Canada is among the very worst countries when it comes to white supremacy, a new report on right-wing extremism online has found.
Over 11 million people around the world have been reached online by approximately 6,600 right-wing extremist social media pages and groups in Canada, according to the report by a UK-based think tank which studies hate and extremism.
Not only that, but researchers suspect these social media users have been more active in recent months during the imposed lockdown as a result of the global health crisis, and particularly in recent weeks amid worldwide protests against racial inequality in the wake of George Floyd‘s death.
The report was carried out by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), which was contracted by a team of researchers led by Barbara Perry, a professor at Ontario Tech University (OTU).
Titled An Online Environmental Scan of Right-wing Extremism in Canada, the report gives a detailed overview of Canada’s online far-right space based on data from 2017 to 2019.
The ISD analysed approximately 6,700 social media accounts, including: 6,352 Twitter accounts; 130 public Facebook pages and groups; 32 YouTube channels; 42 Gab accounts; 88 accounts on the neo-Nazi Iron March forum; and 31 accounts on the white supremacist forum Fascist Forge. The latter two forums no longer exist.
The report found that Canadians are particularly active, ‘representing the third largest nationality using 4chan’s politically incorrect board’, and were the third largest community on Iron March behind the US and UK.
‘We were really struck by the high level of engagement by Canadians,’ Jacob Davey, the ISD senior research manager and co-author of the report, said, as per VICE. ‘It’s clear that Canada has a well established system of right-wing extremists very much comparable to that of the US and UK, and it’s part of a global pattern.’
The report also found a sharp rise in the number of social media posts shared across the right-wing extremism network following large events both inside and outside of Canada; the Islamophobic mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019 and Canada’s federal election in October that same year both triggered spikes in activity.
Otherwise, in 2019, activity generally dipped across Facebook and YouTube, increased on Twitter and remained the same on 4chan.
Professor Barbara Perry, who runs OTU’s Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism, noted that the current situation – in terms of millions of people spending more time indoors – may result in more radicalisation.
She told VICE:
Under the lockdown, more people, especially youth, are spending more time online.
We know that mass killings in recent years were done by lone actors mobilised by online engagement, and it’s a concern that more exposure to these narratives during COVID-19, when so many have lost work, might engender similar violence.
OTU researchers, led by Perry, are currently in the process of putting together a report that maps out what right-wing extremism looks like offline in Canada too.
Perry’s team defines right-wing extremism as ‘a loose movement, characterised by a racially, ethnically, and sexually defined nationalism. This nationalism is often framed in terms of white power, and is grounded in xenophobic and exclusionary understandings of the perceived threats posed by such groups as non-whites, Jews, immigrants, homosexuals, and feminists’.
They hope those findings will provide more insight into the ‘strategic capacity’ of these groups and the ways in which people are drawn in.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk
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