The year 2020 represented a critical point in the way individuals relate to each other. All around the world, the health concerns about the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus—commonly known as COVID-19 or “the coronavirus”—led to isolation at home for many months at a time, and the socio-political and economic implications generated further anxiety and fear. Social media and messaging apps became the main means of collective discussion and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Surveys of social media users in different countries showed an increase in the use of social platforms during the period of physical distancing at home, enabling the creation and strengthening of online communities all around the world, where groups of individuals with common interests interacted with one another on different Internet platforms. In this scenario, far-Right extremist groups have adapted their propaganda to the online dynamics created by the new extensive online forms of communication consumption generated by the pandemic.
These far-Right extremist groups do not represent a coherent movement, yet as defined by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), they are, rather, a “shifting, complex and overlapping milieu of individuals, groups and movements espousing different but related ideologies, often linked by hatred and racism toward minorities”. These groups usually represent a loose, leaderless, and transnational network, however the development and evolution of online communities has proven to be an effective way to implement strategies and techniques to spread their ideology and increase the calls for violence, jeopardize the role of authorities, and recruit new members. Moreover, “alternative” (meaning non-mainstream) social media platforms, with a smaller user base, and similar messaging apps, have contributed to the creation and expansion of online communities that give coherence and a safe haven to extremism through the adoption of conspiracy theories and far-Right ideologies and the spread of disinformation.
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