Extremists have started using anti-lockdown memes and messages to recruit young people
EXTREMIST groups are increasingly using memes to try to recruit young people, according to a new report.
The report also says that many extreme organizations, especially far-right groups, have used Covid 19 conspiracy theories as a recruiting tool over the past year.
On Thursday, Bradford Council’s Corporate Review Committee will hear the annual Prevent program update in Bradford, which details what is being done in the district to steer people away from extremism.
Last year, the annual report revealed that as the world went into lockdown and adapted to working and learning online, extremist groups followed suit, adapting their techniques to lure people into their ideology. on the Internet.
This year’s report says that shift has continued, with groups using the isolation felt by many young people during lockdown to try to groom them to support their cause – whether it’s extremism extreme right or Islamic extremism.
Anti-vax and anti-lockdown sentiment among many has also been hijacked by groups trying to sway people towards their extreme ideologies.
And the report claims that new currents of extremism are beginning to emerge, including left-wing extremism and “unclear and unstable ideologies” – a name often given to the extreme which can mix up different causes and beliefs.
Extremist groups ‘move online’ to radicalize children during pandemic
The report said the main targets of extremist groups seeking to recruit remain boys under the age of 18, and those with mental or emotional health issues are seen as a particular target.
To appeal to this demographic, groups are using methods popular with young people online, such as memes, to spread dangerous messages. Often people who see and share these messages online may not realize the role they play in spreading dangerous messages.
A meme is an image, such as a still image from a cartoon or movie, with an often humorous message attached. They are often widely shared on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
The Prevent report claims extremist groups are hijacking this seemingly innocuous online trend to spread their messages.
He says: “These groups continue to use the online space to spread hatred, conspiracy theories and mistrust between communities.
“Far-right groups in particular have continued to use Covid-19 conspiracy theories as a recruiting tool to attract young supporters to their kingdoms in 2021.
“The use of memes and conspiracy theories appeals to a particularly young audience and has been used to attract new support.
“Groups across West Yorkshire have used the anti-lockdown etc as a front to promote their extremist views and in turn hopefully attract more members.”
Moms stand up to radicalization in new program to protect children and bring people together
The report also highlights the danger of “self-initiated terrorism” – which sees an individual acting rather than being part of a sophisticated terrorist cell.
He says: “Self-initiated terrorism continues to be a risk, due to the low sophistication of the methods used and the ease with which things can be planned.
“The continued isolation and suspicion of some people increases the potential for such attacks. This is not tied to any particular ideology and appeals broadly to suspicions about the pandemic, narratives associated with free speech, theories of conspiracy and to those who are mixed, unclear and unstable ideologies.”
Committee members will be told that locally the Prevent program in Bradford has been modified to tackle “the ever-increasing risk of online extremism across all ideologies”.
The report says; “Projects, Training and Support are very aware of these ever-changing risks and their potential to increase due to the vulnerabilities created by Covid.”
Last year Bradford received £312,132 to tackle the threat of extremism.
An ongoing program used to achieve this is Mothers Against Radicalization, a program that helps mothers from all walks of life understand the online world and helps them recognize any potential threats of grooming and radicalization.
Complementary Schools Against Radicalization is a program that works with imams and madrassahs to teach students “the skills to consistently challenge the Daesh (ISIS) narrative.”
The Bradford Peace Museum has held sessions that teach people how to spot lies and misinformation, the backbone of extremism, online.
Oddarts is a play designed to raise young people’s awareness of the different types of radicalization.
And some local schools are involved in the Votes For Schools initiative, which offers a weekly debate on a hot or controversial issue, including extremism, conspiracy theories and radicalization.
Another part of the Prevent strategy in Bradford is the ‘Channel’ safeguard programme.
Bradford Council leads a panel of protection professionals including police, social workers, NHS staff, schools and the justice system to identify people at risk of being drawn into terrorism, assess potential risk, then develop support for those referred to them. This can range from mentoring to things like stress management or drug and alcohol programs.