Efforts to stop the growing threat of right-wing extremist terrorism in Australia must go beyond removing material from websites for mainstream viewing, counter terrorism researchers have said.
Two chapters in a think-tank's new book on counter terrorism released on Monday warn against focusing too narrowly on denying right-wing extremists a platform to share online content with the broader public.
Charles Sturt University researcher in terrorism Kristy Campion said in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's Counterterrorism Yearbook 2020 that right-wing extremist ideology should be confronted head-on in public debate.
Her comments follow warnings from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation of a marked increase in right-wing extremism in Australia over recent years.
Dr Campion said government efforts against the online presence of right-wing extremist material addressed a "carrier" of their views but failed "to provide meaningful counter-narratives or to undermine the value that individuals attach to ideological affiliation".
"Ideologically driven narratives serve to recruit, motivate and guide violent actors, but they don't always contain violent content; nor are they disseminated solely in open online spaces," she said.
"It's been well established that public rallies, marches and protests are significant for right-wing extremist movements as means for building offline interpersonal networks, recruiting, establishing social identity and building group cohesion.
"While peaceful protest should continue to be protected by Australian law, divisive narratives that damage community cohesion and inspire violent action should be challenged."
Right-wing extremist ideas needed to be exposed in public debate for the threat they posed to Australian democracy, institutions and values, Dr Campion said.
Condemnation of right-wing extremist language and ideas in mainstream political debate was part of that effort, she said.
"More practically, confronting and exposing these ideological narratives must be prioritised to inhibit recruitment to specific groups and the broader extreme-right milieu.
"Without confronting the central motivating ideology, online countermeasures such as deplatforming and censorship will address only isolated aspects of right-wing extremism, while the fundamental premise for violent action endures."
ASPI International Cyber Policy Centre researcher Elise Thomas said the Christchurch massacre video in 2019 turned an unknown number of web users in online extremist communities from passive consumers into active propagandists, or worse.
"Even if well-intentioned efforts to prevent content like this from reaching mainstream audiences in the future succeed, they won't address the most significant threat: the radicalisation of the online extremist communities who are the true target audience."
ASIO director-general Mike Burgess wrote in a preface to the think tank's book that extreme right-wing groups were more organised than before.
"ASIO notes that the use of international online forums and spaces by the extreme right wing allows rapid and easy connections between extreme right-wing individuals globally," he said.
He has previously warned that right-wing extremists are meeting in suburbs to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons and train in combat.