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Sophie Bjork-James

Assistant Professor of the Practice in Anthropology

Expert on the U.S.-based religious right and the white nationalist movement, particularly online communities.

Biography

Sophie Bjork-James has engaged in long-term research on both the U.S.-based Religious Right and the white nationalist movement. She is working on a book manuscript which explores the importance of the family in the white evangelical tradition. Her work has appeared on the NBC Nightly News, NPR’s All Things Considered, BBC Radio 4’s Today, and in the New York Times.

Media Appearances

  • Big Tech Moderation Crackdown Gives Parler, Gab A Surge of Users

    The surge in user growth for platforms like Parler has slowed down in recent days, as Amazon Web Services suspended services to the website.

    January 11th, 2021

  • QAnon’s ‘Save the Children’ morphs into popular slogan

    Under the guise of benefiting children, many of the posts seek to lure people into the QAnon conspiracy theory circle and encourage support for Trump, said Sophie Bjork-James, an anthropology professor at Vanderbilt University who studies the religious right and QAnon.

    October 28th, 2020

  • YouTube follows Twitter and Facebook with QAnon crackdown

    “While this is an important change, for almost three years YouTube was a primary site for the spread of QAnon,” said Sophie Bjork-James, an anthropologist at Vanderbilt University who studies QAnon. “Without the platform Q would likely remain an obscure conspiracy. For years YouTube provided this radical group an international audience.”

    October 15th, 2020

  • Facebook, Twitter flounder in QAnon crackdown

    “Their algorithm worked to radicalize people and really gave this conspiracy theory a megaphone with which to expand,” Sophie Bjork-James, an anthropologist at Vanderbilt University who studies QAnon, said of social platforms. “They are responsible for shutting down that megaphone. And time and time again they are proving unwilling.”

    October 1st, 2020

  • QAnon Linked to at Least 44 Election Candidates in 2020—and Some Could Win

    "I don't see QAnon going away any time soon," Sophie Bjork-James, assistant professor of the practice in anthropology at Vanderbilt University, told Newsweek. "Elections are key platforms for conspiracy theories to reach a wider audience, and elected officials who espouse conspiracy theories can have even a greater reach. This can provide a sense of legitimacy to ideas that have no factual basis."

    September 21st, 2020

  • QAnon Popularity Surges During Pandemic As People Stay Home, Go Online

    President Donald Trump’s embrace of QAnon and the pandemic has helped propel the conspiracy into the mainstream.

    August 27th, 2020

  • Social media platforms face a reckoning over hate speech

    Despite optimism from some critics, others said it is not clear if such measures will be enough. For years, racist groups “have successfully used social media to amplify their message and gain new recruits,” said Sophie Bjork-James an anthropology professor at Vanderbilt University who specializes in white nationalism, racism and hate crimes.

    June 29th, 2020

  • Family outraged after a Universal character made 'OK' symbol on 6-year-old's shoulder

    Tiffiney Zinger said it was painful telling her daughter she couldn't use a family vacation photo for her second grade class project – the image was marred by what appeared to be a symbol of hate. The photo shows the 6-year-old girl, who is biracial and has autism, posing with an actor dressed as the movie character Gru from "Despicable Me" during a Universal Orlando breakfast event attended by the Zinger family in March. The character formed an upside-down "OK" symbol with his fingers, recognized by some as a hate symbol, on the girl's shoulder, according to a photo and video reviewed by USA TODAY.

    October 1st, 2019

  • Notre Dame Cathedral fire spurs Islamophobic conspiracy theories on social media

    As firefighters worked to contain the fire that ravaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday, Twitter and YouTube struggled to take down conspiracy theories being pushed by both anonymous accounts and verified white nationalists who spread Islamophobic theories about the disaster.

    April 16th, 2019

  • Far-Right Internet Groups Listen for Trump’s Approval, and Often Hear It

    On Wednesday, minutes after President Trump posted an incendiary campaign ad falsely accusing Democrats of flooding the country with murderous illegal immigrants, virulent racists on an online message board erupted in celebration.

    November 4th, 2018


Education

Ph.D., City University of New York

M.Ed., University of Toronto

B.A., Western Washington University



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