Cyber intelligence expert urges parents to monitor their children’s online activity after a Sunshine Coast high school student was featured on a social media page spreading white supremacist propaganda.
The page shows images of men dressed in matching shirts holding extremist flags on a seemingly Sunshine Coast hike
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Former FBI Special Agent Dennis Desmond – now a professor of cybercrime investigation at the University of the Sunshine Coast – said hate groups tend to try to recruit young people by veiling their true intentions.
“The groups will try to say, ‘Hey look, we’re just into fitness and hiking or recreation or basic survival skills’ – but what you actually find is that they’re promoting the symbolism of white nationalism, ”he said.
The Instagram page features images of students dressed in various Sunshine Coast school uniforms smoking on the school grounds, videos of teachers and fighting in the schoolyard.
Students from Chancellor State College were most often included in the account.
Instagram account administrators told ABC that the page was not the official account of any organization and described themselves as “two good looking, talented guys with strong opinions.”
A man who identified himself as the father of two tagged siblings declined to speak to the ABC.
A spokesperson for the page later said the account was aligned with white supremacist ideologies, but was not directly linked to a single organization.
“This page intends to be a gateway for men and young boys sensitive to our dog whistles,” he said.
Account supports prominent neo-Nazis
Dr Desmond said the messages scattered among the juvenile content were of much more concern.
“It’s not uncommon for these groups to use seemingly harmless memes that have anti-LGBTQ, anti-minority and white supremacist undertones,” he said.
The posts feature anti-government, anti-trans, pro-Hitler, separatist and other white extremist group propaganda.
A recent article urged people to join his “local club” and listed an encrypted email address difficult for authorities to trace.
“It was one of the challenges facing Australian law enforcement and intelligence services,” said Dr Desmond.
It also features several images believed to have been taken on the Sunshine Coast showing white men marching in matching shirts while holding extremist flags.
The same images were posted to an account run by a white supremacist movement on an encrypted site.
The account supports Australian neo-Nazi Thomas Sewell and claims to be “a movement for building a physical and politicized white Australian community.”
A call for education
Chancellor State College declined to comment, but the Education Department said the account was reported to Instagram.
“Racist and anti-social behavior is not tolerated,” said a spokeswoman for the department.
“Students involved in such behavior are treated in accordance with the school’s student code of conduct.
“No further details can be provided due to student privacy concerns.”
Dr Desmond urged parents and schools to educate students about the risks of extremist groups.
“There has to be a level of education both at home and in schools of the potential threat that exists here,” he said.
“They need to be closely watched to ensure that there are in fact no strangers from the outside influencing or interacting with their children.
Fisher MP Andrew Wallace said the page would be reported to the Home Secretary.
“We need to understand to what extent young people are prepared or encouraged to get involved in this group,” he said.
“Some young people may not know what they are really getting involved in and that is part of the problem.”
Rise of white supremacists
Dr Desmond said white supremacist groups had become more active during the pandemic.
“They feel like the government has imposed greater tyranny on them, so there has been a lot of effort trying to create these separate enclaves and separate from the government,” he said.
Dr Desmond said white supremacist groups have become a significant threat in the United States.
“Unfortunately, white extremism, the Christian identity movement, National Socialism, these extremist groups are growing all over the world,” he said.
“Here on the Sunshine Coast, I saw trucks driving around with the badges of the 1st SS Panzer Division Nazi and 1st SS Panzer Corps on the back of the truck, seeing trucks with white stickers.”
In May, Australian Security Intelligence Organization chief executive Mike Burgess said investigations of ideologically motivated violent extremists such as “racists and nationalists” consumed half of the counterterrorism workload ashore.
Mr. Wallace said the threat was taken very seriously.
“There is no place in Australia for hate groups, whether ideological or religious,” he said.