Social Media Narratives: Addressing Extremism in Middle Age (SMIDGE)


  • Jason Lee De Montfort University
  • Sara Wilford
  • Raouf Hamzaoui
  • Nitika Bhalla



social media, middle-age, extremism, counter narratives, misinformation


This paper examines the ongoing work of a three-year Horizon Europe project titled ‘Social Media Narratives: Addressing Extremism in Middle Age’ (SMIDGE). The project will cover aspects of the following areas: ethical dimensions, review of the literature (including conspiracy theories, misinformation and extremism online), co-designing of quantitative surveys, stakeholder engagement through qualitative focus groups, national nuances, changing technological issues, platform use and regulations. We take this analysis as a case study template that we believe will be useful to researchers in this field and potentially policy makers, especially from a multidisciplinary and transnational perspective. The project is split into four phases; Phase 1 - Understanding the landscape, profiling content and users, Phase 2 - Understanding the ‘attractiveness’ of the narrative, Phase 3 - Creating counter narratives and Phase 4 - Guidelines and policy briefs: spreading the word.

We will unpack the challenges and opportunities of this approach for social media analysis and its real-world impact on democracy. Once the initial phase is completed in year one, we will start to construct counter-narratives to combat extremism in this context. This will take the form of creating counter videos and a documentary, as well as producing a series of podcasts and webinars. Furthermore, the outputs of the empirical research will inform and feed into the development of educational and training materials, guidelines and recommendations, as well as policy briefs that can be useful to policy makers, researchers, security professionals, journalists and beyond. The outputs from the SMIDGE project will provide evidence-based content, tools and resources that will directly help to counter extremist narratives from multiple perspectives. This will enable a greater understanding of the specificities and characteristics of those in the middle-age category, specifically those aged 45-65 years, and their vulnerability to extremism online.