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Are Right-Wing Extremists Ruling the Internet?

Are Right-Wing Extremists Ruling the Internet?

HBI researchers Jan Rau and Gregor Wiedemann told the online magazine "Leibniz" in an interview why the internet is not as hateful and toxic as it sometimes seems and how extreme views on social media can be countered successfully.
The atmosphere online is becoming increasingly hateful and aggressive, and some social networks now must heavily moderate their content. However, it would be deceptive to draw conclusions about the mood in society in general from the conditions on social media. "We know from media usage studies that the active use of social media, i.e. liking, sharing and commenting, is anything but evenly distributed across the population," says Jan Rau. Basically, a large part of the activity is generated by so-called "heavy users", who on average tend to have more radical views and present them loudly on the internet. 
Gregor Wiedemann believes it is wrong to assume that online society is representative of the population. It is currently impossible to have a fair exchange of views online. This is not only due to socio-psychological factors; the platforms themselves are also responsible for the current situation. The algorithms are designed and trained in such a way that they place emotionalized and extreme content more prominently and reward interactions.
Social media also influences voting behavior, as current surveys show. Very young voters in particular are increasingly voting for the AfD. "This also has something to do with social media," says Wiedemann. Right-wing forces like the AfD make use of algorithms and strategically play out content on Tiktok and other platforms to reach young people.
So, what can be done about all this hate, bots, and misinformation? The two communication scientists advise several strategies: on the one hand, counter-speech, "to signal to fellow readers that extreme right-wing positions cannot claim general validity", and on the other hand, blocking or excluding users from the discourse in the case of particularly radical comments.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash 


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