U.K. Parliamentary Report: “Threat from Extreme Right-Wing Terrorism on an Upward Trajectory”

Demographic and Characteristics

● There has been a marked shift in the age, demographic and backgrounds of those associated with ERWT. The threat is now fragmented and complex, increasingly driven by the internet and characterized by a technologically aware demographic of predominantly young men, who are typically ‘Self-Initiated Terrorists’.

● Few belong to organized groups: they are difficult to identify and monitor. Their motivation can be highly individualistic, according to their particular personal circumstances, the nature of their grievances and perceptions of their own capabilities - determining how, why and when they may choose to attack is therefore particularly challenging.

● There are reports that groups and individuals have sought to co-opt the Covid-19

pandemic, using conspiracy theories and exploiting grievances to radicalize and


Military and Police

● Individuals often seek to join the military, groups seek to recruit within the military, and military experience is a source of legitimacy among ERWT groups. It is something of an anomaly that the Armed Forces do not provide clear direction to Service personnel regarding membership of any organization, let alone an extremist one.

● A similar risk exists from the insider threat in relation to the police, with issues around the current vetting processes for candidates applying to join the police – the lack of thorough background checks is a matter of concern.

The Online Space

● The online space is key. Self-Initiated Terrorists are now radicalized, and can radicalize others, online from the seclusion of their bedrooms. Videos of terrorist attacks, manifestos, propaganda and ideological literature can be found on a variety of platforms and at different levels of encryption - progressing from mainstream social media sites through to fringe networking sites, gaming sites, dedicated extremist websites and Secure Messaging Applications.

● Potential recruits can be channeled into ‘echo chambers’ isolated from opposing viewpoints - although not everyone will be guided through the ecosystem by a recruiter. Some find their own way through to the more extreme material.

ERWT material online is more difficult to tackle than Islamist terrorism propaganda, partly due to concerns regarding freedom of speech (particularly in the US where material on US-owned platforms can go unchallenged owing to the US Constitution First Amendment). It poses a new challenge for the Intelligence Community: there is a long way to go when it comes to tackling what is largely an ungoverned space.

CSPs and Encryption

● Extreme Right-Wing Terrorists tend to be tech-savvy, and their conspiracy-theorist, anti-government outlook reinforces the idea that their internet use is being monitored. They therefore use encrypted platforms, Virtual Private Networks and ‘dark net’ sites: the Head of CTP told the Committee that “end to end encryption is a disaster”. MI5 has called on Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to allow the intelligence Agencies to have exceptional access to encrypted messaging.

● The CSPs must ensure that this material cannot be viewed and shared in the first place. The ISC first identified this problem in 2014, but little progress has been made since. Whilst the major CSPs may be finally taking steps, the smaller organizations appear reluctant to do so.


● Technology and ease of communication mean that ERWT is a threat without borders. International co-operation is important in tackling ERWT, but the disparities in approach and legal thresholds make this challenging.

● It is important to ensure that alternative arrangements are put in place to avoid potential loss of access to key capabilities.

Lack of Resources

ERWT and Left-Wing, Anarchist and Single-Issue Terrorism (LASIT) casework - around a fifth of all counter-terrorism investigations - can be undertaken only at the expense of other MI5 work. As a result MI5 has been unable to expand its work, as it had intended, in other areas. This situation is untenable. MI5 must be given additional funding to enable it to tackle Extreme Right-Wing Terrorism without other areas of its work suffering as a consequence.