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Haters Gonna “Like”: Exploring Canadian Far-Right Extremism on Facebook

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Cybercrime and Cybersecurity book series (PSCYBER)

Abstract

The overwhelming focus in the scholarly literature on extremist groups online tends to focus on jihadist groups like the so-called Islamic State and Al Qaeda. With right-wing violence erupting in places like Charlottesville and Quebec City, and with a new generation of extreme right activism coming to the fore, there is a need to better understand how its members communicate online, not only in Canada but around the globe. While the racist “old guard” has maintained its presence in traditional online spaces, a new generation of right-wing extremists are communicating on an array of social media sites, with Facebook at the forefront. Although some scholarship is emerging, relatively little remains known about how right-wing extremist groups make use of these platforms. This gap in the research is particularly prevalent in the Canadian context. In this chapter, we draw from a sample of 34 of Canada’s most prominent far-right extremist group pages on Facebook using a mixed-methods approach. Here we assess the popularity of the group pages, the volume of content, and the types of posts that generate the most user engagement, paired with an in-depth analysis of the group posts that generate the most “buzz” amongst users, exploring who is targeted, why the content is so popular, and how the use of violence is negotiated by the groups.

Keywords

  • Right-wing extremist groups
  • Social media
  • Facebook
  • Anti-Islam
  • Canada

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We acknowledge that this list is not inclusive of every Canadian RWE group who maintains a Facebook page. Some of the Facebook pages of the most prominent groups, such as the Canadian Three Percenters, were temporarily suspended during the data extraction, while other group pages were in French.

  2. 2.

    At no time did the data extractor proceed to download individual Facebook user profiles, locations of individuals, or private photos and other content. Only the content found on the public group pages, including content posted by the groups and user responses to the content was extracted for the current study.

  3. 3.

    The four pages that were suspended were: Alternative for Canada, Proud Boys Canadian Chapter, The Three Percenters, and WCAI Canada. It was not entirely clear why these four pages were suspended, or which specific posts may have been flagged by users as violating Facebook’s terms of service. For the purposes of this chapter, however, this was not a question we explored in depth.

  4. 4.

    For most of Facebook’s history, users could only “like” a post on pages, but Facebook expanded this list of reactions to include “love,” “sad face,” “angry,” “haha,” and so on in February 2016. This gave users a fuller range of responses to certain Facebook posts.

  5. 5.

    This meme photo, which generated 27,134 shares at the time of the last data extraction, can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/cda.patriots/photos/a.265525130220765.49091.159787357461210/983652985074639/?type=3.

  6. 6.

    This photo, which was shared 34,695 times when the data was last captured, can be found by visiting https://www.facebook.com/cda.patriots/photos/a.265525130220765.49091.159787357461210/1143638582409411/?type=3.

  7. 7.

    This video, which was shared 289 times up to the last data extraction, can be found by visiting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbRLqUDQnYE&feature=youtu.be.

  8. 8.

    This photo was shared 14,355 times when the data was last captured and can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/113065962075296/photos/a.113994498649109.8296.113065962075296/908632739185277/?type=3.

  9. 9.

    This video was shared 7648 times during the last data extraction and can be found by visiting https://www.facebook.com/Pegida.canada/videos/2031362737140791/.

  10. 10.

    This meme photo, which was shared 16,282 times when the data was last extraction, can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/Pegida.canada/photos/a.1534518543491882.1073741828.1533411596935910/1888505171426549/?type=3.

  11. 11.

    This image, which was previously discussed in endnote four, can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/cda.patriots/photos/a.265525130220765.49091.159787357461210/983652985074639/?type=3.

  12. 12.

    This image was previously discussed in endnote five and can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/cda.patriots/photos/a.265525130220765.49091.159787357461210/1143638582409411/?type=3.

  13. 13.

    This video was shared 233 times up until the last data extraction and can be found by visiting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkSIdKMd9vE.

  14. 14.

    During the last time that the data was extracted, this video was shared 12,547 times. It can be found by visiting https://www.facebook.com/Pegida.canada/videos/1961039570839775/.

  15. 15.

    This image was previously discussed in endnote six and can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbRLqUDQnYE&feature=youtu.be.

  16. 16.

    This video was shared 2642 times up until the last data extraction and can be found by visiting https://www.facebook.com/Pegida.canada/videos/1974332649510467/.

  17. 17.

    During the last time that the data was extracted, this page link was shared 397 times. The link can be found by visiting http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/01/22/16-year-old-girls-migrant-fears-video-keeps-disappearing-off-facebook/.

  18. 18.

    This page link, which was shared 777 times during the last time that the data was captured, can be found by visiting http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Wilders-tells-Dutch-parliament-refugee-crisis-is-Islamic-invasion-415828?utm.

  19. 19.

    This meme photo was shared 32,802 times during the last data extraction and can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/cda.patriots/photos/a.265525130220765.49091.159787357461210/1250600111713257/?type=3&theater.

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Scrivens, R., Amarasingam, A. (2020). Haters Gonna “Like”: Exploring Canadian Far-Right Extremism on Facebook. In: Littler, M., Lee, B. (eds) Digital Extremisms. Palgrave Studies in Cybercrime and Cybersecurity. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-30138-5_4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-30138-5_4

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-30137-8

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