Campaigners call platform ‘a fertile recruitment ground’ and say it must take urgent action to protect children.
Instagram has become a hub for young neo-Nazis to recruit young people to far-right groups, a report from an anti-racism group has warned.
The recommendations-driven platform and focus on visual media make it ideal for spreading propaganda, Hope Not Hate (HNH) said in its annual State of Hate assessment.
HNH identified two far-right groups active in the UK – The British Hand and the National Partisan Movement – which have used Facebook-owned Instagram to recruit members, while using other messaging apps, such as Telegram.
Three alleged members of The British Hand, who are all teenage boys, are facing trial on terrorism charges.
Nick Lowles, Hope Not Hate’s chief executive, said: “Though we continue to warn about niche platforms like Telegram, a fertile recruitment ground for young neo-Nazis has been Instagram – its inadequate moderation and worrying algorithm recommendations are child protection issues that demand urgent action from the platform.”
Facebook said it had banned more than 250 white supremacist organisations from Facebook and Instagram and would continue removing content that supports these groups.
The HNH report found the Covid-19 pandemic has sped up the move of the British far right from the streets to online.
The group said older, traditional groups have been left behind by a younger, digital generation who exploit technology to promote their ideology through gaming, social media voice chats, online film clubs and even home schooling.
“The lockdown has had a profound effect on every part of our society and it’s no less the case on the far-right. Traditional organisations were already on the decline but lockdown exacerbated their inactivity,” said Lowles.
“The British far right is now digitally led and reflective of online culture – traditional structures have given way to social media platforms, influencers and ‘citizen journalists’ creating peer-to-peer radicalisation and a global community willing to crowd source ‘micro-donations’ of time and effort.
“The new organisations and collectives that are emerging understand how to operate in this decentralised, self-directed environment.
“We have seen a slew of far-right terror convictions over the last year, and half of these have been teenagers.”
A Facebook company spokesperson said: “We do not want hate on our platform and we removed a number of accounts belonging to The British Hand and National Partisan Movement before this report was published.
“We’ve banned over 250 white supremacist organisations from Facebook and Instagram, and will continue removing content that praises, supports or represents these groups. That includes content containing swastikas and other hate symbols.
“Last year, we removed nearly 1 million pieces of content tied to hate organisations from Instagram and we’re always investing in technology to find and remove it faster.”
Britain’s youngest convicted terrorist, who led a neo-Nazi cell from his grandmother’s house, was handed a two-year rehabilitation order last month after pleading guilty to 12 offences, including two of dissemination of terrorist documents and 10 of possession of terrorist material.
The boy from south-east Cornwall, who cannot be named because of his age, was just 13 when he first got hold of instructions for explosives.
Last year, A-star grammar school student Harry Vaughan, 18, was sentenced at the Old Bailey to two years’ detention suspended for two years after he admitted 14 terror offences and two counts of possessing child sex abuse images.
Courtesy: The Guardian