Britain’s anti-terror chief says newspapers help to radicalise far right

Neil Basu

The UK’s counter-terrorism chief has said that newspapers helped radicalise far-right terrorists, criticising online media outlets which uploaded the Christchurch killer’s manifesto.

Neil Basu, who is one of Britain’s most senior police officers, said it was hypocritical that while newspapers constantly criticise social media platforms for allowing “extremist” content, news site like the Mirror, the Sun and the Mail Online hastily uploaded clips of last Friday’s Christchurch mosque massacres.

Basu said in an open letter to the media on how to report terrorism: “The same media companies who have lambasted social media platforms for not acting fast enough to remove extremist content are simultaneously publishing uncensored Daesh [Islamic State] propaganda on their websites, or make the rambling ‘manifestos’ of crazed killers available for download”.

He appeared to be specifically singling out the Mail Online, which uploaded the Christchurch terrorist’s 74-page “manifesto” on its site.

Basu wrote: “The reality is that every terrorist we have dealt with has sought inspiration from the propaganda of others, and when they can’t find it on Facebook, YouTube, Telegram or Twitter they only have to turn on the TV, read the paper or go to one of a myriad of mainstream media websites struggling to compete with those platforms.”

He also cited the 2017 mosque attack in Finsbury Park, London, as an example of where a man was “driven to an act of terror by far-right messaging he found mostly on mainstream media”.

Basu added: “A piece of extremist propaganda might reach tens of thousands of people naturally through their own channels or networks, but the moment a national newspaper publishes it in full then it has a potential reach of tens of millions. We must recognise this as harmful to our society and security.

“Anyone who seeks to deny the negative effects that promoting terrorist propaganda can have should think carefully about the massive global effort to remove terrorist content from social media platforms and the pressure that governments, law enforcement and, ironically, the mass media has put on those companies to cleanse their sites.”

The Mirror and the Mail Online later removed footage of the New Zealand mosque attacks where 50 Muslim worshippers were killed.

Both the Sun and the Daily Mail criticised Facebook’s role in last Friday’s massacres, despite uploading footage of the attack at Masjid Al-Noor on to their websites.

Basu said every online news outlets should also try to deal with the “torrent of hate and abuse below a criminal threshold” in the aftermath of any terrorist incidents.

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