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Platformed Propaganda: The Effects of Social Media Architecture on Far-Right Visual Discourse

Extremism
Nationalism
Social Media
Mobilisation
Ofra Klein
European University Institute
Ofra Klein
European University Institute

Abstract

Research on online political mobilization often generalizes the results of single social media platform (SMP) studies to all social media. This is problematic, as the architecture of SMPs vary, which affects how these platforms can be employed for political mobilization. This study analyses how the design and policies that create the functionalities of platforms and their users’ practices shape far-right discourse, specifically in visuals such as memes. It furthermore compares whether the same forms of visual content lead to different forms of engagement from users across different platforms. To make a comparison possible, the study focusses on the use of visual content by main political leaders of far-right parties in six Western-European countries. The study concentrates on three major social platforms: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and uses a semi-automated approach to analyse the visual material. The findings show how both platform-architecture, as well as individual differences of politicians influence how platforms are used for spreading visual propaganda. These findings provide an insight into the variety of technological opportunities that are available for far-right actors across social media platforms.