Europes populists are flooding social media, research shows
European populists are dominating much of the online political discussion around the upcoming European election thanks to frenetic posting by a small number of users and accounts, new research shows.
Ahead of the European Parliament election in May, a tiny number of social media users sympathetic to parties including far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Spains Vox accounted for a major chunk of total posts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and others, according to an analysis by Alto Analytics, a big data and artificial intelligence company. Their predominance helped to amplify anti-immigration and anti-establishment views and force them into mainstream debates.
Less than 0.1 percent of users across Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland — many of them tied to far-right or fringe groups — generated around 10 percent of content related to politics and the European election on the platform over a one-month period ending on January 20. Many of these hyper-users posted hundreds of pieces of content each day; some appeared to be automated accounts, or bots, aimed at amplifying far-right messages.
The fact that a tiny number of users is able to amplify political messages to such a degree fuels fears of possible manipulation of the online debate, in the midst of calls from around the world to crack down on deceptive online activity during election campaigns.
Platforms including Twitter, Facebook (which owns Instagram) and Google (which owns YouTube) have signed up to the European Commissions Code of Practice on Disinformation, taking steps to limit the reach and influence of users trying to interfere in legitimate political discussion — such as trolls, automated bot accounts and inauthentic accounts.
“To get a relatively small group generating such a large percentage of content is emblematic of fringe parties,” said Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who was not associated with the research. “The goal is to break out of their echo chambers and reach other people.”
The populist groups were most effective at amplifying — or inflating — their online message in France, Germany and Spain, where anti-establishment parties and the far right have gained traction over the last 18 months.
In France, for instance, just 0.13 percent of the countrys social media users engaged in the political discussion created 11.1 percent of all posts, posting at least 52 posts a day, or roughly two posts an hour, according to the Alto Analytics research. Of those users, the researchers linked more than half with the countrys far-right National Rally movement, based on the companys analysis of the social media content.
In Germany, a similar pattern was on display, with social media users associated with Alternative for Germany repRead More – Source