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

Disinformation targeting state election in Germany signals risks for 2021 Bundestag election

In German-speaking social media, campaigns aimed at sowing doubts about the legitimacy of elections are picking up speed. A new ISD Germany report finds that in the state election of Saxony-Anhalt alone, an estimated 2.6 million Twitter users received posts with the hashtag #Voting fraud within 24 hours of the election. This was also due to Twitter's recommendation algorithms, which exponentially increased the reach of the posts in question. In addition, Facebook, Telegram and Bitchute were used, as well as via the blogs and newsletters of right-wing influencers such as Roland Tichy, Boris Reitschuster and Oliver Janich. 

Read coverage at POLITICO (Europe), Spiegel, and Schwabische

Download the report (in German)

New ISD report uncovers anti-refugee disinformation and mobilisation in Europe

After months of investigation in Greece, a new report provides a snapshot of the different online communities involved in the promotion of hate and disinformation targeting refugees and the migration sector in 2020. It looks at networks of accounts in Greek, German and English language, and provides an overview of the narratives employed in anti-refugee disinformation and the dynamics which drive this activity online.

Download the report

New ISD report maps New Zealand's online extremist ecosystem

ISD’s new report provides a data-driven snapshot of the current state of play of online extremism in New Zealand, mapping far-rightIslamist and far-left extremist communities, as well as the growing grey area between conspiracy theories and extremism online. The research, which analysed both mainstream social media platforms and a range of ‘alt tech’ platforms, found an active and internationally networked ecosystem of online extremists in New Zealand, comparable in relative size to equivalent communities in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Delivered with support from the New Zealand government, this report forms part of the response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attacks.

Read coverage of the report and its launch at New Zealand’s first national counter-terrorism hui (assembly) in Stuff (NZ) and the New Zealand Herald
Download the report

ISD and Die Welt investigation identifies shift in Chinese influence operations tactics

In June, ISD’s Digital Dispatches, presented the findings of a new investigation by ISD and the German news outlet Die Welt, which found that a German pro-CCP influencer on Twitter has been amplified by likely coordinated networks of thousands of Twitter accounts, promoted by prominent CCP officials and, in some instances, senior corporate executives from major Chinese companies such as Huawei. The research suggests an evolution in Chinese influence operations involving real human influencers on Twitter, who are used to help the CCP defend its reputation online. Building off of findings from a previous ISD report from July 2020, the research found that these China-friendly accounts are amplified by batches of accounts created over a short period of time, replies targeting official Western media accounts and retweets. Read more on our findings here:  

Read coverage on our joint findings in Die Welt

Digital Dispatches

Welcoming a new Director for the
Strong Cities Network

As part of ISD’s U.S. expansion, we’re delighted to welcome Eric Rosand to our U.S. team to lead the Strong Cities Network (SCN). A former senior official at the U.S. State Department, with some 20 years of experience in the counter-terrorism and extremism domains, Eric joined ISD in May of this year as Interim Director of SCN. Eric was instrumental in the launch of SCN at the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, partnering with ISD while in the U.S. government to spearhead this vital global network along with other multilateral initiatives such as the Global Counterterrorism Forum and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF).

In addition to leading the SCN’s global strategy and engagement, Eric’s role will include expanding and deepening SCN collaboration with the UN and other multilateral institutions, heading up the SCN’s expansion in the U.S., including the launch of our new SCN U.S. Advisory Board and Steering Committee, which will drive the thematic priorities and strategic direction of the network in the U.S. Welcome Eric! 



Podcast: Monetising Islamophobia

Islamophobia has been wielded as a weapon to draw support from right wing actors as well as to disenfranchise Muslim populations. In this 40-minute episode of the podcast Synthetic Society, Zahed Amanullah explains how Islamophobia has been refined, amplified and duplicated into a process that is being used globally. Synthetic Society explores our future technological society, with each episode featuring interviews with leading experts, political figures, and entrepreneurs, discussing and teaching us about complex issues. Hosted by disinformation researcher Tom Ascott.

Listen here

Webinar: Digital hatred, its causes, manifestations, and effects

On July 8th, Jakob Guhl will be a featured speaker at this online conference by the University of Leipzig dealing with the phenomenon of digital hatred. Following a keynote by the Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, MEP Christine Lambrecht, Jakob and other speakers will explore various manifestations of hatred on the Internet, the motives of the proponents, and the consequences for society. The event is free of charge and takes place via Zoom.

Register here
  • BBC's Newsnight, Chloe Colliver speaks with Newsnight about the risks of radicalization, and radicalization toward violence, after prolonged exposure to extremists and disinformation narratives such as antivaxx conspiracies. 
  • The Wall Street Journal, "After Trump Ban, Facebook Oversight Panel Pushes for More Say" - Our CEO Sasha Havlicek comments on Facebook's Oversight Board and how it could better orient its focus toward its business practices, the design of its product and algorithms.
  • POLITICO, "Voter fraud misinformation gains momentum in Germany" - Julia Smirnova and Chloe Colliver spoke with POLITICO about ISD's research on the far-right and voter fraud narratives in Germany ahead of nationwide elections. 
  • Morning Consult, "Not Every QAnon Believer’s an Antisemite. But There’s a Lot of Overlap Between Its Adherents and Belief in a Century-Old Antisemitic Hoax" - Aoife Gallagher speaks with Morning Consult about the role of "Q" in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. 
  • Stuff, "More than 300 online accounts run by extremists in New Zealand, research finds" - ISD findings on far-right and conspiracy theorist social media networks are featured in this article. 
  • The Jerusalem Post, "Nearly half of QAnon supporters believe Jews want world domination- survey" - Aoife Gallagher's above interview is quoted in this article about the overlaps between QAnon supporters and antisemitic theories. 
  • Newsweek, "Nearly Half of QAnon Followers Believe Jews Plotting to Rule the World" - Aoife Gallagher is once again referenced in this article about QAnon supporters that believe antisemitic narratives. 
  • The Telegraph, "One in eight terror suspects is a child - the highest proportion on record" - Milo Comerford speaks with The Telegraph about the rising trend in underage recruitment by the far-right. 
  • The Globe and Mail, "Canada’s online ecosystem of hate is thriving" - Amarnath Amarasingam and Jacob Davey discuss their research on extremist right-wing propaganda (paywall). 
  • Seattle Times, "California’s yoga, wellness and spirituality community has a QAnon problem" - Cécile Guerin comments on the yoga community's vulnerability to extremists beliefs. 
  • The Organization for World Peace, "Whack-A-Mole: George Nkencho’s Death, The Irish Far-Right, And The Need For Cohesive Digital Regulation" - Aoife Gallagher's and Ciaran O’Connor's research on the social media frenzy that followed the death of George Nkencho is featured here. 
  • The Journal, "Opinion: First rule of social media? Don’t engage with The Horrible People" - Aoife Gallagher puts together an op-ed about algorithms and social media platforms obsession with leading by shock-factor. 
  • Brookings, "The Conspiracy and Disinformation Challenge on E-Commerce Platforms" - ISD's joint report with the Global Disinformation Index, as well as our report on Amazon's book sales platform's algorithm is referenced in this article on e-commerce platforms. 
  • Fast Company, "How Amazon became an engine for anti-vaccine conspiracy theories" - ISD's findings on Amazon algorithms were once again referenced in this latest article. 
  • Cision Canada (Canada's Newswire), "Government of Canada takes action to protect Canadians against hate speech and hate crimes" - ISD research is cited by the Canadian government in their latest bill geared toward countering hate speech and hate crimes. 
  • TRTWorld, "Canada's Ontario Govt blocks motion condemning Islamophobia, racism" - ISD's research on far-right extremism on social media is mentioned in this article about a recently rejected motion aimed at condemning Islamophobia and racism in Canada. 
  • Global News (Canada), "What is the government doing about Islamophobia in Canada? Here’s what we know" - ISD is once again cited in an article about the ongoing debate in Canada on how the government should address Islamophobia. 
  • New Zealand Herald, "Counter-terrorism conference told Christchurch mosque shootings could inspire another extremist"- ISD's participation in New Zealand's first annual hui on countering terrorism and violent extremism was mentioned in a number of articles including this one and on Stuff, "Anti-terrorism hui with high profile speakers coming to Christchurch next week."
  • Newsroom, "Behind tensions at the terrori hui" - ISD's government-commissioned (NZ) study was debated during the hui as one conference-goer believed the online extremism network was in fact much broader than depicted. 
  • SBS (Australia), "FBI warns of ‘real-world violence’ from QAnon followers in new report" - ISD is used as a source in this article about QAnon followers following the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden. 
  • i24 News, "EU study reveals massive spike in online antisemitism during coronavirus pandemic" - Our joint report with the EU commission on the rise of antisemitism since the pandemic began is mentioned extensively in this article.
  • The Brussels Times, "New EU study shows increase in on-line antisemitism during the coronavirus crisis" - The report's findings are also showcased here. 
  • Rantt Media, "How Authoritarians Erode Democracy Under The Guise Of Defending It" - ISD's Dominik Hammer co-wrote an op-ed about the far-right's vision of democracy and the narratives, ideologies and strategies that are used as justification. 
  • Junkee, "All The Wildest Revelations We Learned From The ABC’s Investigation On QAnon And Scott Morrison" - ISD research on the presence of QAnon activity in Australia is cited in this article. 
  • The Irish Times, "How to talk to the vaccine denier in your life" - Aoife Gallagher comments on the drivers behind vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy theorists. 
  • SR 2 Kultur Radio (German), "Störmanöver - Desinformationsversuche vor der Wahl" - Christian Schwieter speaks with the regional public radio station about disinformation campaigns in the run-up to the federal elections in September.
  • RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (German), "Corona-Impfung im Bann der Fake News: Wie Impfgegner im Internet Angst schüren" - Hannah Winter, co-author of the ISD Germany report on the prominence of antivaxx narratives in Germany social media, speaks on the longterm consequences of this conspiracy scene. 

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 to 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.

Donate now

Join our team to counter hate, extremism and disinformation globally 

ISD has grown across all of our areas of work in the last year, with new team members joining us in over 14 countries globally. That growth is set to continue, with a range of exciting opportunities available in the coming months.

All new roles at ISD are advertised on our vacancies page. We are currently looking for exceptional people to take on a range of vital roles, from managing our portfolio of grants in our Berlin office, to overseeing our monitoring and evaluation team, to driving forwards our communications around the world. If you would like to know more about upcoming opportunities or submit a speculative application, please visit the link below: 

New ISD vacancies
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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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