Far-right extremists use social media memes and conspiracy theories to trick young people into viewing terrorist material, police warn.
Concerns have been raised about the rise of far-right (XRW) attitudes among young people, with the growth of ideology being driven by young people under the age of 24.
In 2015, less than a fifth of those arrested for XRW terror offenses were in this age bracket, but by 2020 this had risen to 60 percent.
Last year, 19 children under 18 were arrested for terrorist offenses, including 14 detained for XRW positions.
As of March 2020, UK police and security forces have thwarted four late-stage terrorist plots – two XRW and two Islamists – and made 185 arrests in more than 800 live investigations.
Deputy Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Matt Twist, said right-wing terrorists used memes as a way to “ engage young and vulnerable people on social media platforms. ”
He said they are then ‘lured’ to ‘closed’ and ‘encrypted’ channels where they are exposed to ‘more extreme stories and illegal material’.
The officer’s warning comes after the first British police officer is convicted Belonging to a neo-Nazi terror group was sentenced to more than four years in prison.
Benjamin Hannam, 22, was found guilty of membership in the far-right group National Action (NA) last month after being banned from 2016 to September 2017 following a trial at the Old Bailey.
Far-right extremists use social media memes and conspiracy theories to trick young people into viewing terrorist material, police warn. Pictured: Serving police officer Benjamin Hannam was found guilty of membership in the far-right National Action (NA) group last month. He can be seen above posing next to a national action flag on images shown to judges at the Old Bailey
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Twist, the new senior national coordinator in the UK’s anti-terrorist police, said the amount of extremist material available online has increased during the pandemic, creating an “ disturbingly permissive environment ” for radicalized views.
“We warned during the pandemic that we are concerned that Covid-19 is creating an environment in the UK where extremists find it easier to identify, attack and potentially radicalize young people or vulnerable people,” he said.
Hannam (photo) the first British police officer to be convicted of belonging to a neo-Nazi terror group
It has done this by exacerbating the challenging conditions and grievances in society that terrorists have committed to promote their brand of hatred and extremism, such as economic inequality or pre-existing divisions within communities.
It has fueled mistrust in authority and inspired a new wave of conspiracy theories that have more easily reached the mainstream, such as those against 5G technology.
Most importantly, it has made us all more isolated, making it more difficult for young and vulnerable people to access support services such as mental health and social care that they rely on to protect them from extremist influences.
Last year’s number of terrorist arrests was the lowest since 2011, and the number of tip-offs received by the anti-terrorism hotline has also fallen by nearly a quarter.
Police are urging the public to be vigilant as lockdown measures are relaxed and terrorists are once again given a chance to target crowded places.
Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner Matt Twist said right-wing terrorists used memes as a way to “ engage young and vulnerable people on social media platforms. ”
Deputy Commissioner Twist said, “While the rest of us have been focused on protecting ourselves and our families from Covid-19, terrorists have not stopped planning attacks or radicalizing vulnerable people online.
“As we ease the lockdown towards normalcy, we again need the public’s help in tackling terrorism in all its forms – be it extremist grooming, spreading terrorist material, or even planning an attack.”
He added: ‘During the pandemic, through the various lockdowns we have seen, the intent and ability of terrorists have remained unchanged.
“What has been missed so far is the ability for some of those terrorists to handle whatever they want because there were far less crowded places.”
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Twist, the new senior national coordinator in the UK anti-terrorism police, said the amount of extremist material available online has increased during the pandemic. Pictured: Hannam seen at an outdoor boxing event in footage shown to the jury during his trial