Australia quietly shuts down anti-terror taskforce set up after Christchurch attack | Far right

A task force of Australian government agencies and social media companies set up to counter violent extremism online after the Christchurch terror attack has been quietly disbanded. The revelation that the task force was wound up last year comes in the wake of the Buffalo shooting in the United States, as the government faces fresh criticism about its response to the 2019 terror attack by an Australian man. The white 18-year-old male charged with the murders of 10 people at a convenience store in Buffalo, New York,k on Saturday cited the Great Replacement Theory and the manifesto of the Christchurch shooter in his manifesto.

In response to the Christchurch attack, the government convened a task force of government bodies, internet service providers, and social media platforms to help tackle online extremism from far-right and white supremacy groups in Australia. They made recommendations to the government in June 2019, including working to remove terrorism and violent material online proactively and routinely reporting back to the government on how different aspects of implementing the report were being achieved.


But since then, the task force has met just three times, with the last meeting in May 2021, when the task force was disbanded, and responsibility shifted to the eSafety commissioner and Department of Home Affairs. The department said in February that a March 2021 review of the actions taken since the report had found the response to be “adequate” overall. A spokesperson for the department told Guardian Australia that content was still referred to social media platforms for removal, and between 1 January 2020 and 15 March 2022, there were 5,930 items of terrorist and violent extremist content referred for removal, 4,271 of which were removed.

Australia is a member of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). The spokesperson said that a content incident protocol was activated to limit the spread of the online material associated with the Buffalo attack. When asked specifically what the government was doing to counter the Great Replacement Theory narrative, Home Affairs responded that it had undertaken “broad-based programs of work to promote Australia’s national identity, liberal democratic values,s, and social cohesion.”

The example was a podcast/videocast launched in September 202, Fearlesslyy Australian. It is hosted by boxer Danny Green, who interviews other Australians, including Robert Irwin, NRL legend Nathan Hindmarsh, an ADF officer, and a UFC star. The department said the series was “designed to engage young Australian men who may be vulnerable to ideologically motivated violent extremist narratives”. “Fearlessly Australian supports a cohesive community by hosting positive role models who deliver content that is frank and informative and encourages resilience, critical thinking, and practical insights into dealing with uncertainty, change,e or adversity,” the department said.

The accompanying Facebook page currently has 338 followers. Sign up to receive an email with the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning. Greens anti-racism spokesperson, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, said it “chills me to my core” that the Australian Christchurch attacker has inspired other mass killings. “But what is even more unsettling is that since Christchurch, there has been virtually no self-reflection – let alone action – on the part of Australian politicians, that one of our own not only committed the atrocities of March 2019 but has inspired a wave of copycat extremists,” she said.

“The Morrison government, by all accounts, has tried to wash its hands of Christchurch and neutralize any attempts to understand what is driving the rise in far-right extremism, including what in our politics and culture might be leading young white men down a violent, racist path.” An inquiry established in December 2020 by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security inquiry examined extremist movements and radicalism in Australia. Guardian Australia sought comment from the Coalition.

It was established after Labor had pushed for an inquiry specifically focused on far-right extremism. The then home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, watered down the terms of reference to cover religiously motivated and ideologically motivated extremism, about the far right omitted. Faruqi said the language shift showed the government’s approach to the far right. “It is a government that oversaw a shift in the language used by authorities to describe far-right extremism, reframing it instead as the banal-sounding ‘ideologically motivated violent extremism’. This has already demonstrably impacted how far-right government figures and media reporting speak about far-right racismely, the inquiry held just two public hearings and never delivered a final report to parliament, with chair James Paterson stating the committee’s other “pressing demands” had meant the information could not be finished. Paterson recommended the next parliament finish the inquiry.

Labor has also not responded to a request for comment. In additional comments made to the Social Media and Online Safety inquiry report, Labor members Tim Watts and Sharon Claydon recommended Home Affairs evaluate how it notifies social media providers about terrorist and violent,t and extremist content on platforms, noting Meta had told the committee it had not received any intelligence on that from Home Affairs. They also called for Australia’s online safety laws to be refined so action could be taken against online hate speech targeted at specific groups. “Right-wing extremism is a growing concern for Australian security agencies; we need to address online hate speech,” they said.

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.