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

Report: New insights into online funding strategies used by hate movements

In a new ISD collaboration with the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), we analysed the digital footprints of 73 US-based hate groups, assessing the extent to which they used 54 online funding mechanisms. Bankrolling Bigotry: An Overview of the Online Funding Strategies of American Hate Groups found that while different types of hate groups prioritised different funding mechanisms, nearly half (44%) have non-profit status in the US. These groups were also widely able to use platforms with policies against hate speech, showing a failure to implement and enforce these policies. The report recommends a number policy changes for the platforms and Congress to consider to tackle this issue.

Read exclusive coverage at NBC News, and further coverage in Gizmodo

Read the report

Report: Exploring the overlap between online extremism and COVID-19 in Germany

Funded by the European Forum Alpbach, the Mercator Foundation and Mercator Switzerland, ISD conducted a research project looking at German online extremism across the ideological spectrum in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. ISD tracked the growth of far-right, far-left and Islamist extremist movements since the introduction of lockdown measures across Germany, Austria and Switzerland since March. In addition, the team analysed the growing overlap between far-right communities and conspiracy theorists as well as the ways in which different extremist movements interpreted the crisis. The resulting research report can be downloaded at the link below.

Read exclusive media coverage in Die Zeit.

Read the report

Briefing: How disinformation exploits Black Lives Matter and voter fraud

ISD has published new research in collaboration with Politico looking at the nature and scale of disinformation around Black Lives Matter and “voter fraud” discussions on 5 platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, 4Chan and Instagram. The report shows, among other things, that right-wing social media content was shared ten times as much as left-wing liberal posts on the topic of Black Lives Matter during September of 2020. We also found that conservative voices reached roughly double the number of people online compared to traditional media outlets or liberals when discussing unfounded claims of “voter fraud”, including outright disinformation and misrepresentative coverage of voting issues 

Read the exclusive Politico investigation here and coverage by the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard here.

Read the briefing

Report: ISD takes a deeper look at coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook 

ISD's new report, Hoodwinked: Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour on Facebook, tracks the information made public on coordinated inauthentic behaviour (CIB) through Facebook’s own reporting between July 2018 and July 2020, assessing the scale of CIB across Facebook and Instagram, the profit Facebook has made from it and the intricacies of the networks themselves. This briefing seeks to highlight the threat of large-scale manipulation on Facebook and demonstrate the need for greater data access so that researchers can support detection and learn retrospectively from these incidents of platform manipulation.

Read exclusive coverage of our findings at NBC News, the Forward, and the Metro (UK). 
Read the report

ISD analysts featured in two BBC documentaries

ISD has recently been featured in two documentaries for the BBC, each highlighting a different aspect of our digital analysis. The first, Episode 3 of BBC Two's "In the Face of Terror" shows Jacob Davey and the digital analysis team documenting the online response to the Christchurch attacks as they occurred in real time. It also features Julia Ebner and her infiltration of a European far right group in London. The second, "The TikTok Election," features Jennie King, Chloe Colliver, and Ciaran O'Connor discussing how TikTok disinformation was being used in advance of the 2020 US presidential election.

Watch the documentaries in full at the links below (viewing may require UK presence):

Watch "In the Face of Terror"
Watch "The TikTok Election"
  • NBC News, "Tech platforms continue to let U.S.-based hate groups use them to make payments" - Jacob Davey discusses ISD's recent report, "Bankrolling Bigotry."
  • Politico, "QAnon goes European" - Jakob Guhl comments on QAnon's growing allure in Europe.
  • Glamour Magazine, "Who are QANon? Why British mothers are spreading a dangerous far-right conspiracy theory" - Jacob Davey speaks about QAnon's appeal to youth.
  • Politico, "Crazy Nancy, Crooked Donald — two linked Facebook pages show the allure of political discord" - Daniel Maki identifies how one person pushed anti-Trump and anti-Biden messages to Spanish speakers in the US.
  • New York Times, "Riled Up: Misinformation Stokes Calls for Violence on Election Day" - ISD research cited in an article discussing misinformation stoking calls for violence.
  • BBC Newsnight - Chloe Colliver speaks about how fake news can spread quickly if appealing to emotion, using a viral tweet hailing the false return of the Woolworths store to the UK.
  • Politico (Europe) "EU’s Michel wants school for imams to combat terrorism and radicalisation" - Rashad Ali comments on the proposal by European Council President Charles Michel to train imams that preach in Europe.
  • Vice "Facebook Can't Seem to do Anything About 'Stop the Steal' Groups" - Ciaran O'Connor speaks about the challenge of banning copycat "Stop the Steal" groups on Facebook.
  • The Forward, "Iran is using fake Facebook pages to weaken US support for Israel" - Chloe Colliver discusses how Iran leverages Facebook pages for propaganda purposes.
  • Metro (UK), "5G, child trafficking and Covid-19 cover ups – how does someone end up a conspiracy theorist?" - This article cites ISD research citing the increase in conspiracy theories during periods of lockdown.
  • European Western Balkans - Sasha Havlicek discusses extremisms in the Western Balkans in this extensive interview.
  • USA Today, "Were voters manipulated by QAnon a force behind Trump's 'red wave' in 2020 election?" - Aoife Gallagher comments on QAnon activity in the run up to the 2020 US elections.
  • re:Jerusalem, "Online extremism in Halle trial again at center stage" - Jakob Guhl speaks about the radicalisation process of the Halle terrorist attacker during his trial in progress.

Responding to the Paris, Nice and Vienna attacks

ISD has closely studied the circumstances around recent attacks in Europe - Paris, Nice, and Vienna - including the recruitment and claims of responsibility from ISIS. Sasha Havlicek spoke to Britain's Channel 4 News about the Vienna terror attack and how extremist recruitment has adapted to the COVID-19 era. 

Watch the full interview at the link below. Read additional coverage in The New Statesman

Watch the interview

Webinar: The Future of Disinformation

Sasha Havlicek will join Ethan Zuckerman (Director of the Institute for Digital Public Infrastructure), Arisha Michelle Hatch (Vice President and Chief of Campaigns, Color of Change), and Peter Pomerantsev (Senior Fellow, SNF Agora Institute and author of "This is not Propaganda") for an Aspen Initiative UK webinar moderated by Ed Williams (President and CEO, Edelman EMEA). What is the trajectory of disinformation and what does it mean for our society in 2021? Join us to find out!

Register for the event by clicking the link below:
Register here

Webinar: Mainstreaming right-wing extremism

Sasha Havlicek recently participated in an online panel hosted by the Belgrade Security Forum discussing the mainstreaming of right-wing extremism and how the rise of right-wing politics has one ubiquitous feature: pushing for identity politics as a replacement for social justice and universal solidarity. Sasha spoke alongside Željko Jovanović (Director of the Open Society Roma Initiatives Office) and Federico Ottavio Reho (Strategic Coordinator and Research Officer, Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies). 

Watch the webinar at the link below.

Watch the event

Webinar: Outthinking Hate

In a webinar hosted by the Center for Humane Technology, Sasha Havlicek joined Jessica Gonzalez (Co-CEO, Free Press), Fadi Quram (Campaign Director, Avaaz), and host David Jay (Head of Mobilization, Center for Humane Technology) for a discussion on combatting digital hate. 

Watch the webinar at the link below.

Watch the event

Webinar: Can we save the Internet?

Can we save the Internet?an online event sponsored by NewsGuard and Trend Micro, featured Chloe Colliver discussing the rise of online pollution, from cybercrime to online extremism, misinformation to online trolls. She was joined by experts in cybercrime, misinformation, online hate, and online inauthentic behavior (or “bots”) including Eric Effron (Editorial Director, NewsGuard), Stephen Hilt (Senior Threat Researcher, Trend Micro), and Darren L. Linvill (Associate Professor, Department of Communication, Clemson University). The event was moderated by Lynette Owens, Founder & Global Director, Internet Safety for Kids and Families Program, Trend Micro.

Watch the webinar at the link below.

Watch the event

Webinar: The WebRoots Democracy Festival

ISD's Zahed Amanullah will join a panel discussion hosted by WebRoots Democracy, a UK-based think tank, as part of the WebRoots Democracy Festival taking place online later this month. Zahed will speak about online Islamophobic abuse perpetuated by foreign disinformation actors as well as domestic citizens and potential solutions which governments, civil society, and tech companies can take to reduce the problem. Other panelists include Faima Bakar (Metro), Miqdaad Versi (Muslim Council of Britain), and Fahmida Rahman (WebRoots Democracy). 

Register for the webinar at the link below.

Register here

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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Copyright © Institute for Strategic Dialogue (2020). 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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