Tech

French and German populists dominate EU election chatter on Facebook, data shows

Far-right parties in France and Germany are outpacing mainstream political groups on Facebook when posting about the European election and winning engagement from users, according to data reviewed by POLITICO.

With weeks to go until the European Parliament election, Frances National Rally and the Alternative for Germany are generating roughly two out of every five campaign-related posts from any political group on Facebook, according to Facebook data generated during the three months to March 31.

Facebook posts from the two parties — which range from opposition to Europes online copyright reform to criticism of the ALDE group in the Parliament — also garnered significantly more interactions in terms of likes and shares than posts from other political groups, according to ISD, a think tank focused on combating extremist content, which conducted the research.

“The fact that the mainstream parties arent discussing the elections has left an enormous vacuum into which these far-right parties have leapt,” said Chloe Colliver, who leads ISDs digital research unit in London. “I worry these narratives will come to dominate the discussion around the European elections.”

The research echoes previous studies highlighting how far-right politicians, in Europe and elsewhere, have built up sophisticated social media machines to broadcast their messages.

Lacking the funds, manpower and institutional reach of traditional parties, these insurgent groups use Facebook and Twitter to amplify their messages and reach would-be voters that they might have difficulty accessing in more traditional ways.

“Its a tactic particularly beneficial to smaller groups,” said Ben Nimmo, a misinformation expert at the Atlantic Council, who was not associated with ISDs research. “Big groups have less incentive to take to social media because they have an existing network of campaigners on the ground.”

The dominance of populist parties on Facebook raises questions about their ability to define what topics will shape the upcoming campaign, in which nationalist parties from Spain to Poland are expected to gain ground over incumbent rivals.

Already, fringe groups are amplifying online messaging around anti-immigration, anti-gay rights and anti-establishment arguments, with some analysts warning about possible coordination between groups that aims to bolster their overall reach across various platforms.

In France, where Marine Le Pen earned 34 percent of the nationwide presidential vote in 2017, her National Rally party wrote 154 out of a total of 370 Facebook posts by all French political parties during the first thRead More – Source