The coronavirus is providing a global rallying cry for conspiracy theorists and far-right extremists on both sides of the Atlantic.
People seizing on the pandemic range from white supremacists and anti-vaxxers in the U.S. to fascist and anti-refugee groups across Europe, according to a POLITICO review of thousands social media posts and interviews with misinformation experts tracking their online activities. They also include far-right populists on both continents who had previously tried to coordinate their efforts after the 2016 American presidential election.
Not all online groups peddling messages on the pandemic have links to the far right, but those extremists have become especially vocal in using the outbreak to push their political agenda at a time of deepening public uncertainty and economic trauma. They are piggybacking on social media to promote coronavirus-related themes drawn from multiple sources — among them, Russian and Chinese disinformation campaigns, the Trump administration’s musings about the coronavirus’ origins and anti-Muslim themes from India’s nationalist ruling party.