‘Right Now, People Are Pretty Fragile.’ How Coronavirus Creates the Perfect Breeding Ground for Online Extremism

A close up of President Trump's notes shows where Corona was crossed out and replaced with Chinese Virus as he speaks with his coronavirus task force in during a briefing at the White House on March 19, 2020.

When Mak Kapetanovic reads people’s jokey tweets and Facebook messages about the prospect of self-isolation with overbearing relatives as COVID-19 traverses the globe, he wants to see the funny side. But mostly, he feels a sense of deep disquiet. The 23-year-old anthropology student understands how feelings of loneliness, anger and alienation can consume you. And he knows the very dark places they can take you.

A few years ago, seeking refuge from uncertainty and turmoil, Kapetanovic found himself sucked into the narratives of white supremacist groups online. Now he fears the same conditions that sent him on the path to hate are fomenting in homes across the world.

“If people who are self-isolating together are angry at each other and not talking, that would be pretty bad,” says Kapetanovic from his home in Jacksonville, Florida. He worries that tensions at home would compound an environment already fraught with fear and confusion. “Feelings of isolation, anger, grief and frustration, all of those things are happening. A lot of people are scared, and people are not sure what to think.”

“It is the far right who always seem to take advantage of these insecurities,” he adds.

Millions of people around the world are now stuck in their homes, consumed by worry and fear and contending with a barrage of misinformation over a virus which seems to have changed their lives overnight. Some politicians seek scapegoats in marginalized communities and ethnic groups, with the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban blaming migrants and President Donald Trump provoking outrage with his “Chinese flu” comments. And during long, isolated days, many people seek distraction online— companies are reporting a 12 to 15% increase in Internet use — and much of that time is spent in poorly regulated Internet forums and on social …read more

Source:: Time – World


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