• ConspiraciesThe High Cost of Conspiracy Theories

    Conspiracy theories have been rampant on the Internet since the Corona crisis began. One of the most curious conspiracy theories involves Bill Gates: He wants to implant microchips into people with the help of vaccinations and thus control humanity, according to many online forums. Gustav Theile writes in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [in German] that surveys repeatedly show that these conspiracies are not a niche phenomenon. According to a Yougov survey, 44 percent of Republicans in the United States believe in the Gates microchip conspiracy. One in two Britons, according to a study by Oxford University, tends towards conspiracy theories. In Germany, the belief in the Gates conspiracy seems to have more followers than the fear that the new 5G mobile communications standard is the cause of the coronavirus epidemic. Web searches for both conspiracy theories shot up in April and May, but overall, Googling for 5G was only about half as often as for Bill Gates. Why conspiracies, which are supposed to be top secret, should be unmasked by simply Googling is, of course, not clear.

  • ExtremismHateful Extremists Have Been Exploiting the Current Pandemic

    The U.K. Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE) has published a report Thursday, looking at the way in which extremists have sought to exploit the current pandemic. The CCE say that the government needs to ensure that their response to dealing with COVID-19 and future crises takes into account the significant threat of hateful extremism and the dangerous narratives spread by conspiracy theories.

  • Truth decayDemocracy under Threat from “Pandemic of Misinformation” Online: Lords Committee

    The U.K. government should act immediately to deal with a “pandemic of misinformation” that poses an existential threat to our democracy and way of life. The stark warning comes in a report published Monday by the House of Lords’ Committee on Democracy and Digital Technologies.

  • Domestic terrorismU.S. Facing Growing Terrorism Problem, with White Supremacists the “Most Significant Threat”: Report

    A new report by terrorism experts at the conservative-leaning CSIS thinktank says that the United States faces a growing terrorism problem which will likely worsen over the next year. The most significant threat likely comes from white supremacists, though anarchists and religious extremists inspired by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda could present a potential threat as well. Right-wing attacks and plots account for the majority of all terrorist incidents in the United States since 1994, and the total number of right-wing attacks and plots has grown significantly during the past six years. Right-wing extremists perpetrated two thirds of the attacks and plots in the United States in 2019 and over 90 percent between 1 January and 8 May 2020. Over the rest of 2020, the terrorist threat in the United States will likely rise based on several factors, including the November 2020 presidential election.

  • DisinformationChinese, Russian COVID-19 Disinformation More Influential than Domestic European News Sources

    Chinese, Russia, Turkish, and Iranian state-backed propaganda outlets disseminate COVID-19-related disinformation throughout Europe in French, German, and Spanish, and this professionally presented disinformation is generating greater engagement across Facebook and Twitter than prominent domestic news media such as Le Monde in France or El Pais in Spain. Russian outlets producing fake coronavirus content in French and German consistently emphasized weak democratic institutions and civil disorder in Europe.

  • ExtremismCOVID-19 Pandemic Has Unleashed Wave of Anti-Semitism

    The coronavirus epidemic has been accompanied by what the WHO described as “infodemic” – an avalanche of conspiracy theories and disinformation which has spread on social networks. As is often the case, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are prominent in this infodemic, and a new report offers an analysis of the phenomenon.

  • ExtremismExtremism Rising in Canada

    Acts of terrorism committed by the far-right have increased by 320 percent over the past five years, supported by an increasingly connected and internationalist community of right-wing extremism. Canada has not been isolated from this trend and in recent years the number of hate groups operating in the country has tripled.

  • PerspectiveHow the Boogaloo Movement Is Turning Memes into Violent Action

    The Boogaloo movement, an extremist, right-leaning and libertarian, anti-government militia with online roots which is increasingly organizing attacks in the real world. Alex Goldenberg, Joel Finkelstein, and John Farmer Jr. write that “Like an American version of the Islamic State, their mythology attempts to recapture a glorious revolutionary American past in a mythological confrontation. The Boogaloo movement seeks to co-opt grievances across the political and racial spectrum and funnel them into an anti-government mob with tactical and technological capacities that look a lot like an American version of the Islamic State or al Qaeda.” The authors add: “The hope of these militants is to incite violence sufficient for society to betray the American civic tradition by forcing immense violence to protect it.”

  • Truth decayHow Conspiracy Theories Emerge – and How Their Storylines Fall Apart

    New research offers a new way to understand how unfounded conspiracy theories emerge online. The research, which combines sophisticated artificial intelligence and a deep knowledge of how folklore is structured, explains how unrelated facts and false information can connect into a narrative framework that would quickly fall apart if some of those elements are taken out of the mix.

  • Truth decayWho Shares the Most Fake News?

    Facebook is a more fertile breeding ground for fake news than Twitter, and those on the far ends of the liberal-conservative spectrum are most likely to share it, according to new research. “We found that certain types of people are disproportionally responsible for sharing the false, misleading, and hyper-partisan information on social media,” said the lead researcher. “If we can identify those types of users, maybe we can get a better grasp of why people do this and design interventions to stem the transfer of this harmful information.”

  • Regulating hate speechFrench High Court: Most of New Hate Speech Bill Would Undermine Free Expression

    In what free-speech advocates hail as aa victory for the free speech rights of French citizens, France’s highest court last week struck down core provisions of a bill meant to curb hate speech, holding they would unconstitutionally sweep up legal speech.

  • The Russia connectionRussian Info Ops Putting U.S. Police in Their Crosshairs

    By Jeff Seldin

    Russia appears to be intensifying its focus on police enforcement issues in the United States, using popular reactions to protests that have gripped the nation as part of a larger propaganda campaign to divide Americans ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November. For weeks Russia has used state-controlled RT and Sputnik, and social media posts, to spread disinformation about the protests. Only now, it seems that Russia, through the English-language RT in particular, is reaching out to U.S. police officers and union officials, in what some U.S. officials and lawmakers say is an effort to further inflame tensions.

  • Conspiracy theoryFinding Links between Belief in Conspiracy Theories and Political Engagement

    A belief in the existence of conspiracies — particularly among followers of extremist movements — seems to go hand-in-hand with the assumption that political violence is an acceptable option. However, the role that a belief in conspiracies actually plays in political extremism and the willingness to use physical force has to date been disputed by psychologists.

  • Conspiracy theoryDon’t Blame Social Media for Conspiracy Theories – They Would Still Flourish without It

    By Joseph E. Uscinski and Adam M Enders

    COVID-19 conspiracy theories have encouraged people to engage in some dangerous activities in the past few months. There is no simple explanation for why people believe conspiracy theories like these, and the best researchers can say is that the causes of such beliefs are complex and varied. And yet journalists, activists and politicians are increasingly blaming the internet, and social media in particular, for the spread of conspiracy theories. The problem with such accusations is that the evidence paints a more nuanced picture.

  • PrivacyHelping Users Control Their Personal Data

    The trove of digital data we generate in our daily lives can potentially make us more efficient, increase sustainability and improve our health, among other benefits, but it also poses threats to privacy. To help individuals take greater control of their personal information, researchers have developed and tested a platform, Ancile, that allows users to set restrictions on what kind of data they’ll release, and to whom.