(New York, N.Y.) – According to a new report by the United Kingdom’s Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE), extremists of all spectrums, including neo-Nazis and the far right, have been exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to launch broad misinformation campaigns that aim to sow social discord. Extremists have promoted racist and xenophobic narratives on social media platforms to incite violence against minority groups, such as urging their supporters to intentionally infect Jewish and Muslim populations with the coronavirus. The CCE’s report highlights an alarming trend in which minority groups are increasingly targeted by extremist content online.
More than 70 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, ethno-nationalist and white supremacist movements in Europe continue to thrive. They include far-right political parties, neo-Nazi movements, and apolitical protest groups. Though not all of these groups directly link their ideologies to Nazism, their propaganda portrays immigrants and ethnic minorities in a similar manner to how Nazi propaganda portrayed Jews, blaming them for national economic troubles and depicting them as a serious threat to the broader national identity.
Some of Europe’s historically non-political, violent far-right groups have not only embraced populist language similar to that of the ethno-nationalist political movements, but also continue to espouse openly racist concepts and employ violence to achieve their visions of an ethnically homogenous state. Not only do these violent white supremacist groups employ similar strategies to some of the most prominent Islamic terror groups, they are also motivated to pursue the radical end goal of an ethnically or culturally homogenous state due to similar concerns that their identity and way of life are under threat.
As social media platforms continue to see record usage during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. officials have encouraged tech companies to be increasingly vigilant against extremists’ misuse of their sites. Given the government restrictions on public life, the risk of online users being exposed to and radicalized by hateful ideologies remains a threat for as long as the content persists on social media sites.
To read CEP’s European Ethno-Nationalist and White Supremacy Groups resource, please click here.
To read CEP’s Extremist Groups Leverage Coronavirus Pandemic Online blogpost, please click here.