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Hateful far-right ideas and the power of the internet

By Levan Abramishvili
Tuesday, April 9
The past years have seen a sudden resurgence of the far-right powers all over the world. Internet is used by the extremist groups to organize and spread hate. Just last month, this issue came under attention after the Christchurch, New Zealand in a terrorist attack, after the attacker published a manifesto on the internet, where he referenced the online meme culture. This suggests a social media-driven evolution of nationalist hatred. Especially vulnerable to the hateful extremism are young people.

“Whilst we may use edgy humour and memes in the vanguard stage, and to attract a young audience, eventually we will need to show the reality of our thoughts and our more serious intents and wishes for the future.” the attacker says in the manifesto. “Memes have done more for the ethno-nationalist movement than any manifesto.” States the terrorist.

Over the last three years, Georgia has also experienced a rise in radical movements holding xenophobic, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant beliefs. As their Western counterparts, they also are using internet to mobilize and spread their hateful messages.

A report published by The Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), maps out the social media activities of Georgia’s extreme right movements and describes their key communication strategies. Anti-Western narratives, especially ones that criticize liberal democracy from an anti-liberal perspective, recently surfaced in the country’s mainstream political discourse. And the far-right groups are mirroring this tendency.

In the report, CRRC observed several Facebook pages popular amongst the people holding nationalistic beliefs. The observation showed that users are mostly interested in events which resonate to "liberal propaganda", patriotic feelings and anti-Muslim sentiments.

The report shows that the audience of the study target pages is steadily growing. The audience of the pages is defined as the number of users who clicked the “Like” button and subscribed to the page’s activity feed. “In the observation period, the average weekly likes of all pages increased from 89,325 to 758,850. The near nine-fold expansion might be partially attributed to the growing interest in the topics these pages discuss.”

The report also gives use information about active and passive interactions with the observed pages. The report reads: “another way of looking at how the pages interact with the audience is to measure active and passive user interaction with the content. We consider commenting on posts as active engagement while simply liking posts is treated as passive interaction.

In the concluding part of the report, CRRC states, that “both the audience and number of anti-Western and far-right Facebook pages has been on the rise in Georgian-language social media. It is likely associated with both an increased demand for such content and increased internet penetration in Georgia.”

One of the most prominent ultranationalist groups is called Georgian March, which was established around 3 years ago, they aim to “defend” national culture and traditions. They have targeted numerous groups, like migrants and the LGBTQ+ community, as well as Western NGOs and George Soros [Open Society Foundations] for “waging war against the Georgian culture”.

The popularity of such spaces creates an“alternate space” on the internet, where people can express their hatred without any repercussions. All the accounts that interact with the hateful pages should be taken seriously by the appropriate authorities to prevent violence from gaining strength in an unmonitored environment.