. In addition, Cooper conducts ongoing evaluation of a number of ISD’s programmes, including Be Internet Citizens and Young Digital Leaders. Cooper also develops monitoring and evaluation frameworks for a number of ISD’s education projects. Previously, Cooper worked at Portland, where he advised clients from the non-profit and government sectors on their media engagement and social media strategies. He is the co-author of ISD reports The Boom Before the Ban: QAnon and Facebook, La pandémie de COVID-19: terreau fertile de la haine en ligne, Fostering Civic Responses to Online Harms, Promouvoir le civisme en ligne face aux malveillances à l’ère du numérique, Disinformation briefing: Narratives around Black Lives Matter and voter fraud, Mapping hate in France: A panoramic view of online discourse, and Building Digital Citizenship in France: Lessons from the Sens Critique project. Cooper holds a Masters of International Affairs from Columbia University and a Masters of International Security from Sciences Po and is fluent in Spanish and French, as well as speaking proficient Japanese.
Jasmine El-Gamal
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Jasmine El-Gamal

Senior Manager, AMEA

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Jasmine El-Gamal
Jasmine El-Gamal

Senior Manager, AMEA

Jasmine is a Senior Manager for Africa, Middle East and Asia (AMEA) at ISD, where she is responsible for overseeing prevention of violent extremism (PVE) research and programming. From 2015-2020, Jasmine was a Senior Fellow with the Middle East program at the Atlantic Council, where she focused primarily on U.S. policies in the Middle East. From 2013-2015, Jasmine served as a Special Assistant to three consecutive Under Secretaries of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon, where she advised on national security issues. From 2008-2013, Jasmine served as a Middle East advisor at the Pentagon, where she served three Secretaries of Defense. During her tenure, she prepared and staffed the Secretary of Defense on foreign trips and during Congressional briefings. She covered issues related to Iraq, Syria, the Arab Spring and ISIS, among others, and served as the Acting Chief of Staff for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Policy. From 2014-2016, Jasmine served as a translator and cultural advisor to the Office for the Administrative Review of the Detention of Enemy Combatants (OARDEC) in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where she provided briefings on Islam and Arab culture to incoming military officers in advance of their participation on the Review Boards. She conducted over 100 detainee interviews during her time at GTMO regarding their background and journey to Afghanistan and ensured the integrity of their testimony during their review boards, many of which resulted in the illumination of their unjust detention. In 2003, Jasmine served as a translator with a U.S. Civil Affairs team responsible for reconstruction in Southern Iraq, helping to facilitate communication and cooperation between U.S. forces and the local population in rebuilding the area. Her commentary has appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, The Atlantic, Newsweek, Time Magazine, CNN, Al Jazeera, Al Hurra, L’Orient du Jour, Sawt al Azhar, Al Masry Al Youm and other international outlets.
Jennie King
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Jennie King

Senior Policy Manager

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Jennie King
Jennie King

Senior Policy Manager

Jennie King is a Senior Policy Manager at ISD. She supports programme design, policy outreach and strategy across the organisation. Jennie previously served as MENA Regional Director Arts, Assistant Country Director Egypt and Co-Director Hungary for the British Council, the UK’s international body for cultural relations. She also served as an Attaché for the Guatemalan Diplomatic Mission. She is the co-author of the ISD report Hoodwinked: Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour on Facebook. Jennie read Arabic and Spanish at Pembroke College, Cambridge, receiving a Foundation Scholarship and the Marie Shamma’a Frost Prize for Oriental Studies.
Cécile Guerin
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Cécile Guerin

Research Manager

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Cécile Guerin
Cécile Guerin

Research Manager

Cécile Guerin is a Research Manager at ISD, working within the digital research and policy team. She has co-authored reports on far-right terrorism and extremism, hate speech, gender-based violence and disinformation campaigns targeting elections. She works with tech companies, government departments and inter-governmental organisations. Cécile features regularly in international media, including BBC News, The Guardian, Politico, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Le Monde, and Wired. She is the co-author of ISD reports La pandémie de COVID-19: terreau fertile de la haine en ligne, Seconde vague et désinformation: Aperçu des tendances sur les réseaux sociaux, The Interplay Between Australia’s Political Fringes on the Right and Left: Online Messaging on Facebook, Public Figures, Public Rage: Candidate abuse on social media, An Online Environmental Scan of Right-wing Extremism in Canada, Mapping hate in France: A panoramic view of online discourse and Fostering Civic Responses to Online Harms: Learnings from the Online Civil Courage Initiative and the Online Civic Fund.
Charlotte Moeyens
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Charlotte Moeyens

Networks and Civic Action Manager

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Charlotte Moeyens
Charlotte Moeyens

Networks and Civic Action Manager

Charlotte Moeyens is a Networks and Civic Action Manager at ISD, sitting in the central Resources and Methods team to support with the collation and distribution of counter-extremism best practice, leading much of ISD’s practitioner and civil society capacity-building work, overseeing the development and international delivery of training modules, materials and resources. She has supported the delivery of the Google.org Impact Challenge on Safety in Europe, Africa Online Safety Fund and Mayor of London’s Shared Endeavour Fund. Most recently, she is working with the McCain Institute to develop and build the capacity of a US Prevention and Intervention Practitioners Network. Charlotte also assists with ISD’s and the Strong Cities Network’s research efforts to better understand the scale and scope of extremist content online. She is co-author of the ISD reports YouthCAN: The Many States of Activism and Women, Girls and Islamist Extremism.
Jakob Guhl
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Jakob Guhl

Research Manager

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Jakob Guhl
Jakob Guhl

Research Manager

Jakob Guhl is a Manager at ISD, where he works within the Digital Research Unit and with ISD Germany. His research focuses on the far-right, Islamist extremism, hate speech, disinformation and conspiracy theories. He is a frequent commentator on German radio and broadcast, including Deutschlandfunk, Tagesthemen, NDR and Radio Eins. Jakob has been invited to present his research about online hate to the German Ministry of the Justice and provided evidence to the German Minister of the Interior and the German Family Minister on how to strengthen prevention against right-wing extremism and antisemitism. His research has been featured in Die Zeit, The Guardian, DW, The Telegraph, CNN, Euronews, Coda Story, Vice, Politico, New Republic and Die Welt, among others. Additionally, he has published articles in the “Journal for Deradicalisation”, “Demokratie gegen Menschenfeindlichkeit”, Taz, Der Standard, GNET and co-authored an essay for an edited volume of the Munich Residence Theatre about the origins of contemporary political anger. He is the co-author of ISD reports Crisis and Loss of Control: German-Language Digital Extremism in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Hosting the ‘Holohoax’: A Snapshot of Holocaust Denial Across Social Media, A Safe Space to Hate: White Supremacist Mobilisation on Telegram and The Online Ecosystem of the German Far-Right. Jakob holds an MA in Terrorism, Security and Society from King’s College London.
Mauritius Dorn
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Mauritius Dorn

Digital Policy Fellow

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Mauritius Dorn
Mauritius Dorn

Digital Policy Fellow

Mauritius is a Digital Policy Fellow at ISD Germany, where he coordinates ISD’s digital policy recommendations on election-related online harms and presents them to political stakeholders at EU level and in Germany. He conducts disinformation trainings with political parties and candidates, coordinates with other stakeholders from academia and civil society, and assists in the design of awareness campaigns. Mauritius is also involved in the Digital Policy Lab (DPL), a new intergovernmental working group focused on policy responses to prevent and counter online disinformation, hate speech and extremism. Previously, Mauritius worked as a public affairs consultant in Berlin, advising clients from the public and private sector on their lobbying strategies in the area of digital policy and digital economy. Mauritius holds a MSc double degree in Global Media and Communications from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences and Fudan University, and a BA in Sociology, Politics and Economics from Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen.
Hannah Winter
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Hannah Winter

Analyst

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Hannah Winter
Hannah Winter

Analyst

Hannah Winter is an Analyst at ISD specialising in digital research and investigating the emergence and spread of disinformation, conspiracy theories and extremist ideologies in social networks. As a member of the ISD Election Monitoring Unit, she researches political communication online, disinformation campaigns and attempts to influence elections. She is co-author of the ISD reports Überdosis Desinformation: Die Vertrauenskrise - Impfskepsis und Impfgegnerschaft in der COVID-19 Pandemie and The Battle for Bavaria: Online information campaigns in the 2018 Bavarian State Election.
Kata Balint
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Kata Balint

Analyst

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Kata Balint
Kata Balint

Analyst

Kata Balint is an Analyst on ISD’s Digital Analysis Unit, primarily working on the analysis of the climate change debate in Hungary, using digital analysis tools and open source intelligence methods. Kata’s main areas of research are political radicalisation and extremism, with a focus on far-right groups and movements; disinformation and conspiracy theories; and political attitudes and behaviour. Kata previously worked as an Analyst in the Radicalisation and Extremism Programme of Political Capital, an independent research institute based in Hungary, where she co-authored a number of research papers and was involved in radicalisation prevention activities. She gained her first professional experiences working in the Office of the Hungarian Parliament and in the European Parliament. Kata completed her postgraduate studies in Political Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast in the UK, and she holds an undergraduate degree in Social Sciences with majors in International Studies and Communication from Roskilde University, Denmark.
Mackenzie Hart
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Mackenzie Hart

Analyst

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Mackenzie Hart
Mackenzie Hart

Analyst

Mackenzie Hart is an Analyst at ISD, working across projects in the research and policy division. MacKenzie focuses on hate, disinformation, and the far-right and has also been involved with ISD’s election analysis units, mapping and analysing online information operations, as well as the activities of extremist groups. Previously, Mackenzie worked at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) and as a research assistant in the War Studies department at King's College London. From December 2015 to March 2016, Mackenzie lived in Sierra Leone, volunteering for a grassroots NGO supporting youth-led, community development projects and education. She is the co-author of the ISD reports Spin Cycle: Information Laundering on Facebook, The Genesis of a Conspiracy Theory, and An Online Environmental Scan of Right-wing Extremism in Canada. Mackenzie has a BA from Simon Fraser University with a double major in International Studies and History and an MA in Terrorism, Security and Society at King’s College London.
Nora Mathelemuse
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Nora Mathelemuse

Analyst

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Nora Mathelemuse
Nora Mathelemuse

Analyst

Nora Mathelemuse (they/them) is an Analyst for ISD's Digital Research Unit, helping to detect and analyse information operations and extremist activity online. They are aiding with the development of methodological tools for detection on disinformation and extremism. Nora is a Senior Social Justice Fellow of Humanity in Action, where they co-conceptualized an unConference on Sex-education. They have also worked within the healthcare sector as a psychological nursing assistant in psychiatric, psycho-somatic and somatic in-patient wards. Recently, Nora graduated from a Data Science course, some of their Projects encompassed Natural Language Processing, Web Scraping and trend prediction. Before entering the world of Data Science and Programming. They have a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology and Psychology as well as a Graduate Diploma in Psychology. Focusing their Research on the interaction between the impact of hate, discrimination and mental health.
Paula Matlach
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Paula Matlach

Research Associate

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Paula Matlach
Paula Matlach

Research Associate

Paula Matlach is a Research Associate at ISD. She studies the spread of disinformation and propaganda in German and English-speaking countries. Prior to her work at ISD, she worked as a researcher at the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, where she published articles on network regulation and foreign influence, among other topics. At ISD, she has co-authored the research report „Fluchtwege. Wie das Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz auf etablierten sozialen Medien durch die Verlinkung zu alternativen Plattformen umgangen wird“. 
Hugo Besançon
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Hugo Besançon

Associate

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Hugo Besançon
Hugo Besançon

Associate

Hugo Besançon is an Associate at ISD working within the Education team to produce and disseminate pedagogical content to help empower young people against a wide array of online harms (dis/misinformation and hate speech). He participated in the production of ISD’s Young Digital Leaders Curriculum and contributes to ISD’s educational programmes (Extreme Dialogue, Be Internet Citizens, ReNews, Young Digital Leaders). He previously worked at the Council of Europe (where he organised the World Forum for Democracy) and at the French National Digital Council (where he worked on topics such as gender equality in tech, digital citizenship, facial recognition). Hugo is a graduate from Sciences Po Strasbourg where he specialised in European Policy. Hugo also holds a Master’s degree in Digital Law and Open Government from Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne where he focused on the right to Privacy in the 21st Century.
Sara Bundtzen
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Sara Bundtzen

Research and Policy Associate, ISD Germany

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Sara Bundtzen
Sara Bundtzen

Research and Policy Associate, ISD Germany

Sara Bundtzen is a Research and Policy Associate at ISD Germany. She is involved in the Digital Policy Lab (DPL), a new intergovernmental working group focused on policy responses to prevent and counter online disinformation, hate speech and extremism. She also supports ISD’s wider research and advisory on election-related disinformation and influence campaigns, as well as extremism and terrorism-related content. Sara holds an MA in International Security from Sciences Po Paris and a BSc in European Studies from the University of Southern Denmark.