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SMIDGE (Social Media Narratives: Addressing Extremism in Middle-Age) is a Horizon Europe research project launched in March 2023 with a duration of three years. It addresses the pressing concern of conspiracy theories, misinformation, and extremism proliferating online, particularly targeting middle-aged individuals (45-65), who are both susceptible to extremist narratives and influential as decision-makers.


Better understanding the online extremist narrative landscape and content engagement among individuals aged 45-65, through a multi-disciplinary approach that involves literature review and social network analysis.

Analysing various forms of extremist discourses and narratives across Europe, using social network analysis, textual and content analysis, and surveys, focus groups, and interviews in six countries (the UK, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Kosovo, and Cyprus).

Developing counter-narratives and educational resources to promote reflexivity and provide evidence-based tools and training for journalists and security professionals, who play a crucial role in addressing fake news and disinformation.

Providing guidelines & recommendations for policy and decision-makers based on the project findings, and present these findings to security professionals, policy makers, and journalists through roundtables and conference.

Why the Focus on the Middle-Aged?

While much attention has been given to understanding the vulnerabilities of young people to online extremism, SMIDGE recognises the importance of addressing the middle-aged demographic. This group, often overlooked in discussions about digital literacy and online safety, holds significant influence in shaping public discourse and policy decisions. By focusing on the middle-aged demographic, we aim to bridge the gap in research and develop targeted interventions that resonate with this influential segment of the population.


SMIDGE employs a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary methodology to address the complex issue of extremism in middle-aged individuals. The methodology is structured to capture a broad spectrum of data and insights, enabling a nuanced understanding of extremist narratives and their impact

  • Social Network Analysis: Utilizing advanced social network analysis techniques, SMIDGE examines the structural dynamics of online communities and networks involved in spreading extremist content. This analysis helps identify key actors, networks, and patterns of information dissemination, contributing to a deeper understanding of the mechanisms driving the spread of extremism.

  • Textual and Content Analysis: Through textual and content analysis, SMIDGE investigates the nature and characteristics of extremist discourse across various online platforms. By analyzing language, imagery, and messaging strategies employed by extremist groups, the project aims to identify common themes, narratives, and rhetorical strategies used to attract and radicalize middle-aged individuals.

  • Surveys, Focus Groups, and Interviews: SMIDGE conducts surveys, focus groups, and interviews in six countries (UK, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Kosovo, Cyprus) to gather qualitative and quantitative data on the perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors of middle-aged individuals regarding extremist content online. These methods provide valuable insights into the socio-cultural context and demographic-specific factors influencing susceptibility to extremist narratives.

  • Co-Creation Exercises: The development of counter-narratives and educational resources involves collaboration with stakeholders through co-creation exercises in focus groups. By engaging with diverse stakeholders, including community leaders, educators and media professionals, SMIDGE ensures the relevance, effectiveness, and inclusivity of the produced content.

Ethical Perspective and Approach

SMIDGE is committed to upholding the highest ethical standards throughout all stages of the project. The ethical perspective and approach are guided by principles of responsible research and innovation (RRI), ensuring the ethical conduct of research, respect for fundamental rights, and the promotion of societal values.

  • Informed Consent: All participants involved in surveys, focus groups, and interviews provide informed consent prior to their participation, ensuring voluntary and informed participation in research activities.

  • Anonymity and Confidentiality: Measures are implemented to protect the privacy and confidentiality of participants, including anonymization of data and secure storage of sensitive information.

  • Second-Order Reflexivity: SMIDGE integrates second-order reflexivity into its approach, acknowledging the potential biases and influences of researchers and stakeholders involved in the project. By promoting reflexivity, the project encourages critical self-awareness and reflection among participants and researchers, mitigating the risk of unintended biases and ensuring the validity and reliability of research findings.

  • Transparency and Accountability: SMIDGE maintains transparency in its research processes and findings, fostering open dialogue and accountability. Research outcomes and methodologies are documented and made accessible to stakeholders and the public, promoting transparency and trustworthiness.

WP Plan

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WP1: Administration Management, WP2: Scientific Management, WP9: Ethics Requirements

The outputs from SMIDGE will provide evidence-based content, tools and resources that will assist in countering extremist narratives from various perspectives. This will provide a better understanding of the specificities and characteristics of middle-aged individuals and their vulnerability to online extremism, as well as counter-measures and education.

An online, open database of characteristics will support future researchers and counter-content producers. By providing this resource, SMIDGE aims to increase awareness and understanding of the factors contributing to the rise of extremist narratives, and promote the development of effective counter-measures.

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