How do extremists target people online?

What extremist groups and ideologies should you be aware of?
Extreme Right Wing groups

Extreme Right Wing groups cover a broad ideological spectrum but are sometimes known as white supremacists or cultural nationalists. They are motivated by things like racism, extreme nationalism or the desire to remove people of different nationalities, religions and cultures from the UK. They are more likely to encourage people to commit hate crimes, and they typically target Jews, Muslims and other minority groups.

Religious extremism groups

Religious extremism groups, such as extreme forms of Islamism, is when the extremism is motivated by warped and dangerous interpretations of a specific faith. These groups are more likely to encourage someone to commit a terrorist offence such as funding or supporting a terrorist organisation, or committing a violent act. Other forms of religious extremism can include Sikh extremism or Hindu extremism, but Counter Terrorism Policing see fewer of these cases.

Extreme Right Wing and Extreme Islamism are therefore the two main extremism and terrorism threats in the UK at the moment. But other forms of extremism exist too, such as:

‘Incel’ means ‘involuntary celibacy’. It’s a mostly online hate group involving men and boys who believe women are to blame for their sexless lives. They can also blame other men who they feel are attractive to women. They hold extreme views about women and feminism and can be very offensive and disrespectful towards and about women and girls. They can encourage violent acts against women including rape. They have created their own terminology and refer to girls and women as ‘Becky’s or Stacy’s’ and handsome sexually active men as ‘Chad’s.’

Mixed, unstable and unclear ideologies

Mixed, unstable and unclear ideologies are the terms used to describe people who don’t clearly identify with one specific ideology but have underlying vulnerabilities such as mental health conditions that can help make them susceptible to extremism. They might relate to instances where people have a combination of elements from multiple ideologies (mixed), shift between different ideologies (unstable), or (unclear) where the person does not appear to identify with any ideology but is displaying a concerning interest in violence for example, searching for information and videos on mass school shootings.

Extreme left wing or environmental extremism

Extreme left wing or environmental extremism where people are prepared to support or use violence to support these causes.

If you're worried, trust your instincts and seek advice.

Talk to them

If you’re worried they are seeking out new connections check-in with your loved one and explore what else might be happening in their lives.

What problem might they be having that they are trying to solve?

What are the groups or activities they are becoming involved in offering them that you or their friends and family might not?

How do extremists sell themselves online?

Through: Social media The internet Multi-player gaming platforms Tournaments Chatrooms Forums

Whilst the vast majority of young people playing multi-player video games or online gaming tournaments, or who are using social media or posting in chatrooms are not vulnerable to being groomed by extremists, some are. But we all need to know the way these platforms can be misused.

Gamifying messages

Recruiters of all ideologies ‘gamify’ their messages to attract and reach younger gamers. They can also produce their own games or merge their messaging onto mainstream gaming platforms.

Rewards system

They will introduce a ‘reward’ system to encourage users to post extreme messages which will get them further up a leader board.

Assigning roles

They can assign the person at risk a ‘role’ in the group to help make them feel part of something and important.

Closed groups

They operate closed groups which can only be accessed by invite-only which helps the person feel special and selected.

Extreme content

They can use memes or comments on forums that go slightly beyond what most of us think are okay. If a child replies or shares their post, they’ll then try and strike up a ‘friendship’ before gradually sharing even more extreme views and content.

Conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories and ‘fake news’ can lead a vulnerable person down the path of extremism if they are feeling insecure about something in their lives and need support.

Get early support

Trust your instincts and if you notice your loved one is changing  and there is an intensity to their behaviour– maybe they are very angry or filled with hate – act early so you can help protect them choose a more positive pathway.

What should you look for to help reduce the risk of someone close being at risk of radicalisation?


Have there been any shifts in their behaviour? This might not be related to radicalisation but could be linked to other harms like drugs or gang activity. Is the behaviour masking other issues like low self-esteem or feelings of anger and isolation that could make the person you care about vulnerable to radicalisation?


Think critically and teach your child to think critically about information they are seeing on social media including memes and conspiracy theories. What might be the agenda behind them? What can often seem harmless or funny at first can lead on to more and more disturbing or hateful content.


Encourage them to be open about who they are connecting with online and off and what could be the agenda of the other person.


Don’t leave unchecked intolerant or abusive behaviour. Take particular notice if this is aimed at minority groups or women. If your loved one beginning to categorise some sections of society as ‘others?’ Challenge this behaviour and find out why they are voicing these ideas.


Are they becoming increasingly angry and unwilling to discuss their behaviour? It might be time to share your concerns and seek advice. Act early and don’t leave the situation to escalate. You can help protect the person you care about by getting them the support they might need to choose a more positive pathway.

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