James’ Article for The Times Red Box on tackling far-right extremism

In his role as Security Minister, James Brokenshire wrote the below article on 15th July 2020 for The Times Red Box underlining the Government’s commitment to combat far right extremist groups and their attempts to target and radicalise young people online:

www.thetimes.co.uk/article/we-will-not-let-far-right-extremism-spread-unchecked-8qzz8nvjg

"Like any parent, I have long been concerned by the dangers our children face online. Since the lockdown started these risks have increased, with young people spending more time on computers and smartphones at home.

The harsh reality is that there are groups that are seeking to take advantage of this situation, using the internet to groom the young and vulnerable into accepting their poisonous and hate-filled views, and ruining lives in the process.

Among these groups are far-right extremists looking to draw impressionable young minds into their twisted and divisive view of the world. Feuerkrieg Division (FKD) is devoted to spreading white supremacist ideology and propaganda and advocates an apocalyptic race war. It ruthlessly targets vulnerable young people online.

The group’s virtual existence makes it no less dangerous in the real world, given its intent to mobilise the individuals it manipulates. Following the arrest in the UK of one of its teenage members on terrorism charges last year, FKD members distributed a list of police buildings and an image of a senior police officer with a gun to his head.

A purported FKD supporter appeared in court in October charged with terrorism offences after allegedly encouraging the mass murder of Jews and LGBTQ people.

The government is determined to act quickly and decisively to stop these groups before they draw more young people down a dark path of violent extremism and terrorism. This week the home secretary has sought parliament’s approval to proscribe FKD in the UK. If this proposal is approved, it will be illegal to be a member or invite support. Those found guilty of a proscribed offence could face ten years behind bars.

Since 2017 police and intelligence agencies have disrupted eight plots related to extreme right-wing terrorism. These people should be in no doubt about how seriously the government takes this issue.

Outlawing these groups is an important part of ensuring that the police and the intelligence agencies have the tools they need to keep us safe.

Two right-wing terrorist groups have already been proscribed in the UK: National Action, including affiliated groups that use aliases; and Sonnenkrieg Division. In April MI5 became the lead agency for detecting and countering right-wing terrorism, reflecting the seriousness of the threat.

Tough new legislation has been introduced to keep serious terrorist offenders locked up for longer, and £90m in additional funding has been provided for counter-terrorism policing.

Meanwhile those who are vulnerable to radicalisation are being safeguarded through the Prevent programme, which provides support and the alternative views needed to challenge the rhetoric of terrorists operating online.

The government cannot fight these groups alone. Every parent, friend and neighbour must be vigilant for the signs of radicalisation and speak up when they have concerns.

Just as importantly, social media and other online companies are responsible for ridding platforms of messages of hate and violence. They need to step up, and the government will ensure that they do. The next steps in establishing legal duties will be laid out in response to the consultation on the Online Harms White Paper, to be published this year.

Outlawing groups is one part of the solution, but there also needs to be a crackdown on dangerous individuals lurking behind online avatars. Teenagers and young adults must be protected from a world of bigotry, hatred and intolerance that has no place in this country — online or offline."