Three reports to helps us address online manipulation

The 101 of Disinformation Detection (Toolkit)
Institute for Strategic Dialogue
By Carl Miller and Chloe Colliver
13 August 2020 – 24 pages

Not every organisation can or should become a disinformation detective. But disinformation can threaten the activities, objectives and individuals associated with civil society groups and their work. Disinformation tactics and the responses in place to try to mitigate them online are changing rapidly. Organisations witnessing or targeted by disinformation therefore require a baseline understanding of the threats posed by disinformation and how to spot them while conducting their work. This toolkit sets out simple steps to do so.
The toolkit lays out an approach that organisations can undertake to begin to track online disinformation on subjects that they care about. The process is intended to have a very low barrier to entry, with each stage achievable using either over-the-counter or free-to-use social listening tools. For a deeper explanation of the methods, teams and skills required to build a disinformation detection system, see ISD’s accompanying roadmap for the disinformation research sector: ‘Developing a Civil Society Response to Online Manipulation’.

Developing a Civil Society Response to Online Manipulation (Strategy document)
Institute for Strategic Dialogue
By Carl Miller and Chloe Colliver
13 August 2020 – 36 pages

This document presents a vision for a pan-civil societal response to online manipulation. In part, it argues, this will come down to capability: building a pooled detection capacity to function as a transparent, public interest alter­native to those built by the tech giants. In part, it will require new organisational philosophies and forms of co-operation, and in part new approaches to funding and support. Overall, the vision tries to unite the sophistication and specialisa­tion that a scaled response can confer, with everything that makes civil society a crucial part of the solution: its diversity, capacity to connect with marginalised voices and communities, transparency and passionate support for the values, causes and issues that its members, supports and workers believe in and that online manipulation itself now threatens to undermine. Civil society is the only place where independent, cross-platform, comprehensive research on online manipulation can realistically take place in ways rooted by human experience and societal values. This document attempts to lay out what an ideal version of that work might look like. It is in part research strategy, in part technology architecture, in part human capabilities, and in part collective memory. Across all of these areas, it is best defined by a series of design principles that we propose must be at the heart of this undertaking.

Hosting the ‘Holohoax’: A Snapshot of Holocaust Denial Across Social Media (Briefing)
Institute for Strategic Dialogue
By Jakob Guhl and Jacob Davey
17 August 2020 – 13 pages

Holocaust denial has long been one of the most insidious conspiracy theories targeting Jewish communities, with its extremist proponents drawn from across the ideological spectrum, from extreme right-wing to hard left to Islamist. Research has shown that digital platforms have only served to amplify and mainstream this warped strain of thinking in recent years.
By analysing the term ‘holohoax’, which is commonly used by Holocaust deniers, this paper examines the extent to which Holocaust denial content is readily accessible across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube. Although this study does not set out to provide a comprehensive overview of the phenomenon, it reveals important insights about how Facebook and Twitter provide a home to an established and active community of Holocaust deniers. While Holocaust denial is present on Reddit, our research suggests that such activity has been reduced through a combination of moderation efforts and pushback from other users. This paper also demonstrates how appropriately applied content moderation policies can be effective in denying dangerous conspiracy theorists a public platform by examining how Holocaust denial content has decreased significantly in the past year on YouTube.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) is an independent nonprofit organisation dedicated to safeguarding human rights and reversing the rising global tide of hate, extremism and polarisation. We combine sector-leading expertise in global extremist movements with advanced digital analysis of disinformation and weaponised hate to deliver innovative, tailor-made policy and operational responses to these threats.

ISD’s Digital Analysis Unit combines social listening and natural language processing tools with leading ethnographic research to better understand how technology is used by extremist and hateful groups. The unit uses commercial tools that aggregate social media data to analyse broad trends in discussion and how they may be influenced by hateful groups and disinformation. Using tools co-developed by ISD, they are able to analyse specific types of hateful speech online and trace where this speech comes from. They use these insights to help policymakers and companies craft informed policy responses to hate and disinformation, and to help communities mount responses at the local level.