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

New report finds Amazon's algorithms drive traffic to extremist content

Our new report looks at how algorithmic recommendations on Amazon direct users towards potentially harmful content. These recommendation algorithms not only direct people towards this content in an escalatory fashion, but they also have the potential to direct more money into the pockets of the authors (as well as, to some extent, those of Amazon itself). The authors involved include well- known conspiracy theorists who have been banned from multiple online platforms for sharing dangerous and false information, as well as far-right activists who openly promote racist or white nationalist beliefs.

Read coverage of the report findings at USA Today, The Telegraph, Newsweek, and the Seattle Times.

Download the report

Linking Irish far-right activity on the Telegram to real life consequences

Layers of Lies, a new ISD report from our Ireland-based researchers, takes a deep dive into Irish far-right activity on the messaging app, Telegram, where the movement is operating both as identifiable groups and influencers, and anonymously-run channels and groups. The report looks at the activity across 34 such Telegram channels through the lens of a series of case studies where content posted on these channels resulted in real life consequences

This report was produced in conjunction with and its investigative platform as part of their Eyes Right series, examining the growth of far-right ideology on Irish online networks, and its influence on wider public opinion.

Read and watch coverage of the reports findings at Coda Story, The Irish Times, iRadio and RTE Radio.

Download the report

New compendium of Digital Policy briefs now available

From September 2020 to January 2021, the first sessions of ISD's inter-governmental Digital Policy Lab (DPL) took place. A series of Policy Briefs accompanying those sessions have now been published. The DPL is a new inter-governmental working group focused on charting the regulatory and policy path forward to prevent and counter disinformation, hate speech, extremism and terrorism online. The papers cover five key areas of debate:

  • Transparency, Data Access and Online Harms
  • National & International Models for Online Regulation
  • The EU Digital Services Act & the UK Online Safety Bill
  • The Liberal Democratic Internet – Five Models for a Digital Future
  • Future Considerations for Online Regulation
Download the report (English)
Download the report (German)

Making sense of Arabic COVID-19 misinformation in the MENA region

Part of an ongoing series examining COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on Facebook in countries and regions across the world, MENA Monitor: Arabic COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation Online focuses on Arabic-language communities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) throughout January and February 2021. This landmark report traces anti-vaccination pages on Facebook in which an elaborate network of non-existent think tanks, vaccination watchdogs, and antisemitic, conspiracy-laden YouTube channels with hundreds of thousands of followers are uncovered.

Read coverage at Wired

Download the report

Charting 21 ways forward with ISD's Together for Safety webinars

The Together for Safety webinars, launched in January 2021 as a joint venture between the Strong Cities Network (SCN) and Nordic Safe Cities, was a series of online talks to tackle pressing urban safety and security challenges with a key focus on addressing hate, polarisation and extremism across the Nordics and in cities around the world. A summary of remarks from more than 40 participating mayors and city leaders, policymakers, practitioners, youth, civil society and subject matter experts is now available to download, with 21 succinct ‘ways forward’ outlined.

Download the report

We’re growing! Exciting new opportunities available at ISD

Despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, we have had phenomenal growth in the past year across 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 senior roles within our Strong Cities Network, research and analyst roles within our growing Digital Analysis Unit, and roles within our regional offices in the United States, Germany and Kenya

Find out more from ISD's vacancies page at the link below:
New ISD vacancies
  • Tortoise Media, "Climate is the new front in the culture wars" - A long read article by Jennie King outlining how climate disinformation is the next big topic to be exploited by extremists to serve their interests. 
  • Bild, "Antisemitische Hetze bleibt oft unbestraft" - Coverage of ISD's research on antisemitic online hate speech in Germany, with comment from Huberta von Voss of ISD Germany.
  • USA Today, "Is Amazon recommending books on QAnon and white nationalism? Browsing books can lead to extremist rabbit hole" - Chloe Colliver discusses ISD's recent report on Amazon algorithms promotion of extremist content, Recommended Reading.
  • The Telegraph, "Amazon's algorithm 'pushing Covid-19 disinformation'" - More from Chloe Colliver on ISD's Recommended Reading report on Amazon algorithms, including a response from Amazon.
  • Le Soir (Belgium), "QAnon et autres: l’Hexagone inquiet d’une influence croissante" - Iris Boyer speaks about the Mia kidnapping and the spread of QAnon theories in France.
  • Newsweek, "How Amazon's Algorithms Recommend QAnon and Extremist Material to Users: Report" - More coverage of ISD's report on Amazon algorithms, with a response from Amazon. 
  • The Atlantic, "The Vaccine-Hesitant Man of Europe" - Cooper Gatewood offers comment on how anti-lockdown sentiments have been picked up by those in the Yellow Vest movement.
  • Sydney Morning Herald, "‘Pastel QAnon’: Instagram conspiracy peddlers a political headache for design giants" - Coverage of ISD's reporting on the use of QAnon related hashtags and phrases on social media in countries around the world including Australia
  • The Six O'Clock Show (Ireland) - Aoife Gallagher is a special in-studio guest to discuss the rise of misinformation in the COVID-19 era and the roles and responsibilities of social media platforms.
  • Alsat-M (North Macedonia) - Emir Hasanovic is an in-studio guest at North Macedonia's most watched national station for a 30 minute interview on ISD's Strong Cities work in the Balkans. Emir is also featured in a short interview at Sitel
  • BBC News, The Anti-Vaxx Files - Chloe Colliver is featured in this podcast series on how the anti-vaccine movement exploded online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Handelsblatt (Germany), "Allianz gegen Big Tech: Druck auf Facebook und Google wächst" - Coverage of ISD's Digital Policy Lab
  • RTE Radio 1 (Ireland), The Claire Byrne Show - Aoife Gallagher speaks about conspiracy theories following the release of ISD's report on the Irish far-right.
  • Seattle Times, "Amazon’s algorithms promote extremist misinformation, report says" - Coverage of ISD's report on Amazon's algorithms promotion of extremist content, Recommended Reading, including a response from Amazon.
  • Berghof Foundation, "Zum Kritischen Umgang mit Verschwörungstheorien" - Jakob Guhl contributes analysis on conspiracy theories and social media (in German) for the Berghof Foundation. 
  • The Hill, "From global to local: Helping US cities and states address domestic violent extremism" - Coverage of ISD's Strong Cities Network in the wake of new Department of Homeland Security grants to combat domestic extremism.

Webinar: The Growth of Transatlantic Far-Right Networks

ISD's Jacob Davey and Jakob Guhl were featured guests of AJC Berlin at a webinar discussing the threat facing both the U.S. and Europe from the far-right and how governments and civil society can combat online radicalization and the proliferation of conspiracy theories. The even also looked at how fringe conspiracy theories with antisemitic roots have gone from the corners of the internet to the mainstream.The event was moderated by AJC Berlin Senior Associate Eric Adamson.

Watch the event

Webinar: Extremism and extremist groups in an Irish context

On April 28th, Aoife Gallagher was a featured guest in the first of a two part series on extremism in Ireland. This session explored groups and ideologies that are often referred to as extreme, examining how and why they acquire such labels, and exploring their associated threat or lack thereof. Joining Aoife was Dr. Debbie Ging, Associate Professor in the School of Communications, Dublin City University; Jonathan Arlow, School of Law and Government, Dublin City University; and Dr. Benjamin Lee, Senior Research Associate at the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at the University of St Andrews.

Watch the event

Podcast: Domestic extremism spreads its wings

Sasha Havlicek joined Susan Corke, Intelligence Project Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, for The Cable Podcast by Institute of Current World Affairs to discuss the domestic extremism threat in the US, described by US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as “the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to the homeland today.” She joins hosts Gregory Feifer (Executive Director, Institute of Current World Affairs) and Jonathan Katz, Senior Fellow and Director of Democracy Initiatives, The German Marshall Fund of the United States.

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.

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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