Since Covid-19 gripped the world in early 2020, violent far-right extremists have been increasingly taking to the Internet to polarise societies, spread hate propaganda and exacerbate mistrust in public institutions – posing a new range of challenges for Australian intelligence agencies.
This has prompted the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to launch an inquiry into extremist movements and radicalism in Australia.
Defined as “a specific ideology characterized by anti-democratic opposition towards equality”, right-wing extremism is commonly associated with racism, xenophobia, exclusionary nationalism, conspiracy theories, and authoritarianism.
Recently, these extremists have shifted their funding models from traditional tactics structured around groups, i.e. charging membership dues, to new models and methods of online fundraising, including live-streamed interviews, the sale of merchandise featuring extremist propaganda, or the sale of cryptocurrencies that are difficult or impossible to trace.
Despite being chased off many of the major mainstream social media platforms, due to increasing scrutiny and regulation being directed toward right-wing content, these extremist groups still have access to a network of lightly or unmoderated digital platforms that allow them to fund their nefarious activities.
As a result, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has been calling for anti-money-laundering laws to apply to more technology businesses.
This is particularly important given that the fundraising facilitated by these alternative platforms has the potential to build the right-wing community both in Australia and overseas.
Further, the borderless nature of the internet has meant online fundraisers can act as an additional point of connection between Australian groups, and those overseas – with many national fundraising campaigns being boosted online by foreign actors, thus enabling amplification of their messages across a global stage.
The Need for Regulation
With this, there is an increasing need for Australian law enforcement, intelligence agencies, policymakers and civil society to explore regulation and legislation options.
This may include creating systems to better monitor hate crimes and incidents, supporting more research to examine the relationships between online content creation and fundraising, prosecuting fundraising efforts, and enhancing the transparency and accountability of platform policies and enforcement actions related to extremist fundraising activity.
Regardless, any policies must seek to address the drivers of right-wing extremism.
We Can Help
While the inquiry continues, our highly specialised team here at One AML is here to help you understand what this means, and provide expert advice on your own AML compliance.