Far-right lures recruits using COVID-19 conspiracy theories, alongside misogyny, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia, says study
- Far-right groups on Telegram have been using COVID-19 conspiracy theories to recruit new members.
- This finding comes from a study by the Institute of Strategic Dialogue, based in London.
A new study has found that the far-right has extended their reach through messaging app Telegram and COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
The London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue study has found that the far-right has been using COVID-19 conspiracy theories to recruit people into their extremist views.
It found that 90% of the most viewed posts from far-right groups contained misinformation regarding COVID-19 vaccines or the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing them.
Furthermore, much of the COVID-19 misinformation spread by far-right groups was underpinned by white supremacist ideologies, including extreme misogyny, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, the study found.
"COVID-19 has served as a catalyst for radicalization," Ciaran O'Connor, an analyst at the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue and leader of the study, writes. "It allows conspiracy theorists or extremists to create simple narratives, framing it as us versus them, good versus evil."
—Ciarán O'Connor (@ciaranoconnor) December 17, 2021
A screenshot of one Telegram channel reads, "Jews are liars. No truth ever passes between their lips," and falsely claimed the people behind the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were Jewish.
"COVID-19 has created fertile ground for recruitment because so many people around the world feel unsettled," Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University, which studies far-right extremism, told the Associated Press.
"These racist conspiracy theories give people a sense of control, a sense of power over events that make people feel powerless."
One conspiracy theory, or mistruth, that spread in the channel is "there are parasitic worms on facemasks and covid swabs." When the researchers saved the message, it had over 147,000 views.
ISD monitored a sample of 239 Telegram channels that have previously used the platform to post and promote content supporting right-wing extremist groups, individuals, conspiracies, or political and social belief systems.
Of these 239 channels, 167 actively discussed COVID-19 between January 2020 and June 2021, including 133 white supremacist channels that mobilized anger and fear around restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.
One Telegram channel saw its total subscribers jump tenfold after it started propagating COVID-19 conspiracy theories, the study found.
"The guardrails that you see on other platforms, they don't exist on Telegram," O'Connor said. "That makes it a very attractive place for extremists," he told the Associated Press.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Telegram said it welcomed "the peaceful expression of ideas, including those we do not agree with." The statement said moderators monitor activity and user reports "in order to remove public calls for violence."
- Impact of AI on Customer Service
- Bengaluru cafe blast: Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah to chair meeting with top police officials today
- India retains full policy space for benefit of farmers, fishermen at WTO: Goyal
- Sensex, Nifty settle at new closing high levels in first part of special live trading session
- Passive Income Streams