The federal government must take action against encrypted messaging apps like Telegram to curb the rise of far-right extremism, a Victorian inquiry has said.
Far-right extremists initially shared hateful content on mainstream sites like Facebook and Twitter but are increasingly being misrepresented, Dr Belinda Barnet of Swinburne University said at Wednesday’s hearing.
Groups are now moving to spaces like Telegram where they can share their ideas without censorship or detection by authorities, which is dangerous, Dr Barnet said.
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Governments must ensure that regulations imposed on mainstream social media sites to limit far-right posts are extended to encrypted apps, she said.
These apps also allow the far right to attract people from the so-called fringes of society, Christine Agius, an associate professor at Swinburne University, told the parliamentary inquiry.
They often share grievances about perceived entitlement – that society has changed too much, that feminism has gone too far, and that minority groups are taking what is rightfully theirs.
These views can serve as a gateway to a more extreme far-right ideology, Dr Agius said.
But while these groups are a concern, Dr Agius said governments needed to make sure they weren’t too harsh in their response.
Shutting down far-right extremists can only strengthen groups because they thought their freedom of expression was being suppressed, Dr Agius said.
Governments should look at the root of the problem and tackle areas such as digital literacy to stop the spread of disinformation, the associate professor said.