'Hundreds of thousands' drawn to hate theories

Hope Not Hate report warns that 'broader conspiracy movement now gateway to antisemitism'


Hundreds of thousands of people have been drawn into conspiracies around Holocaust denial and ideas normally associated with the extreme far right as a result of the increased time spent at home in front of the internet during the lockdowns, the authors of a new report have warned.

Nick Lowles, chief executive of the campaign group Hope Not Hate, said that a “whole new layer of people” have been drawn into conspiracy theories and far-right ideas as they have struggled to make sense of life over the past 12 months during the pandemic.

He said: “Ten or 15 years ago for anyone to obtain Holocaust denial material, you really had to go to a site of the extreme far-right.

“These days, these conspiracies are mingled in on much broader and wider platforms.

“I think it is concerning and we are not sure where it is going to go.

“Literally hundreds of thousands of people who have been drawn into these ideas.. and of course if you start believing one conspiracy theory you are more likely to believe others.”

Speaking at Monday’s launch of Hope Not Hate’s State of Hate 2021 report, the group’s senior researcher Joe Mulhall also warned that while the QAnon movement had shrunk in influence after Donald Trump’s defeat as US President, it would “rumble on in different forms” including a “more broader conspiracy scene.”

Mr Mulhall said: “One of the things we highlight in the  report is how this is a gateway to antisemitism.

“QAnon is part of a broader conspiracy movement that we have seen emerge in the UK in the last year.”

With huge numbers now engaging with conspiracy content online, Mr Mulhall said that ideas about a grand conspiracy – which have emerged through ideas about the 5G phone network, or paedophiles running the world or of Covid being a hoax – have required a “grand conspirator.”

He added: “When you have conspirator, invariably with these people it ends up being the Jewish community and secret power run by Jews.

“That’s something to really watch out for – seeing that route to antisemitism through the conspiracy scene rather than through the far right.”

The new report, published on Monday, also revealed how the social media platfom Instagram has become a hub for young neo-Nazis to recruit young people to far-right groups.

Two far-right groups active in the UK – The British Hand and the National Partisan Movement – which have used Facebook-owned Instagram to recruit members, are identified in the report. They are also using other messaging apps, such as Telegram.

Three alleged members of The British Hand, who are all teenage boys, are facing trial on terrorism charges.

Mr Lowles said: “Though we continue to warn about niche platforms like Telegram, a fertile recruitment ground for young neo-Nazis has been Instagram – its inadequate moderation and worrying algorithm recommendations are child protection issues that demand urgent action from the platform.”

Meanwhile, the report also warned that Patriotic Alternative, one of the biggest far-right and openly antisemitic groups to emerge over the past year, were using mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook to promote less hard-core material, while using alternative platforms such as Bitchute to circulate neo-Nazi ideas.




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