Far-right extremists exploit coronavirus fears as the outbreak becomes a lightning rod for conspiracy theorists: report
AFP / William WEST An anti-lockdown protester holds placards on the steps of Victoria's state parliament in Melbourne

As expected, the coronavirus outbreak has become a lightning rod for conspiracy theorists across the ideological spectrum -- white supremacists, anti-vaxxers, anti-government militias, and others. And while not all the elements spreading disinformation about coronavirus are tied to the far-right, the virus is like a "dream come true for any and every hate group, snake oil salesman and everything in between," Balkan fact checker Tijana Cvjetićanin tells POLITICO.

"Civil rights advocates have warned for months that the coronavirus could aid recruiting for the most extreme white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups — those actively rooting for society’s collapse," POLITICO's Mark Scott and Steven Overly report. "Some online researchers say they also worry about the barrage of false messages from extremist groups feeding what the U.N. has dubbed an 'infodemic' that makes it hard to separate fact from fiction."

Also complicating the problem are some public figures around the world, most notably President Trump, who pushed the not-yet-proven claim that the coronavirus came from a lab in China.

"Now, as the coronavirus gives the far right a new impetus to find audiences, many European activists are wielding the same U.S.-style tactics they have spent years learning to emulate, including the creation of online “meme banks” of photos designed to spread widely," the report continues. "That leaves them less in need of outside help, according to researchers tracking their movements."

Read the full report over at POLITICO.