The Limited Influence of Right-Wing Movements on Social Media User Engagement

Abstract

This article generates new insights into the dynamic interplay between social media content generated by right-wing movements, user engagement, and the public attention movements receive. I argue that movement leaders seek to achieve high user engagement for utilizing mechanisms of information diffusion to increase both online and on-site mobilization. In a case study, I analyze the German right-wing movement Pegida, which uses Facebook for spreading its anti-Islam agenda online. Data from Pegida’s Facebook page are combined with news reports over a period of 18 months to measure activity on Facebook and in the public sphere simultaneously. Results of quantitative text and time series analysis show that Pegida cannot influence user engagement by simply creating more posts. Instead, it is the content of posts that matters. Moreover, findings highlight a strong connection between Facebook activities and the public sphere. In times of decreasing attention, the movement changes its social media strategy in response to exogenous shocks: Pegida resorts increasingly to radical mobilization methods by posting xenophobic content that is more likely to incite users to engage on Facebook.

Publication
Social Media and Society
Date
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