We must tackle the growing threat of far-right terrorism on unregulated online spaces
Children as young as thirteen are being attracted to violent far-right groups due to insufficient online protections, writes Stephanie Peacock MP. | PA Images
The new generation of far-right activists are using unregulated online spaces to spread hate and misinformation. We need urgent safeguarding initiatives to stop teenage radicalisation.
I know many people are relieved to see the back of 2020.
This year has not been easy. It has caused a great deal of pain and left many fearing for the health of their loved ones and their livelihoods.
Yet, in the weeks following the US presidential election, people on all sides of the political spectrum have begun to hope that 2021 might be better. The defeat of Donald Trump marks the end of a Presidency that embraced the worst impulses of nationalism and xenophobia. His time in the White House witnessed the unthinkable – the leader of the world’s most powerful nation describing white supremacists as ‘very fine people’, retweeting anti-Muslim rhetoric and telling the far-right Proud Boys to ‘stand back and stand by’.
Though Donald Trump was undoubtedly a boost to radical-right and far-right forces around the world, he was as much a symptom as a cause, and his electoral defeat shouldn’t be seen as the end of the story of white supremacy either in America or in the UK.
We have seen an increase in far-right activity on our streets, from football hooligans disrupting peaceful protests to vigilantes ‘patrolling’ the coastline, threatening violence against our police, innocent passers-by and asylum seekers.
But this far-right street activity is only one dimension of the threat we are seeing.
Like all extremists, the far-right are a radical fringe who thrive best when unseen and unscrutinised
The new younger generation of far-right activists are just like anyone of their age group – extremely online. Turning their back on the boring, formally organised structures of the past, they organise themselves in a decentralised, non-hierarchical pattern of globalised peer to peer radicalisation. This all takes place on unregulated online spaces, using platforms such as Telegram and BitChute to spread hate and misinformation. It has led to a spiral of increasing extremism and international mass murder such as the Christchurch mosque attack.
Whilst the threat from Islamist terror is still by far the biggest danger to our society – the new head of MI5 has warned that the danger from far-right terror is now second in the UK, and growing.
In October he revealed that almost a third of the serious terror plots foiled in their final stages have been by fascist and racist groups, and international links are emerging.
As chair of the new Labour HOPE not hate Parliamentary Group I am hoping to build the cross-party consensus required to seriously tackling this growing threat.
We need urgent action, before it is too late and we see a major far-right terror attack on our soil.
I have joined HOPE not hate’s call for the government to immediately ban the Order of Nine Angles as a terror threat, the neo-nazi Satanist movement has already been implicated in a string of recent terror cases.
Hope not Hate’s Parliamentary group will press for urgent safeguarding initiatives to stop teenage radicalisation. Children as young as thirteen are being attracted to violent far-right groups due to insufficient online protections.
Like all extremists, the far-right are a radical fringe who thrive best when unseen and unscrutinised. It will be the job of this group to keep this danger front and centre of the political agenda and demonstrate that our democracy is stronger than the forces of hate and extremism.
Stephanie Peacock is the Labour MP for Barnsley East and chair of Labour HOPE not hate Parliamentary Group. Stephanie Peacock will be taking part in HOPE not hate’s webinar at 6pm this evening, discussing what politicians and campaigners in Westminster and beyond need to do about the far-right threat
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.