With few weeks to go before the European elections, far-right parties have managed to become the protagonists of the debate on social networks in at least five countries of the old continent. In Spain, Germany, France, Italy and Poland, these forces have polarized digital discussions between December 2018 and January 2019, according to an analysis of High-Analytics, a Spanish company that has monitored 25 million user posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.
Alto researchers do not intend to draw a direct relationship with the vote towards one party or another, but "to understand the role of the digital influence of politicians, civil society and social networks when creating the framework for political debate" they explain. His project of data analysis at European level has the collaboration of several media and the support of Mozilla Foundation, Omidyar / Luminate Group and the Open Society Foundation.
In four of the five countries analyzed, the extreme right has been the protagonist of the debates in the networks. But Spain is the only case where a party without representation in the national Parliament, Vox, has been the most mentioned in the conversations analyzed. The exception, on the other hand, is France, where criticism from the movement of yellow vests towards Emmanuel Macron they made their party, The Republic in March (LREM), became the most talked about formation.
Two opposite poles in Spain
The Spanish scenario, marked by the irruption of the formation of Santiago Abascal, is one of the most polarized. To reach this conclusion, Alto researchers analyze in detail the interactions on Twitter, the social network that allows mass data analysis in real time. They focus on 300 keywords and hashtags (the labels used to group a conversation) that represent 20% of the entire conversation in the analyzed month and thus identify several predominant narratives. Its spread depended a lot on the Andalusian electoral hangover and Vox, great novelty of those elections, caught the attention of users and media in the digital sphere. The far right formation has managed to dominate the general debate (34.6% of the whole conversation in networks), being a protagonist in issues such as equality, feminism and the formation of a new government. The other great topic of conversation, with 19.6% of the discussions, has been the Catalan political debate.
What most attracts the attention of Alto's analysts is the level of polarization of the conversation in Spanish, which is reflected in the image below. In this case the focus has been on 563,536 Twitter users. Their interactions have been filtered to focus only on the retweets, in order to track the propagation of certain messages.
In this group, the Catalan independence movement and Vox have become two opposite poles and very marked. They have left the edge of irrelevancy to forces such as PP, PSOE or Ciudadanos, with Podemos maintaining a clear presence. To compare, in the following image Alto visualizes, with the same criteria, the political debate in Germany. The extremes are not as far away as in Spain.
In fact, with a speech favorable to immigration and against gender violence, the formation of Pablo Iglesias is the most important and represents about half of the users analyzed (54.5%). Interestingly, Vox mentions abound within the formation purple, always to contrast the speech of right. In turn, the speech of the Vox community (18.7% of users) focused on attacks against Podemos, the Government, the Catalan situation and immigrants.
The Catalan independence movement, in turn, represented another great magnet of polarization. The communities of PSOE, Ciudadanos and PP do not represent 10% of the analyzed accounts.
The protagonists of the debate
According to Alto's analysis, during the period analyzed, the training directed by Santiago Abascal was mentioned in 42.2% of the conversations. Without having yet a parliamentary representation at the national level, it has been the subject of its own and others' messages on very varied matters. After the leadership of Vox, are the Popular Party and its political representatives, which account for 30.2% of mentions. The PSOE accounts are at 29.1%, followed by Citizens (17.1%) and Podemos (13.7%)
In Germany, the socialist national ideology party AFD concentrated 36% of the results and in Italy, the Northern League of Interior Minister Matteo Salvini accounted for 45%. None of them reaches the Law and Justice in Poland (PIS) quotas with 63%, which governs the country and has focused its digital discourse around anti-immigration policies.
One of the keys identified in the propagation of messages throughout Europe is the presence of users with an activity in networks outside normal. That is, a number of publications much higher than the average and patterns of sending messages that do not follow what a normal user of any social network has.
In Spain, Alto has identified 862 users with this type of activity. Its average of 'posts' reaches 54 each day. Most of them were concentrated in the community of Catalan pro-independence and Vox. Accounts related to the formation of Abascal represented 57.1% of this group of users; those close to the independence movement, 19.9%.
The existence of this type of users is also visible in France, Germany and Italy. In the French country, a group of 1,544 users published more than a hundred messages a day during the period analyzed. Most of them were nationalistic and adverse to immigration messages. In Germany, the account @ FFD365 spread messages in favor of the extreme right at a rate of 180 publications per day, similar to the Italian @ Marino29b, with 172 'tweets' every 24 hours.