‘Dark Germany’: Hidden Patterns of Participation in Online Far-Right Protests Against Refugee Housing

Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10539)

Abstract

The political discourse in Western European countries such as Germany has recently seen a resurgence of the topic of refugees, fueled by an influx of refugees from various Middle Eastern and African countries. Even though the topic of refugees evidently plays a large role in online and offline politics of the affected countries, the fact that protests against refugees stem from the right-wight political spectrum has lead to corresponding media to be shared in a decentralized fashion, making an analysis of the underlying social and mediatic networks difficult. In order to contribute to the analysis of these processes, we present a quantitative study of the social media activities of a contemporary nationwide protest movement against local refugee housing in Germany, which organizes itself via dedicated Facebook pages per city. We analyse data from 136 such protest pages in 2015, containing more than 46,000 posts and more than one million interactions by more than 200,000 users. In order to learn about the patterns of communication and interaction among users of far-right social media sites and pages, we investigate the temporal characteristics of the social media activities of this protest movement, as well as the connectedness of the interactions of its participants. We find several activity metrics such as the number of posts issued, discussion volume about crime and housing costs, negative polarity in comments, and user engagement to peak in late 2015, coinciding with chancellor Angela Merkel’s much criticized decision of September 2015 to temporarily admit the entry of Syrian refugees to Germany. Furthermore, our evidence suggests a low degree of direct connectedness of participants in this movement, (i.a., indicated by a lack of geographical collaboration patterns), yet we encounter a strong affiliation of the pages’ user base with far-right political parties.

References

  1. 1.
    Stiftung, A.A.: Chronik flüchtlingsfeindlicher Vorfälle (2015). https://www.mut-gegen-rechte-gewalt.de/service/chronik-vorfaelle?field_date_value[value][year]=2015
  2. 2.
    Arzheimer, K.: The AfD: finally a successful right-wing populist eurosceptic party for Germany. West Eur. Politics 38, 535–556 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Arzheimer, K., Carter, E.: Political opportunity structures and right-wing extremist party success. Eur. J. Political Res. 45(3), 419–443 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Van der Brug, W., Fennema, M., Tillie, J.: Why some anti-immigrant parties fail and others succeed: a two-step model of aggregate electoral support. Comp. Political Stud. 38(5), 537–573 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bundesministerium des Inneren: 890.000 Asylsuchende im Jahr 2015 (2016). https://goo.gl/bnG4UG, https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2016/09/asylsuchende-2015.html
  6. 6.
    De Choudhury, M., Jhaver, S., Sugar, B., Weber, I.: Social media participation in an activist movement for racial equality. In: Proceedings of International Conference on Web and Social Media (2016)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Der Dritte Weg: Leitfaden: Kein Asylantenheim in meiner Nachbarschaft! (2015). https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2016/09/asylsuchende-2015.html
  8. 8.
    Kitschelt, H., McGann, A.J.: The Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor (1997)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Mudde, C.: The populist radical right: a pathological normalcy. West Eur. Politics 33(6), 1167–1186 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Norris, P.: Radical Right: Voters and Parties in the Electoral Market. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Olteanu, A., Weber, I., Gatica-Perez, D.: Characterizing the demographics behind the #blacklivesmatter movement. In: AAAI Spring Symposium Series (2016)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Puschmann, C., Ausserhofer, J., Hametner, M., Maan, N.: What are the topics of populist anti-immigrant movements on Facebook?. In: Proc. Soc. Media and Soc. Conf vol. 13 (2016)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Puschmann, C., Ausserhofer, J., Maan, N., Hametner, M.: Information laundering, counter-publics: The news sources of islamophobic groups on Twitter. In: Proc. Soc. Media in the Newsroom Workshop at ICWSM (2016)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Schelter, S., Biessmann, F., Zobel, M., Teneva, N.: Structural patterns in the rise of Germany’s new right on Facebook. Proc. Data Min. in Politics Workshop at ICDM (2016)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Schelter, S., Kunegis, J.: ‘Dark Germany’: Temporal characteristics and connectivity patterns in online far-right protests against refugee housing. In: Proc. ACM Web Sci. Conf. (2017)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Toutanova, K., Klein, D., Manning, C.D., Singer, Y.: Feature-rich part-of-speech tagging with a cyclic dependency network. In: Proc. Conf. Human Lang. and Technol. pp. 173–180 (2003)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Walker, M., Troianovski, A.: Behind Angela Merkel’s open door for migrants, Wall Street Journal (2015) http://www.wsj.com/articles/behind-angela-merkels-open-door-for-migrants-1449712113
  18. 18.
    Waltinger, U.: GermanPolarityClues: A lexical resource for German sentiment analysis. In: Proc. Lang. Resour. and Evaluation (2010)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Wang, X., McCallum, A.: Topics over time: A non-Markov continuous-time model of topical trends. In: Proc. Int. Conf. on Knowl. Discov. and Data Min. pp. 424–433 (2006)Google Scholar
  20. 20.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NamurNamurBelgium

Personalised recommendations