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Welcome to ISD Insights, a digest of ISD's latest research and projects on disinformation, extremism and polarisation around the world

ISD’S Sasha Havlicek addresses Christchurch Call Leaders’ Summit

Having been asked to co-chair a working group of leading experts, governments and online service providers on Algorithms, Radicalisation and Positive Interventions and to deliver a three year work plan on this vital topic for adoption at the Heads of State Christchurch Call Summit, our CEO Sasha Havlicek joined world leaders to present the results of this important work, which represent a significant step towards improved algorithmic transparency while calling for investment in a new generation of online interventions to address the fast evolving online threat landscape.  

The virtual gathering included world leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, as well as Christchurch Call co-founders Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand and President Emmanual Macron of France. Sasha Havlicek has been a member of the Call’s Advisory Network since its inception. The Call now includes 55 governments and leading internet providers such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. 

Read the statement on the Summit

New ISD research for EU shows dramatic rise in online antisemitism in French and German during the pandemic  

In a new report published with support from the European Commission, ISD's Milo Comerford and Lea Gerster took an inside-look at the growing phenomenon of online antisemitism in Europe, focusing on Covid-19 related antisemitic content in French- and German-language social media accounts. Their findings show an alarming 7x and 13x respective increase of antisemitic posts between January 2020 and March 2021 across popular social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and Telegram. In a speech at the report’s launch during the EU’s Working Group on Antisemitism, European Commission Vice President  Margaritis Schinas said “these figures are shocking – and a clear call to action.”. This report will help shape and evidence the EU’s upcoming strategy on countering antisemitism, which will be presented at the end of 2021.

Read coverage of the report at POLITICO, European Jewish Press, Brussels Times, the Sofia Globe, and Algemeiner

Download the report

Understanding the inner workings of the "Cloud Caliphate" 

In this joint report, Moustafa Ayad and Amarnath Amarasingam partnered with the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point to analyse one of the largest known online repositories of Islamic State materials. Initially identified, accessed and documented by ISD, the “Cloud Caliphate” has offered researchers, policymakers and counterterrorism practitioners additional insights on how and why extremist groups and their supporters maintain archives of such material. This report aims to further increase understanding of how violent extremist groups and their supporters manage, preserve and protect information relevant to their cause.

Read coverage at Homeland Security Today and CyberDefense24 (in Polish).

Download the report

New Analysis Shows Rise in Far-Right Activity on Gab Shows

A Snapshot of Far-Right Activity on Gab in Australia, a new report written by ISD's Cécile GuerinMario PeuckerThomas J. Fisher and Jacob Davey in collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities at Victoria University takes a deep dive into the far-right on the alt-platform Gab, looking at the activity of geolocated far-right accounts in Australia from January to September 2020. Part of a series for the Centre for Resilient and Inclusive Societies, the report's findings show a substantial uptick in activity coinciding with global racial justice protests following the killing of George Floyd and the second COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne. 

Download the report

Anti-vaxxer beliefs become more mainstream in Germany 

In the most comprehensive social media analysis of the German anti-vaxx scene to date, ISD has identified the messenger service Telegram as the leading channel dedicated to Covid-19 disinformation, which grew by 471 percent compared to 21.2 percent on Facebook pages. Among the most concerning findings is evidence on how far-right actors have used anti-vaxx narratives to groom new followers, to normalize their ideology and spark violent resistance against lockdown measures. While some countries have observed a concerning overlap between yoga circles and anti-vaxxers, in Germany, far-right actors and anti-vaxxers have found influence within natural medicine and esotheric circles. The question is who will leverage these connections once the pandemic is over.

Read the coverage of the report findings on Focus (in German).

Download the report (in German)

SCN launches the Covid-19 Resource Hub

To examine how COVID-19 has affected our cities, as well as hate, polarisation and extremism, the Strong Cities Network (SCN) spoke to experts from across their network to produce the COVID-19 Resource Hub, a collection of practical, trusted resources for city leaders and practitioners to help build resilience against all types of extremism. In this webinar on May 12th, Sasha Havlicek is joined by Paul Foley, Former Australian Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Milo Comerford, Head of Policy & Research, Counter-Extremism, at ISD; and Magnus Ranstorp, Research Director at the Swedish Defence University.

Watch highlights here

We’re growing! Exciting new opportunities available at ISD


ISD has had phenomenal growth in the past year across all of our programme areas. That growth is set to continue, with a range of exciting opportunities available in the coming months.

New positions available at ISD include roles within our expanding ISD Germany regional office and an interning roles within our Africa, the Middle-East, and Asia team

Find out more from ISD's vacancies page at the link below:
New ISD vacancies
SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS

Webinar: Countering Extremism at the Municipal Level

On May 14th, Sasha Havlicek was a featured guest at a webinar by the Council on Foreign Relations on how state and local officials can work together to counter extremism at the municipal level. She was joined by Andy Berke, former mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee to discuss how organizations like ISD’s Strong Cities Network are equipping local leaders with the data, tools and capacities needed to combat extremism. 

Watch the event

Webinar: Sikoop: Extremist propaganda and hate on the Internet

Jakob Guhl joins German public prosecutor Matthias Rebentisch, educational scientist Juliane Chakrabarti, and cultural and media science journalist Christian Huberts for this upcoming podcast at 10:00 CET on Thursday, June 10th by SiKoop (Security Cooperation East), a symposium organised by Germany's state level intelligence services (“Offices for the Protection of the Constitution”). The discussion looks at where right-wing extremist propaganda and agitation can be found on the internet and how society can counter them. Moderated by Marina Weisband (event in German).

Register here

Podcast: RISE: Identity, Pluralism, and Extremism

Jakob Guhl joins communication scientist Lena Frischlich from the University of Münster in this podcast from Germany's Institute of Media Education (JFF). The RISE podcast series explores what narratives are, how they work and how they are used by extremist actors in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. There is a further discussion of the possibilities of a pedagogical, media-critical approach to narratives in political education. Julia Tieke hosts.

Listen to the podcast (in German)
ISD IN THE MEDIA
  • BBC News Africa, "The Door Closed and Then I Heard the Shots" - Aoife Gallagher contributes to a short documentary on a fatal shooting by the Gardaí (Irish police) and the role of disinformation in the case.
  • Impact Alpha, "Africa’s online safety is a new frontier for social innovation" - Coverage of ISD's Africa Online Safety Fund, sponsored in partnership with Google.org, for African civil society organisations.
  • The Irish Times, "Why are women more hesitant to get the Covid-19 vaccine?" - Cecile Guerin quoted in this article looking at COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among women.
  • RTÉ, "How to Talk to Friends who Believe Conspiracy Theories" - Aoife Gallagher is the guest for Irish broadcaster RTÉ's The Truth Matters podcast exploring the allure of disinformation and conspiracy theories
  • Bloomberg, "Social Networks Are Exporting Disinformation About Covid Vaccines" - ISD's research on Arabic content on Facebook is referenced in this story highlighting how disinformation spreads on Facebook.
  • Dutch News, "Coronavirus conspiracies boom on Facebook, snapshot report shows" - Ciaran O’Connor speaks to Dutch News about an apparent 63% increase in Dutch coronavirus misinformation communities on Facebook in the past six months.
  • POLITICO, "POLITICO Digital Bridge: GDPR anniversary — Adiós, gig economy — COVID-19 apps" - Ciaran O’Connor's research on Dutch Covid-19 misinformation communities on Facebook is featured in Politico's weekly transatlantic tech newsletter. 
  • Rantt Media, "How Authoritarians Erode Democracy Under The Guise Of Defending It" - Op-ed by Greta Jasser of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right and Dominik Hammer on the battle of narratives between those defending and undermining democracy.
  • POLITICO, "Boris Johnson’s phone number breach fails to prompt tighter security" - Daniel Maki talks with Politico about how government officials should use disposable burners in order to deter hackers.  
  • The Journal, "'My body, my choice': How some Irish wellness Instagram accounts became a hotbed of Covid-19 misinformation" - analyst Aoife Gallagher comments on the rise of wellness influencers and advocates turning to conspiracy theories in the last year. 
  • VICE, "Telegram Is the Far-Right’s Weapon of Choice in Ireland" - Ciaran O’Connor and Aoife Gallagher comment about their recent report on the Irish far-right and misinformation workarounds available on an app like Telegram. 
  • DeSmog, "Steve Baker’s #CostOfNetZero Campaign Trended But Only Because Steve Baker Kept Tweeting It" - ISD research is referenced in this article about the sources behind the trending hashtag #CostofNetZero, and Steve Baker's argument about the supposed cost of the UK meeting its climate targets. 
  • Slate, "Florida’s New Pro-Disney, Anti-Facebook and Twitter Law" - News report on Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis referencing ISD's research with Politico on the impact of conservative voices driving online conversation.
SUPPORT OUR WORK

Help ISD safeguard democracy

We have been committed to the fight against hate, extremism, polarisation and disinformation for nearly 15 years and it's all thanks to support from people like you. As an independent, non-profit organisation, our work is reliant on grants and donations as we continuously stay on the forefront of analysing and responding to extremism in all its forms. 

By donating to ISD, your contribution will ensure we can continue to analyse, advise, and programmatically act to educate and build resilience across communities in order to create stronger, more cohesive societies. Join us, please, by donating at the link below.

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Copyright © Institute for Strategic Dialogue (2021). Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales with company registration number 06581421 and registered charity number 1141069. Registered office address: PO Box 75769, London, SW1P 9ER, United Kingdom. All rights reserved. 

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