Report Open Access
The pandemic caused by the novel Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) presents a national and global crisis. Government public health responses have impacted on the social and behavioural norms that shape daily interactions in Australia. The pandemic has been accompanied by the global spread of false and misleading information including conspiratorial narratives, resulting in an online environment described as an ‘infodemic’. The situation has presented far right extremists with a unique opportunity to capitalise on societal anxieties and align their narratives with wider public discourse to recruit and mobilise.
To better understand the impact of COVID-19 on Australian far right extremists, this report addressed three key questions.
The report draws on two data sets. The creeping threat posed by far right extremist and conspiratorial narratives on mainstream public sentiment was explored using YouTube and Twitter data. In total, 21 YouTube channels were selected, generating 13+ million comments, and 1% of Australian tweets and retweets were collected generating 5.5+ million tweets. To explore how far right extremists have appropriated COVID-19 online, screenshots from Telegram and Instagram channels were collected from groups, individuals, and personalities associated with far right extremist and militant anti-lockdown movements.