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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

QAnon's Leader Has Not Posted Since Election Day

Newsy November 09, 2020
President Trump's projected loss has left some QAnon followers unsure of the conspiracy theory group's next move.

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

AP News October 28, 2020
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.

YouTube follows Twitter and Facebook with QAnon crackdown

AP News October 15, 2020
“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.”

Facebook, Twitter flounder in QAnon crackdown

AP News October 01, 2020
“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.”

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

Newsweek September 21, 2020
"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."

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

Newsy August 27, 2020
President Donald Trump’s embrace of QAnon and the pandemic has helped propel the conspiracy into the mainstream.

Social media platforms face a reckoning over hate speech

AP News June 29, 2020
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.

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

USA Today October 01, 2019
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.

Notre Dame Cathedral fire spurs Islamophobic conspiracy theories on social media

NBCNews.com April 15, 2019
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.

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

New York Times November 03, 2018
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.

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