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The project has secured funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to learn more about the risks and resilience of researchers and professionals working with harmful and extremist content.

Through working with the University of Birmingham, Moonshot, a global social enterprise working to end online harms, will be able to learn more about the varying impacts of engaging with harmful and extremist content within the team across the U.K. and the U.S. The project will also help Moonshot understand how well existing welfare interventions are working to support team resilience, and directly inform future approaches.

A Moonshot Analyst working on salafi-jihadist content analysis commented: “I’m looking forward to participating in this research project. With my daily work analyzing graphic violent and harmful content, I am aware of the importance of understanding the different impacts of vicarious trauma and the different ways this trauma can manifest. I am keen to learn about how we can implement further measures to protect Moonshot staff and others working in the field."

The research will be led by Dr Fazeelat Duran, a postdoctoral researcher working with Professor Jessica Woodhams at the University of Birmingham. Dr Duran will be seconded to Moonshot for six months working directly with team members who are engaging with harmful content daily through their project work.

Commenting on the project, Professor Woodhams and Dr Duran said: “We are excited for collaboration with Moonshot. It is a great opportunity for us to apply knowledge outside academia to see real-world outcomes that are positive for the people we study.”

This is a great opportunity for us to apply knowledge outside academia to see real-world outcomes that are positive for the people we study.

Dr Fazeelat Duran, School of Psychology

Dr Duran has led projects focusing on the welfare and occupational stress of emergency personnel and secondary trauma among police analysts. She is currently working with police and law enforcement agencies inside and outside the UK and has previously worked as a psychologist in a hospital in Pakistan. There is a small but growing evidence base focused on the impact of secondary trauma across the violent extremism and online harms sectors.

Much of this existing research focuses on the perspectives of academic researchers. From an industry perspective, this project will contribute evidence-based knowledge of the potential risks of working with harmful content, and inform strategies and interventions for improving the resilience of those working within the sector.

Moonshot’s Director of People and Culture Stevie Voogt commented: “I am really excited about our partnership with Dr Fazeelat Duran and the University of Birmingham. This project is a great and timely opportunity to learn more about how we can look after our staff and provide robust, data driven insights for the wider violent extremism and online harms sectors.”

  • For media enquiries please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)781 3343348.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • Moonshot is a global social enterprise working to end online harms, applying evidence, ethics and human rights. Moonshot develops new tech and methodologies to expose threats, disrupt malicious actors and protect vulnerable audiences online. Working to end online harms means making communities, governments and businesses safer, both online and off, around the world.
  • Moonshot defines online harm as content or activity that endangers individuals and/or public safety. While Moonshot typically focuses on online harms which can cause physical harm, either to individuals or society, the online harms in scope contribute to a wide array of negative impacts on society, including the degradation of democracy and human rights. Moonshot primarily works across six types of online harm: Violent extremism; disinformation and misinformation; targeted violence and hate speech; gender-based violence; child sexual exploitation and abuse; human trafficking, modern slavery and forced labour.