Far-Right Digital Activism in Polarized Contexts: A Comparative Analysis of Engagement in Hashtag Wars

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Far-Right Digital Activism in Polarized Contexts: A Comparative Analysis of Engagement in Hashtag Wars


  • Viktor Chagas Department of Media and Cultural Studies, Fluminense Federal University, Brazil
  • Rodrigo Carreiro National Institute of Science and Technology for Digital Democracy, Federal University of Bahia, Brazil
  • Nina Santos National Institute of Science and Technology for Digital Democracy, Federal University of Bahia, Brazil
  • Guilherme Popolin Communication Graduate Program, Fluminense Federal University, Brazil


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Abstract:  Literature on influence operations highlights the coordinated actions of digital activists aimed at persuading audiences. Scholars have discussed many angles of this behavior and emphasized repertoires based on specific contentious actions. However, little is discussed about how these disputes allow us to apprehend different models of political action in polarized contexts. On a whole, studies have not considered a broader understanding of digital activism performed by supporters of far-right governments. How does the far-right spread its agenda and support the government in “hashtag wars”? What kind of strategies are employed? This study seeks to compare patterns of coordinated behavior in hashtags created by supporters and detractors of the Bolsonaro government in Brazil that occupied the trending topics on Twitter. The statistical analysis is based on 6.1 million tweets taken from 20 political hashtags collected over a three-month period from May to July 2020. Data was scraped using Twitter’s Search API v3.0 for academic use. We analyzed the overall volume and peaks of tweets, the users they engaged with, and their network of influence, as well as the length of each hashtag. The results show an intense use of hashtag activism by Bolsonaro supporters, with users struggling for greater prominence in social media in the face of political events in Brazil. This article sheds light on how the far-right appropriates digital platforms to promote the government’s public image in times of political tension and how it promotes coordinated actions aimed at framing social media audiences.

Keywords:  astroturfing; digital activism; far-rights; hashtag wars; Jair Bolsonaro; political polarization

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v10i4.5622


© Viktor Chagas, Rodrigo Carreiro, Nina Santos, Guilherme Popolin. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.