- Anti-lockdown groups in the UK are becoming increasingly entangled with far-right groups on social media, experts said.
- Anti-vax groups are using the same fringe social media platforms as many prominent far-right extremists.
- Two men were charged after a BBC journalist was chased through the street by anti-lockdown demonstrators in distressing scenes.
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Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination groups are becoming increasingly entangled with networks of far-right extremists who share threatening messages about journalists on fringe social media networks such as Telegram, experts have warned.
A second man was charged this week in the UK after a BBC journalist was chased through the street by demonstrators protesting against lockdown measures.
Footage of the incident was uploaded by an anti-lockdown group called ResistanceGB to YouTube – where it has more than 28,000 followers – under the title “Top BBC Stooge Chased Out Of Anti-lockdown Protest Over BBC Lies.”
-Liam Thorp 💙 (@LiamThorpECHO) June 15, 2021
As a result, The BBC was forced to tighten its security procedures after Fran Unsworth, the director of news and current affairs at the national broadcaster, said that the “abuse of journalists is a growing problem,” the Observer reported.
Many prominent figures on the British far-right, including Nick Griffin and Jayda Fransen, subsequently expressed support on social media for the actions of the protestors who pursued Watt through Westminster.
Experts say that while the anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown movement in the UK is not inherently far-right, many of them are increasingly using the same fringe social media platforms such as Telegram, where prominent far-right influencers like Nick Griffin and Jayda Fransen have large followings. Many of those figures frequently talk about opposition to vaccines and lockdowns.
“As anti-vax conspiracy theorists increasingly share online spaces with violent far-right extremists, the chances of radicalization increase also,” said a spokesperson for Tech Against Terrorism, an organization tackling terrorist use on the internet that is supported by the United Nations counter-terrorism committee executive directorate.
“The more these groups share the same spaces, the more likely they’ll be influenced by each others’ ideas.”
After Paul Joseph Watson – a right-wing conspiracy theorist and UK editor of Infowars – shared a link to Watt being chased, comments posted in response seen by Insider included: “Good. Scum. Hope he pissed himself” and “He could and should have been lynched.” The Observer previously reported other comments shared below the video.
Nick Griffin, the former leader of the BNP, referred to the protestors in a tweet as “heroes” and added the hashtag “#onlythingthesef—ers understand.”
Anti-semitic tropes are also being shared in anti-vax groups on social media, experts said.
“When extremists are banned from large platforms, they don’t disappear from the internet; instead they congregate on smaller, alternative platforms that lack either the capacity or willingness to remove their content,” said a Tech Against Terrorism spokesperson.