Elise Thomas Profile picture
Senior OSINT Analyst at @ISDGlobal, investigator at @Cen4infoRes. Opinions, hot takes, mistakes all my own. @elisethomas on the mammoth and on Post
Dec 13, 2022 8 tweets 3 min read
In Wieambilla, QLD, two brothers launched a horrific attack killing two police officers and a neighbour.

While there's a lot we don't know, one brother appears to have been deep into conspiracy theories. Here's my initial analysis for @ISDglobal #auspol isdglobal.org/digital_dispat… @ISDglobal The comments left by one of the alleged perpetrators, Gareth Train, across several fringe and conspiracy blogs appear to point to a cocktail of conspiratorial beliefs ranging from anti-vaccine, anti-5G, New World Order, Illuminati, climate change, MK Ultra... you get the picture.
Apr 4, 2022 19 tweets 6 min read
I've spent months investigating cryptocurrency schemes run by sanctioned individuals connected to the pro-Russian militia in Donetsk. At the time, I thought it might be hard to convince people it mattered.

Then the #UkraineWar started.

@Cen4infoRes info-res.org/post/report-th… The three men in this picture, L-R, are Denis Pushilin, Alexei Muratov and Alexander Lavrentyev. Pushilin is the leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic. Muratov and Lavrentyev both have their own interesting roles in DNR politics.
Apr 3, 2022 5 tweets 2 min read
Pro-Russian propaganda accounts on Facebook are similarly trying to discredit Russia's horrific crimes in Bucha by claiming the Ukrainians planted the corpses and other evidence after the Russians left. Russian MoD on its English-language Telegram channel repeating the same claims, that the Ukrainians faked it by putting the bodies there after the Russians left. It's painfully weak but I guess at this point they know they're appealing to biases, not plausibility. ImageImage
Mar 23, 2022 14 tweets 4 min read
So I thought I’d do a run-through of some of the messaging coming out of the long running pro-Chinese influence operation known as Spamouflage about Russia’s war against Ukraine. Spoiler alert: ‘Spamouflage’ is a name commonly used by researchers to refer to a sprawling set of accounts across multiple platforms sharing narratives which support the interests of the CCP. Parts of this activity are attributed by the platforms to Chinese state-linked actors.
Mar 12, 2022 6 tweets 2 min read
The main reason why I think this is worth paying attention to is because if QAnon & related groups do commit to a pivot to China, that would create an opportunity for Chinese state media to cultivate these audiences the way Russian state media has.
Mar 9, 2022 12 tweets 5 min read
Something quite interesting seems to be happening in the QAnon (and QAnon-lite, QAnon adjacent etc.) conspiracy communities.

Having previously been furiously anti-China, it seems as though the #UkraineRussianWar is nudging at least some of them towards a pro-China position. Historically China and the CCP have been preeminent baddies in QAnon-land, fuelled first by antagonism between China and the Trump administration and then supercharged by Covid-19 conspiracy theories. thehill.com/homenews/news/…
Jan 17, 2022 8 tweets 3 min read
If you're a prominent spreader of Covid-19 misinfo, QAnon or white nationalism who wants to reach an audience (and be paid by them) without pesky content moderation, where do you go?

Increasingly, the answer seems to be Substack. Here's me for @ISDglobal isdglobal.org/digital_dispat… 270 doctors recently wrote an open letter condemning Spotify over the Joe Rogan podcast episode with Dr Robert Malone, who is widely accused of spreading misinformation about Covid-19.

On Substack, thousands of people are paying to subscribe to Malone's newsletter.
Dec 10, 2021 23 tweets 8 min read
Hello! I am having a quiet Friday. Other people might use this time for something productive, like gardening. I’ve investigated a Macedonian fake news operation.

It’s like weeding, but for the internet. Follow along if you’re interested. At this point we’re all pretty well aware that there is a thriving cottage industry in fake news and commercially-driven disinformation emanating from Macedonia – particularly from a small town called Veles. Keep that in mind as we go.

Aug 21, 2021 61 tweets 17 min read
Boy oh boy are there a lot of cops out on the roads leading in to Melbourne CBD this morning. Saw two big roadblocks on a short bike around the outskirts this morning #Melbourne #melbourneprotest. Livestreams from #sydneylockdown #sydneyprotest also showing heavy police presence. Some protesters have suggested using Waze to mark police presence for each other.
Apr 30, 2021 4 tweets 2 min read
I made a little GIF to show how Amazon's search auto-complete recommends conspiracy theories. If you select the Books category, type 'election' into the search bar and add a space, the one and only suggestion is 'election fraud' Similarly, in the Kindle category, typing in just 'vaccines' results in being recommended anti-vax auto-complete suggestions.
Apr 29, 2021 13 tweets 4 min read
What happens when you take an algorithm designed to up-sell customers on gym equipment and gardening tools, and apply it to conspiracy theories, disinformation and white nationalism?

Spoiler: it's not good. Here's the latest from me with @ISDglobal. isdglobal.org/wp-content/upl… For this research, I took a look at how Amazon recommends other books to users who visit a book landing page, for example the 'Customers who bought this item also bought' and 'Customers who viewed this item also viewed' panes.
Apr 13, 2021 13 tweets 5 min read
I've written a lot of weird stories, but this one with @bellingcat takes the cake. A loose thread turned into a tangled web, looping in Libyan money in Ghana, border-hopping in Montenegro, Russian lobbyists and some unexpected familiar faces bellingcat.com/news/2021/04/1… This story started with one of the biggest double takes I've ever done. Scrolling through the site of a French human rights organisation, I came across 'Robert Comune', 'Pakolov Zbishik' and 'Wacław Kozakiewicz'. #Auspol Twitter users may also be double-taking right now.
Feb 17, 2021 13 tweets 4 min read
Trying to share an ABC article via the URL Trying to share an NYT article via URL
Jan 7, 2021 4 tweets 1 min read
For me, the striking thing about so many of these images of rioters in the Capitol is that what they're doing - all of them - is creating content for social media.

At least in their minds, the true seat of power is not actually in that building. It's online. Politics is always performative, but the nature of the performance has changed dramatically in just a few years. What we saw today was the sudden, violent disruption of one performance, the certification of electoral college votes, for another, wilder show.
Jan 6, 2021 4 tweets 2 min read
Twitter users openly calling for the 'day of the rope', a white supremacist fantasy ImageImageImageImage
Jan 6, 2021 4 tweets 2 min read
Oct 27, 2020 25 tweets 8 min read
I have been continuing to piece together the timeline behind this 'Typhoon Investigations' Biden-China report.

TLDR; a persona posing as a North Asia specialist which promoted the report before it was published by @BaldingsWorld appears to be fabricated.

There are now a number of Twitter accounts posing as 'Typhoon Investigations'. I was able to eliminate most of these as imposters or unlikely to be connected to the original source. One, however, stood out. Image
Oct 25, 2020 12 tweets 6 min read
I have been looking into the timeline of the "Typhoon Investigations" report which makes a number of allegations about links between the Bidens and the Chinese Communist Party. I've found a few interesting things.

Thread. The earliest version of the report which I have found so far appears to have been posted on Sept 3 on a blog called 'Intelligence Quarterly.' The document shared is dated Aug 31st. PDF properties show that the file was authored by a user 'M A' on Sep 1st. archive.is/FTs2A ImageImage
Oct 8, 2020 12 tweets 6 min read
Since hostilities between #Azerbaijan and #Armenia flared up on Sep 27th, @AlbertYZhang and I have been documenting some of the shadow battle taking place on Twitter for control of the narrative aspi.org.au/report/snapsho… It's important to caveat that this is not meant to be comprehensive; includes primarily English-language activity; that we have not attempted to verify content; and that we are not seeking to undermine legitimate social media debate. Nonetheless, we made some interesting findings
Oct 6, 2020 5 tweets 2 min read
I wrote for @GNET_research and @CSCRCoz about how we really don't understand digital-first conspiracy extremism yet. It's different from pre-digital conspiracies, and also different from digitISED extremism which begin offline and move online as a recruiting and comms strategy. Much more research, and also simply more time, is needed to understand the dynamics of extremist conspiracy movements. In the meantime, however, we can prioritise what we do know:
Aug 4, 2020 10 tweets 5 min read
.@AlbertYZhang and I spent the last couple of weeks looking into some coordinated inauthentic activity linked to Chinese-speaking actors. Although small and unsophisticated, it has persistently targeted US and Western audiences on US political and racial issues.

Thread. The coordinated activity relies heavily on automation (aka bots in the true sense) across both FB and Twitter. We estimate that a couple hundred Twitter accounts (many of which have been taken down) and unknown but likely small number of FB bots have been involved.