Engagement with violent, far-right extremist content online jumped in Canada during lockdowns imposed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to a group of researchers.
Moonshot CVE, a U.K.-based organization specializing in counter-extremism work, analyzed search data for six major Canadian cities between the end of January and the end of April, according to a report published this week.
Researchers found a “statistically significant increase in searches for violent far-right extremist content” in four regions: Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and the Montréal-Laval area. The analysis found that search traffic also increased in Toronto and Vancouver “but not to a statistically significant degree.”
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These findings weren’t “terribly” surprising to one leading expert, who noted more people have been stuck in their homes during to the COVID-19 outbreak and experiencing higher levels of uncertainty in their lives.
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“People are looking for some account, some explanation, someone to hold responsible [or] to scapegoat for the issue. And these [far-right] groups provide ready answers for them,” said Barbara Perry, a professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
“That anxiety can be channeled.”