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Groups of far-right European youths use a mix of social media platforms to attract their peers to racist and anti-Semitic ideologies, report reveals


A poster of the Feuerkrieg division seen on Telegram. Photo: International Center for Radicalization Studies and the Community Security Trust / Screenshot

A new report released on Tuesday explored how a generation of far-right teens are using mainstream social media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Telegram, to radicalize and recruit other teens and young people into racist ideologies and anti-Semitic.

Research for the report was carried out by two UK organizations, the International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR) and the Community Security Trust (CST). In view of the growing number of adolescents arrested for terrorist offenses, the report – “We are the terror generation! “: Youth radicalization on young people in far-right youth groups” – dived deep into the dynamics and recruitment strategies of ten racial nationalists. youth groups across Western Europe.

The groups include recently convicted British activists, who operate primarily online; the growing Spanish group Bastión Frontal; and the British Blutkrieg Division, founded by a 16-year-old boy in Newcastle, which was convicted of promoting terrorism and stoking racial and religious hatred.

“Young people – politicized, active and highly connected – are no longer just passive consumers of terrorist content online by adult preparers, but are themselves propaganda creators, group organizers, peer recruiters, financiers. extremists and convicted terrorists, ”wrote ICSR researcher Hannah Rose. who co-authored the report.

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“The nature of these trends demonstrates how young people radicalize each other to violence: encouraging their peers to commit violent acts through online interactions, creating and sharing violent propaganda, and recruiting into groups. who socialize young people to plot and prepare. violence, ”she wrote.

The far-right youth groups targeted by the investigation have been active since 2018, have an average age of under 25, and are linked to arrests for hate crimes, incitement to violence and planning terrorist attacks. They propagate ideologies of racial nationalism by stoking conspiracy theories, such as the belief that governments, elites, and Jews are engaged in a deliberate effort to wipe out the white race by bringing immigrants, and primarily Muslims, to the West.

“With few exceptions, all of the groups in the sample exhibit anti-Semitic beliefs, demonizing the Jewish community and often describing them as the root of various problems. This includes promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and occasionally inciting violence against the Jewish community, ”the report said. “Islamophobia and xenophobia are also common. “

Social media platforms represent a privileged way for these groups of young people to recruit and radicalize their subscribers, by disseminating their messages to the masses while bypassing content moderation policies. A common practice found among a number of online activities by far-right actors has been described as the ‘content conversion funnel’. Relatively moderate content is hosted on mainstream social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, with these accounts then used to redirect users to others on alternative platforms like Telegram, where more extremist and violent content can be. more easily shared.

“This allows groups to maintain a presence on consumer platforms, bypassing corporate moderation algorithms, while guiding followers in radicalization channels and recruiting young people in their movements,” explains the report. “In particular, groups were more attracted to platforms popular with individuals of their generation – in particular, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. “

Children now make up 13% of terrorism suspects in the UK, the report notes, a figure that has tripled in the past year. Another group analyzed was the Feuerkrieg division, whose own founder, 16, in February became the youngest person in the UK to ever convict of terrorism.

Feuerkrieg’s online content has been seen encouraging followers to attack Jews, Muslims, and immigrants, and “start bombing and destroying the government.”

Other groups studied included the Eisenjugend, which itself referred to itself as the “American branch” of the neo-Nazi group Iron Youth; and the Sonnenkrieg division, whose leader, Andrew Dymock, was convicted this year for calling for the “extermination” of all Jews.

The ICSR / CST report urged social media companies to take a more holistic approach to moderation and removal of content, and called on lawmakers and law enforcement to “continually reassess” the threat posed by young racial nationalists.

“Incitement to violence and plots and planned acts by young people demonstrate that racial nationalist youth cannot simply be viewed as threats on the basis of their age,” the report warned. “The younger and younger age of convicted terrorists, while shocking, does not make them any less capable than adults of committing equally serious acts. “

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