As mainstream social media firms remove more far right actors from their platforms, many are looking for alternative channels. HOPE not hate’s Patrik Hermansson summarises our new report examining how Alternative for Germany’s (AfD) has fared on Telegram.
In April 2020 it was announced on the Alternative for Germany’s (AfD) Facebook page that the party had joined Telegram. The adoption of Telegram happened alongside a large migration of far-right activists and organisations, in Germany and elsewhere, that had begun and accelerated over the previous years. The AfD’s connections to the wider far right are well documented and the extreme end of the movement has made Telegram its home. For that reason a deeper look into how the party has succeeded in establishing itself on the platform is warranted.
Social media allows for activists and supporters to more easily consume material from ideologically disparate groups and move between them with less friction. In this way it opens up a radicalisation pathway from less extreme to more radical groups. AfD’s move to Telegram therefore has the potential to bring its supporters from Facebook and other places where it advertised its Telegram channels, into contact with more extreme elements of the far right.
This report examines AfD’s success in establishing itself on Telegram. It evaluates how much engagement the party receives from a large sample of public German far-right channels and groups on the platform and, alongside this, analyse how radical right actors fit into the more extreme far-right networks that make up the majority of the far-right groups on Telegram.
The overall picture of AfD on Telegram is not a successful one. The party is more well regarded than other parties in the Bundestag but it has not managed to meaningfully insert itself in conversations among the far right on the platform. Its content is shared to a relatively low degree and while a majority of posts mentioning AfD are supportive, it is discussed more than its content is being shared.
There are likely several reasons for this. The AfD is a radical right political party whereas Telegram is more populated to a large degree with more extreme activists and groups. The higher level of radicalism is seen in the large amount of antisemitic and explicitly racist content that is found on Telegram and in the content that we have analysed for this report.
However, there are also outliers in AfD’s effort. Certain channels run by individual AfD representatives as well as its youth wing are more successful. These also tend to be more extreme.
In conclusion, Facebook therefore remains one of the AfD’s most important platforms for outreach and engagement with its voters. When it comes to minimising the impact of the divisive and often racist rhetoric by radical right parties like the AfD, the focus should be put on mainstream social media networks where their reach and engagement continues to be significant.