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

Jiore Craig
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Jiore Craig

Resident Senior Fellow, Digital Integrity

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Jiore Craig
Jiore Craig

Resident Senior Fellow, Digital Integrity

Jiore Craig is a Resident Senior Fellow at ISD with focus on Digital Integrity. Her work focuses on safeguarding democracy globally and the wider impact of online harms on society. Jiore advises global leaders on mitigating online harms including work to advance tech policy reform and tech accountability at a global scale. She has extensive international experience, previously spending eight years helping elected officials, political leaders, media organizations, academic institutions and civic society organizations across five continents to research, measure, and effectively mitigate the impact of disinformation and influence operations on public opinion and elections. She previously built a digital research and communications practice serving Europe, Asia, Africa, South and Central America, and the US at a global political consulting firm. Jiore’s work informed the design of major coalition efforts to counter disinformation in the 2020 US and 2019 European Parliament elections. In 2022, Jiore testified for the U.S. Congressional House Administration Elections Subcommittee Hearing on “A Growing Threat: Foreign and Domestic Sources of Disinformation”. She is a member of Issue One’s Council for Responsible Social Media. Her work is cited in The Washington Post, New York Magazine, The L.A. Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and she has been a featured guest in election broadcast programs around the world, including the podcast Pod Save America.
Jacob Davey
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Jacob Davey

Director of Policy & Research, Counter-Hate

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Jacob Davey
Jacob Davey

Director of Policy & Research, Counter-Hate

Jacob Davey is the Director of Research & Policy for Far-right and Hate Movements at ISD. Jacob has managed projects focusing on online hate speech, the international far-right and political violence. He has led a number of projects piloting novel models for identifying extremist conversation and hate speech online, including analysis tracking hate groups in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia, and is currently leading a major programme of work mitigating hate threats in the US. He has advised national and local policymakers on right-wing extremism, including the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. Jacob has managed and co-authored numerous ISD reports including Between Conspiracy and Extremism: A Long COVID Threat?, ISD’s Gaming and Extremism Series, and A Safe Space to Hate: White Supremacist Mobilisation on Telegram.
Jennie King
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Jennie King

Director of Climate Disinformation Research and Policy

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Jennie King
Jennie King

Director of Climate Disinformation Research and Policy

Jennie King is the Director of Climate Disinformation Research and Policy, leading efforts to translate ISD's digital research into frontline programming and response. Through ISD, she helped found Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), a coalition of over 50 organisations working to identify, analyse and counter climate disinformation worldwide. She has spearheaded investigations on climate denialism and ‘discourses of delay’ in the contexts of Australia, Canada, Central Europe, Germany, South Africa, the US and UK, as well as co-authored a number of ISD’s flagship reports on this issue. Jennie also helped design, and currently manages, the COP Intelligence Units on behalf of CAAD, leading over 15 partners to produce real-time monitoring of mis- and disinformation around climate summits.
Melanie Smith
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Melanie Smith

Director of Research, ISD US

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Melanie Smith
Melanie Smith

Director of Research, ISD US

Melanie Smith is the Director of Research for ISD US. Based in Washington DC, she leads a team of analysts focused on detecting, exposing and mitigating the threats associated with online information operations. Melanie was previously the Director of Analysis at the network analytics firm Graphika, re-joining ISD in 2021 to expand the organization’s research portfolio in the US. Her recent work has focused on topics like state-backed influence campaigns, public health misinformation and election-related violence.
Henry Tuck
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Henry Tuck

Director of Digital Policy

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Henry Tuck
Henry Tuck

Director of Digital Policy

Henry Tuck is the Director of Digital Policy at ISD, where he leads Advisory work on digital regulation and tech company responses to terrorism, extremism, hate and dis/misinformation online. Henry oversees ISD’s Digital Policy Lab (DPL) and engagement on key digital regulation proposals in Europe and Five Eyes countries, advises key governments, international organisations and major private sector tech companies, and collaborates with ISD’s Digital Analysis Unit to translate research into actionable digital policy recommendations. Having joined ISD in 2013, Henry has previously worked across a variety of ISD’s Analysis and Action programmes, including education, on- and offline counter-extremism interventions, and civil society networks. Henry holds a Masters in International Conflict Studies from Kings College London, and a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Durham University. 
Mauritius Dorn
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Mauritius Dorn

Senior Digital Policy and Education Manager

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Mauritius Dorn
Mauritius Dorn

Senior Digital Policy and Education Manager

Mauritius is a Senior Digital Policy and Education Manager 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.
Jakob Guhl
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Jakob Guhl

Senior Manager, Policy & Research

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Jakob Guhl
Jakob Guhl

Senior Manager, Policy & Research

Jakob Guhl is a Senior Manager, Policy & Research, 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. Jakob is a frequent commentator on German radio and broadcast and has been invited to present his research on 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, New Statesman and GNET, and contributed to edited volumes about antisemitism on social media, conspiracy theories and the origins of contemporary political anger. He is the co-author of the ISD reports Researching the Evolving Online Ecosystem: Barriers, Methods and Future Challenges, Gen-Z & The Digital Salafi Ecosystem, 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.
Charlotte Moeyens
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Charlotte Moeyens

Senior Manager, Networks & Civic Action

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Charlotte Moeyens
Charlotte Moeyens

Senior Manager, Networks & Civic Action

Charlotte Moeyens is a Senior Manager, Networks & Civic Action, at ISD, sitting in the central Resources and Methods team to support with the collation and distribution of counter-extremism best practice, overseeing the development and international delivery of training modules, materials and resources for practitioners and civil society. 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 forms part of the Strong Cities Network's (SCN) Central Management Unit, and is co-author of the SCN's Multi-Agency Models for Preventing Violent Extremism: A Guidebook for Bangladesh, as well as ISD reports YouthCAN: The Many States of Activism and Women, Girls and Islamist Extremism.
Dominik Hammer
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Dominik Hammer

Research Manager, ISD Germany

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Dominik Hammer
Dominik Hammer

Research Manager, ISD Germany

Dominik Hammer is a Research Manager at ISD Germany. Dominik focuses on the analysis of far-right online activities with an emphasis on qualitative research. Dominik’s prior research focused on democratic theory, the strengthening of democratic praxis and the analysis of antidemocratic movements. Dominik holds a MA in Political Science from the Dresden University of Technology and a BA in Governance and Public Policy from the University of Passau. He is currently working on his PhD in Political Theory.
Christian Schwieter
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Christian Schwieter

Fellow

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Christian Schwieter
Christian Schwieter

Fellow

Christian Schwieter is a Fellow at ISD and a PhD candidate at the Department of Media Studies at Stockholm University, where he investigates the impact of European platform governance efforts on far-right activity on social media. Between 2020-2023, he led ISD Germany’s research on the migration of right-wing extremist actors to Telegram and other smaller platforms in response to increased content moderation on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. At ISD, he also co-led the pilot phase of the Digital Policy Lab, a new intergovernmental working group focused on charting the online policy path forward to prevent and counter disinformation, hate speech and extremism. In his role, he has advised the German Ministry of Justice, the German Foreign Office and the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, among others. Before ISD, Christian worked as a researcher for the Computational Propaganda Project at the Oxford Internet Institute and was Specialist Adviser on Disinformation Matters for the DCMS Select Committee at the UK House of Commons. He holds an MSc (Dist) in Social Science of the Internet from the University of Oxford and a BA (Hons) in World Politics from Leiden University.
Cécile Simmons
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Cécile Simmons

Research Manager

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Cécile Simmons
Cécile Simmons

Research Manager

Cécile Simmons is a Research Manager at ISD, specialising in malign influence operations targeting elections, public health and climate disinformation, far-right extremism and conspiracy theories. Her research includes social media network mapping, data analysis and ethnographic monitoring of closed online spaces. Her writing and commentary has been featured by the BBC, The Guardian, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Wired, among others. She previously worked in publishing and journalism, and holds an MSc in International History from the London School of Economics.