Impact of far-right campaigns in Germany

A new study released today from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and campaign group Ich Bin Hier, maps the rise and nature of far-right hate speech in Germany, since the introduction of the NetzDG law in October last year. This joint report maps the rise and nature of far-right hate speech in Germany. It combines quantitative data-analysis from Facebook comment sections with insights gained from ethnographic research in far-right chat groups.

The analysis of more than 1.6 million far-right posts on social media between February 2017 and February 2018 shows that while explicitly racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic posts have decreased since the NetzDG came into effect in October 2017, coordinated far-right online hate campaigns such as #120db, #kikagate and #kandelistueberall have been three times as frequent (c. 300,000 posts per month up from c. 90,000 posts per month).

The study reveals that this increase in hate speech is not representative of a wider societal shift but driven by a loud minority of far-right campaigners. The evaluation of 700 posts, 16,830 comments and 1.2 million ‘Likes’ shows that 5% of active users were responsible for 50% of all engagement with hateful far-right content online, and less than 1% of users were responsible for 25% of these interactions.

These users have created a well organised, coordinated ‘troll army’ using sophisticated media strategies to spread hate campaigns online. Tactics include targeted trolling of political opponents, coordinated hijacking of hashtags, spamming of major comment sections and creating multiple parallel accounts.

The study highlights that the impact of these online campaigns is felt well beyond social media ‘echo chambers’, influencing media reporting and even policy decisions in Germany. By amplifying certain hashtags and campaigns until they are ‘trending’ on social media, far-right groups are able to push these topics into the mainstream. Researchers identified how campaigns such as #120db were initially picked up and amplified by online bots, then shared by Alternative for Germany (AfD) accounts and Russian media outlets like RT and Sputnik, with some going on to feature in mainstream German media outlets.

Download Study (available only in German)

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