White-Crusade: How to Prevent Right-Wing Extremists from Exploiting the Internet

White-Crusade: How to Prevent Right-Wing Extremists from Exploiting the Internet
Photo: Photo:Anthony Crider

White-Crusade: How to Prevent Right-Wing Extremists from Exploiting the Internet

By Dr Christina Schori Liang and Mr Matthew John Cross

Right-wing extremists (RWEs) are using the current protests over police brutality in the United States as a cover to commit terroristic acts and to grow their numbers. They present a significant danger to public safety and security and are a growing threat in the West. Despite this, the rise of right-wing extremism (a homogenized term for white ethnonationalists, alt-rights, white supremacist groups, male supremacist groups, and right-wing anti-government extremists) has not been afforded the priority and attention it justly deserves. There are three reasons for this. First, the global narrative maintains that terrorism rests almost exclusively in the hands of a balaclava-clad Salafi-jihadist holding a Kalashnikov. Second, Western right-wing media has largely pushed back against covering the rise of right-wing extremism and the media as a whole has failed to contextualize the systematic threat RWEs present. Third, the global pandemic has forced governments to focus their attention on maintaining public health and socioeconomic order and have consequently failed to see how RWEs are subversively using the pandemic to support and expand their own agenda.


Upcoming course. Dr Christina Schori Liang is the course director for the upcoming course 'Building a National Strategy for Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE): A Virtual Learning Journey'. and learn how to design a comprehensive approach to PVE. Register now for the November edition. 


RWEs have utilized the lawless and unmoderated internet to reach broader audiences, disseminate literature, and target vulnerable people. They have done so quietly, pushing an ideological campaign that manifests itself under the surface of popular internet discourse, rather than the aggressive proselytizing of Salafi-jihadist groups like the Islamic State. These efforts can be understood as a kind of subversive exposure, where memes and fake news dominate discourse. This paper will analyse the scope of the RWE threat, describe their latest modus operandi, and explore how the pandemic is being instrumentalized by such groups and how the internet has become their principal tool and battleground. The paper will then provide theory and evidence for how counter-narrative programs, especially through digital disruption, can help neutralise the threat.

Photo: Anthony Crider

Dr. Christina Schori Liang is Head of Terrorism and PVE at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP). She is the Director of the New Issues in Security Course (NISC) and contributes to GCSP’s Track Two diplomacy, dialogue events and research. She is a Professor at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po, Paris.


Mr. Matthew John Cross recently received his master’s degree in International Security from the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po. His research interests focus on countering violent extremism and ethical intelligence. He previously worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, developing international capacity building projects. Mr. Cross received his bachelor’s degree in honours P.P.E. from Mount Allison University, Canada.