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

Strong Cities Network hosts 70 mayors in conversation with the Dalai Lama

On 27 January 2021, the Strong Cities Network (SCN), together with the United States Conference of Mayors, was honoured to host an exclusive conversation on Kind and Compassionate Leadership with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In all, 74 mayors, governors, councillors and other subnational leaders from 20 countries around the world took part in the rare and intimate event, during which His Holiness answered questions from select mayors on how we can help bring unity and healing to a world so affected by polarisation and hate.

Read a full synopsis of the event at the Dalai Lama's official website. Local coverage of the event can be found at WDRB,, The Tibet Post, and GVWire.

Watch the event

How Russian Influence Operations Travel Across the Internet

This new ISD report examines websites and blogging accounts which appear to be linked to News Front, a Crimean-based news organisation previously accused of being a source of pro-Kremlin disinformation and influence operations. The sites and accounts shared stories and images in many cases identical to those published by News Front without attribution, highlighting how particular pieces of content and narratives linked to pro-Kremlin influence or state-linked online assets can spread undetected across the internet.

Download the report at the link below:

Read the report

New SCN report highlights resilience-building in the Balkans

As part of its Strong Cities Network (SCN) regional engagement in Kumanovo, North Macedonia, ISD surveyed the population to better understand local dynamics of resilience including factors such as public confidence in local authorities, schools and religious institutions, informing more targeted local counter-extremism measures.

Download the report below in English, Macedonian, or Albanian.

Read the report

New toolkit compiles insights for local authoritieson how to respond to a terror attack

Along with efforts (noted above) to build resilience to extremism in communities worldwide, SCN has developed a toolkit to guide local governments in formulating a sensitive and effective response in the wake of a terror attack. This toolkit has been informed by SCN's network of mayors, policymakers and practitioners who have contributed their time and expertise to ensure the toolkit is well-rounded, informed and versatile. 

The report is available in English at the link below and will soon be available in Arabic and French.

Read the report

Nordic Safe Cities launches new Together for Safety series of webinars

Together for Safety is a series of four online talks by ISD's Nordic Safe Cities programme tackling pressing safety and security issues. The first two webinars, conducted on January 21st and 28th, covered extremist trends during COVID-19 and the internet and social media's role on polarisation and hate respectively. The third webinar on February 4th looked at the biggest safety challenges for cities and public spaces. The fourth and final webinar on February 11th focused on innovative youth-led activities.

The Together for Safety webinars will be available online soon.

Webinar: Practical approaches to digital citizenship and media literacy in France

ISD conducted its first training for its Young Digital Leaders educational tools on Thursday, January 21st. The webinar, conducted entirely in French, addressed resilience to misinformation and the development of critical thinking, with advice adapted to an online work environment during COVID-19. It also introduced ISD's digital citizenship and media literacy educational resources, including The Young Digital Leaders curriculum (recently updated in French), A practical guide for parents and supervisors, and A guide to help design programs for education professionals and associations.

Download the curriculum
  • CNN, Don Lemon Tonight: Chloe Colliver spoke to Don Lemon as a featured guest on January 15th and January 21st to discuss the aftermath of the Capitol Hill riots and the future of QAnon respectively.
  • Vice, "No, Facebook, You Didn't Stop Capitol Rioters From Planning an Insurrection" - Commentary by Ciaran O'Connor on Facebook's role in the Capitol Hill riots.
  • Financial Times, "‘France’s anti-vaxxers show deepening distrust of elites" - Cécile Guerin explains how a mix of medical scandals and anti-establishment sentiment have fuelled high vaccine hesitancy in France.
  • Politico, "Online extremists are ignoring Trump’s call for calm" - Chloe Colliver discusses the concerning levels of planning, promotion and organization of offline activities that might turn harmful and violent.
  • New York Times, "The Coup We Are Not Talking About" - ISD research cited in this long form article on the balance between free speech and public safety.
  • Irish Examiner, "Covid-19 giving 'extremist groups chance to launch disinformation campaigns'" - Aoife Gallagher talks about the exploitation of Covid-19 by extremist groups.
  • Wired, "The yoga world is riddled with anti-vaxxers and QAnon believers" - Cécile Guerin talks about the interaction between the yoga world and QAnon from her personal experience.
  • Jordan Times, "Strong Cities Network launches workshop on preventing, combating violent extremism" - Coverage of the Strong Cities Network's six-day training workshop in Jordan on Human Security and Definitions of P/CVE. 
  • The Telegraph, "Splintering of social media could fuel extremism, experts warn" - Jakob Guhl comments on how the fragmentation of social media triggered by the ban of President Donald Trump on Facebook and Twitter risks exacerbating online extremism
  • Politico, "Right-wing extremist chatter spreads on new platforms as threat of political violence ramps up" - Ciaran O'Connor discusses the effects of deplatforming on far right groups.
  • Washington Post, "New report calls conservative claims of social media censorship 'a form of disinformation'" - ISD research cited in new report on far right dominance of social media platforms.
  • Deutschlandfunk Nova, "Extremismusforscher: Wir hatten diese Szenen für November erwartet" - Jakob Guhl remarks on how the attacks by Q-Anon-following right-wing extremists and militias on the Capitol comes as a little surprise.
  • RTE - "Policing content an ongoing problem for big tech without a legal framework" - Ciaran O'Connor on the passive approach to content moderation offered by far-right platforms like Parler.
  • Seattle Times, "Why T-shirts promoting the Capitol riot are still available online" - Article citing research from ISD and the Global Disinformation Index citing 13 hate groups offering products on Amazon in October. 
  • The Telegraph, "Telegram flooded with death threats and calls for violence amid Trump ban" - Jakob Guhl speaks about the surge of far right extremists to Telegram after Donald Trump's Twitter ban.
  • Newstalk, "How Online Disinformation Campaigns Stir Up Disobedience" - In this podcast, Aoife Gallagher explains how growing online disinformation campaigns stir up Covid disobedience in Ireland.
  • Rolling Stone, "QAnon Believers Are Pushing New Trump Conspiracy Theories on TikTok" - Aoife Gallagher on how the sovereign citizen movement is furthering the belief within the QAnon community of a ‘deep state’ secretly controlling the world.
  • Daily Mail - "Counter-terrorism chief warns that Facebook's plan to encrypt billions of messages will stop the police foiling extremist plots and 'put lives at risk'" - Moustafa Ayad comments on efforts by social media platforms to remove extremist content.
  • Wired, "Deplatforming works, but it’s not enough to fix Facebook and Twitter" - Amarnath Amarasingam discusses the limits of deplatforming for Wired.
  • Radio Eins, "Über die Verbreitung von Ideologien und die Vernetzung von Rechtsextremisten" - This radio segment features Jakob Guhl discussing the case of Kassel government president Walter Lübcke, the first politician killed by right-wing extremists in the postwar period.
  • BBC News, "Biden inauguration: What are far-right Trump supporters saying?" - Ciaran O'Connor looks at the aftermath of the Biden inauguration and its effect on the far right.
  • Indy100, "QAnon followers now actually think that Trump will be president again on 4th March" - Aoife Gallagher looks at the die hards of the QAnon movement post-Trump.
  • The Journal, "Pro-Trump social media app Parler was a breeding ground for extremism - so why has it only been taken offline now?" - Ciaran O'Connor describes the rise and fall of Parler, which once hosted 10m members, many from the far right.
  • Vice, "The Democrats’ Lazy QAnon Attack Ad Will Only Make Things Worse" - Aoife Gallagher warns against overly simplistic generalisations of QAnon supporters.

Webinar: The fight against online radicalisation and its data protection implications

On January 27th, ISD's Milo Comerford participated in the CPDP2021 conference (Computers and Data Privacy). His panel, Radical insights – the fight against online radicalisation and its data protection implications, focused on online radicalisation in its various contexts including right wing as well as Islamist extremism. The session also looked at the role of law enforcement and how their use of personal data in the performance of their duties can impact public trust.

Watch the event

Radio documentary: Digitale Demagogie (Digital demagogy)

Sasha Havlicek and Jakob Guhl feature in this hour long radio documentary for German broadcaster ARD. Both comment on how right-wing influencers penetrate into the mainstream, stirring up paranoia with targeted media strategies. Also discussed is the effectiveness of Germany's Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) and the messaging services not covered by it, including Telegram.

Listen to the podcast

Help ISD safeguard democracy

As an independent, non-profit organisation, our work is reliant on grants and donations from people like you. We have been committed to the fight against hate, extremism, polarisation and disinformation for nearly 15 years, but face new threats and challenges in the wake of COVID-19.

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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