Post-lockdown extremism fears: 'We know radicalisation takes place online'

17 October 2021, 13:07 | Updated: 17 October 2021, 13:30

By Elizabeth Haigh

Security minister Damian Hinds has said the online space is "absolutely key" to radicalisation and acknowledged increased screen time amid the pandemic created risks.

Addressing concerns of a wave of radicals emerging from lockdown, Mr Hinds told LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday: "There have been a lot more people spending a lot more time on their computer screens, and we know that a lot of radicalisation happens online."

His comments followed the fatal stabbing of Tory MP Sir David Amess on Friday.

Police are questioning a suspect and used anti-terror laws to keep him detained until October 22. The Met said early investigations suggested a possible link to Islamist extremism.

Mr Hinds said the online space is "absolutely key" in radicalisation and "when people are spending additionally large amounts of time of course that is a risk to be addressed".

The minister described the changing nature of terrorist threats to the UK in recent years: "There has been a shift over the last number of years towards attacks that are done by a single individual or a small group of people, never really totally alone."

He said attacks that have occurred in recent years in the UK have tended to be carried out by "individuals or small groups, self-initiated, radicalised online."

He added: "The online space is constantly evolving.

Read more: Terror suspect quizzed over MP's murder named as Ali Harbi Ali

"A lot of these issues about decency in public life are very much to the fore and it's very important to keep a watchful brief to determine whether what we have now is sufficient or if we need to go further."

But the minister praised the efforts of the security services: "There is a constant threat and our security services, our police, counter terrorism police, are constantly on the case.

Read more: Hundreds attend candlelit vigil for MP Sir David Amess as terror suspect detained

Read more: Tributes left to Tory MP Sir David Amess as police declare terror incident

"They do an outstanding job."

Responding to the fatal attack on MP Sir David Amess on Friday, Mr Hinds said he "deeply regrets" the threats that MPs face, adding: "It's not just about members of parliament. Journalists often come in for abuse online. Children come in for abuse online.

"There's appalling racist abuse, appalling abuse of women."

He added: "We should have a standard of decency."

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