How are extremists exploiting COVID-19?

29 MAY 2020

How are extremists exploiting COVID-19?

A Charles Sturt University research project will examine threats by jihadists and Right Wing extremists that capitalise on community uncertainty to drive their own agendas and goals at the cost of human lives.

  • Charles Sturt University research will examine ‘The Australian National Security Implications of COVID-19’
  • The research will explore how extremists from jihadists to right-wing extremists are exploiting the pandemic to escalate community fears, and rupture community cohesion
  • The project will help to inform communities and alert counterterrorism agencies

Malevolent ‘actors’, from jihadists to Right-Wing extremists, are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to enhance community fears, and rupture and erode community cohesion and resilience.

Dr Kristy Campion, Lecturer in terrorism studies in the Charles Sturt Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security, was recently awarded a University research grant to examine what extremists are doing in Australia in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.

‘The Australian National Security Implications of COVID-19’ project led by Dr Campion will explore the campaigns of non-state threats made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project will focus on threats made by jihadists and Right Wing extremists that seek to capitalise on community uncertainty to drive their own agendas and further their own goals at the cost of human lives.

Dr Campion said, “Extremists of all stripes seek to turn Australian citizens against each other, and against the government, by undermining community confidence in government measures. They do this, in part, by propagating online conspiracies and misinformation campaigns.

“This is part of an increase in extreme Right recruitment drives, preying on people’s sense of insecurity to draw them into movements which – on face value – they think offer them surety.

“But what it really offers is a world view clouded with misinformation campaigns driving narratives of conspiracy, anti-immigration, xenophobia, racism, conspiracy, distrust, and hate for fellow citizens.

“This concurrently exposes the broader mainstream of society to extreme ideas and ideologies.

“Extremists are trying to capitalise on uncertainty to drive their own agendas and further their own goals at the cost of human lives, and the lives of their fellow citizens.”

Dr Campion said the potential for these ideas to catalyse into terrorist violence is well-established, and yet social media companies have been unable to prevent both the spread of conspiracies, and the exploitation of their platforms during crises by malevolent actors.

“For example, information and communication technologies have played an important part in the magnification of these strategies,” Dr Campion said.

“We aim to see how and why that occurred, what this activity means for Australia’s national security, and how we can work to counter and thwart them in the future.

“Our hope is that this research will yield greater knowledge about how extremists incorporate disasters or crises into their strategic plans, so we can prevent them from harnessing these events for their own purposes.”

Dr Campion’s research project co-investigators include Associate Professor Nick O’Brien, Dr Andrew Brien, Dr Janine Hidlestone, Mr Cesar Alvarez, and Mr Levi West.


Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Dr Kristy Campion contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or via news@csu.edu.au

Photo: News video

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