What UK’s Prevent Strategy Says About Right-Wing Extremism

I’m studying up on how to combat right-wing extremism on social media. Since there has been more effort on preventing online Islamic radicalization, I’ll have to rely in part on what’s been done in that realm to inform my strategy.

One of the first efforts I came across was Prevent. As described in this massive 2011 review of the program (with a forward from then-Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May), Prevent is the UK “counter-terrorist programme which aims to stop people being drawn into terrorist-related activity. Prevent is one of the key elements of CONTEST, the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy.”

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It seems the program is fraught. It is immediately apparent that it is a law-enforcement-centric program. It has a “Big Brother” flavor. Some see it as “a surveillance programme for Muslims” because it requires “public bodies to help detect the signs of radicalisation — while remaining vague about what such signs may be.”

However, as a starting place, I wanted to see if there were aspects of the program rationale that could apply to online right-wing radicalization in the US. A recent report suggests that Prevent officers see right-wing extremism as a growing part of their portfolio. Although, as the report notes, “people involved in extreme right-wing terrorism have not received the same training, guidance or support as many of those who have engaged with Al Qa’ida,” right-wing radicalization is also a social process and there are similarities, and so it is worth the effort to see what we can apply from lessons learned working against religious extremism.

I’m still making my way through Prevent’s 2011 document, but here are some highlights from the few parts that deal with right-wing extremism. Quotes in italics:

Radicalisation is a social process particularly prevalent in small groups. I’m focusing my anti-radicalization efforts on Instagram in part because it’s a secondary battle ground. Targeting smaller platforms may be more productive, as one-on-one engagement in comment threads is more common. Instagram is not Twitter (which attracts national attention) or Reddit (which is troll central). To give you an idea of scale, Fox News has 13.4M Twitter followers, but only 1.1M followers on Instagram. The most subscribed-to right-wing propaganda account on Instagram that I know of (the_typical_liberal) has 261K followers.

People can be drawn to right-wing terrorist ideology through the rhetoric and language of apparently non-violent right-wing extremist groups. It has to start somewhere.

People drawn to extreme right-wing terrorism are usually male, poorly educated (although there are some cases of high-achieving individuals) and often unemployed. These demographics are for the UK, and so I’m curious especially about whether the unemployed also comprise significant numbers here. Male and poorly educated isn’t surprising.

The internet plays a key role in reinforcing ideology and facilitating activity. Kind of like how the internet plays a key role in everything?

Islamophobia has increasingly become part of extreme right-wing terrorist ideology. Islamophobia is rampant and unabashed on the #TrumpTrain.