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German Right-Wing Online Communities on Russian Social Media Platform VK

Nationalism
Social Media
Mobilisation
Political Activism
Vadim Voskresenskii
Freie Universität Berlin
Vadim Voskresenskii
Freie Universität Berlin

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Abstract

Using the affordances of social media platforms, right-wingers can effectively spread information online and recruit new members (Krämer, 2017). As they are facing increasing censorship on global social media platforms, right-wingers switch to other social media, which are characterized by less strict policies against extremist content (Johnson et al., 2018; Luhn, 2017). One of those platforms is the Russian social networking platform Vkontakte (VK), which has so far been given little scholarly attention. To address this gap, the paper focusses on online groups formed by German right-wingers on VK and explores which types of communities German right-wingers create on the platform and how those communities are integrated into the larger digital environment of VK. The study applied snowball sampling to detect German right-wing groups, using the names of prominent right-wing actors in Germany as a search query. The list of groups was extended on the base of reposts. To understand how the participants use VK and what they discuss in the groups, texts of posts and comments were analyzed with the help of a topic-modeling algorithm (Blei 2003). The study identifies almost 200 active German right-wing online groups, which use the affordance of VK for discussing and sharing news stories from external sources and creating ties between themselves and with other European right-wing groups. The study extends existing research on right-wing online communication, showing how right-wingers can effectively avoid censorship and moderation by moving to new platforms and organizing there well-connected communication environments for information exchange.