The Hybridization of Conspiracy Theories, Misinformation and Extremism on Social Media

In this seminar we focus on the hybridization of conspiracy theories, misinformation and extremism, which is a recent trend that both Danish and international intelligence services have a particular focus on in their threat assessments of extremist online environments.

In this new digital landscape, conspiracy theories, misinformation and ideological extremes coalesce in the use of digital practices such as memes and the use of popular culture.

The insurrection against the US Capitol on January 6th 2021 marked a culmination of online conspiracy theories, including PizzaGate and QAnon, and different strands of misinformation about election results, COVID-19 vaccines, and climate change, persistently circulating on social media. Significantly, insurrectionists did not come together under the banner of a single ideological cause. Instead, today’s landscape of extremism is shaped by what researchers and intelligence services variably call ‘salad bar extremism’, ‘fused extremism’, ‘DIY extremism’ or ‘hybridized extremism’.

The algorithmic and transmedial infrastructure of social media plays a significant role in the development and spread of many conspiratorial and extremist narratives online and enables them to enter the mainstream public discourse, accelerated by intense news reporting in legacy media. Under these conditions, seemingly everything can be adopted into conspiracy narratives which cater to both nationalist right-wing extremists, religious fundamentalists, New Age bohemians and anti-authorities skeptics across the political spectrum.

The seminar is part of the ongoing Horizon Europe-project (2023-2026) SMIDGE: Social Media Narratives: Addressing Extremism in Middle Age led by UCPH and De Montfort University, Leicester.

 

Location: South Campus, University of Copenhagen, room 15A.0.13

Thursday 16 May

Time Activity
10.30-10.45

Coffee and welcome by Line Nybro Petersen, PI and consortium coordinator, Mikkel Bækby Johansen, postdoc, SMIDGE, UCPH.  

10.45-12.00

Opening talk: Presenting the SMIDGE-projectby Sara Wilford, De Montfort University, PI and Scientific coordinator, SMIDGE

Keynote presentation: 'Everyday extremism' and the mainstreaming of conspiracy narratives: Insights from Sweden

Speaker: Tina Askanius, Professor, Malmö University (OppAttune)
Chair: Mikkel Bækby Johansen

12:00-13:00 Lunch

Session 1: Hybridization and mainstreaming of extremist narratives

Jullietta Stoencheva, Malmö University (OppAttune): The Penetration of extremist narratives into the digital mainstream: exploring online discussions about migration in Sweden

Tanya Karoli Christensen & Marie Bojsen-Møller, UCPH: A Rorschach test of in-group references: The language and genres of the Halle Manifesto

Line Nybro Petersen & Mikkel Bækby Johansen, UCPH (SMIDGE): Spaces of hybridized prefatory extremism (HYPE) on social media

Hossein Derakhshan, LSE Media and Communication: 

Deeper fakes: On ‘malinformation’ and the future of information warfare

Chair: Kalypso Iordanou

15.00-15.15 Coffee break
15.15-17.15

Session 2:  Current narratives and discourses in misinformation and conspiracy theories

Carys Evans, Connect Futures, University of Birmingham: Parents and Conspiracy theories: the generational impact of conspiratorial thinking on young people in the UK

Christian Gulas & Paul Poledna, FAS research Vienna (SMIDGE): The social and semantic structure of online conspiracy theories: preliminary findings from the SMIDGE project

Yifat Leder, Erasmus School of History Culture and Communication: A shift in themes found in Anti-Vaxxers Facebook groups in 2019: Content analysis of the themes and discourses used by members of anti-vaccination Facebook Groups

Kalypso Iordanou, Christiana Varda & Josephina Antoniou, UCLan Cyprus (SMIDGE): Journalists’ perspective on the challenges for promoting trust in science and fighting misinformation and conspiracy theories

Chair: Vasiliki Christodoulou

Friday 17 May

9.00-10.30

Session 3: Fringe social media and the far right: 4Chan and beyond 

Philip Stenmann Baun & Lauritz Holm Petersen, Aarhus University: Clowns, Tigers and Boogaloos: Far-Right Eschatology and Apocalyptic Conspiracies on 4Chan

Daniel Madsen, UCPH: Investigating the origin of the political ecology in contemporary right-wing Targeted Violence Manifestos

Dusan Bozolka, Université Paris-Pantheon-Assas: From 4chan to Europe: Leveraging Digital Affordances in the Spread of QAnon Conspiracy Narratives

Chair: Simone Driessen

10.30-10:45 Coffee break
10.45.-11.45

Session 4: New technologies and digital infrastructures

Janos Mark Szakolczai, University of Glasgow: ‘Sourcing e-reality’: Computer Generated-content and the quest for truth and violence in the Onlife

Erik Björklund, Södertörn University, The Infrastructures of Climate Obstruction: A study of the construction of alternative epistemologies online

Chair: Ramadan Ilazi

11.45-12.30

Lunch

12.30-14.30

Session 5: Participatory culture, fandom and memetic practices

Simone Driessen, Erasmus University: Unraveling Fanspiracy: Exploring the Blurred Boundaries of Fandom and Conspiracy in the Digital Age

Stephen Joyce, Aarhus University: Taylor Swift Conspiracies at the Intersection of Politics, Celebrity, and Entertainment

Asma Khurram Chaudhry, University of Liverpool: TikTok Tales: Understanding memetic dimensions of fact-checked

Mridula Mascarenhas, California State University: Transvestigation conspiracies as a rhetorical commonplace for illiberal attacks on LGBTQ progress

Chair: Jason Lee

14.30-14.45

Coffee break

14:15-15:45

Session 6: International and national perspectives on radicalization and extremism

Jason Lee, De Montfort University (SMIDGE): Conspiracy, Climate Change, PTSD, and the SDGs: an international approach.

Ramadan Ilazi, Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (SMIDGE): The shadows of misinformation: fueling ethno-political radicalizationin the Western Balkans

Antonis Dimakis, Panteion University of Athens (OppAttune): Conspiracy theories and extreme attitudes in Greece

Chair: Line Nybro Petersen

 

Registration

Sign up for the seminar by wiriting to our seminar email.

Pre-seminar virtual keynote

We are also having a small pre-seminar virtual keynote with Julia Ebner on 15 May at 14:30-16:30.

Sign up for it by writing to our seminar email.

Read more about Ebner.