6.10. Visiting Professor lecture with Barbara Pfetsch: Issues, agendas and networks on the Right

Lecture with HSSH Visiting Professor Barbara Pfetsch (Freie Universität Berlin) on 6.10. 14-16 at Unioninkatu 25, lecture hall 116, and online

Issues, agendas and networks on the Right: Does social media communication threaten European democracy?


While in many countries social media communication has been central to radical right communication and mobilization on the national level, the question whether it has become a transnational European phenomenon that eventually helps to undermine democracy on a larger scale remains open. In her presentation, Pfetsch tackles this question by referring to the concepts of Europeanization of public sphere and network democracy and by introducing a study of transnational issue agendas and network structures of radical right social media communication. The study explores the topics raised on Facebook and the radical right actors’ linkages on Twitter in six countries during the 2019 European Parliamentary election campaign. The social media communication of the Austrian FPÖ, the German AfD, the French RN, the Italian Lega, the Polish PiS and the Swedish SD is scrutinized for the question whether these parties share similar issue agendas transnationally.

The study also analyzes the Twitter communication of these parties to find out the actors linked to the official party accounts and the transnational connections between actors in different countries. On the one hand, the analysis demonstrates that radical right parties use a limited number of issues such as migration and anti-elitism to mobilize their supporters across Europe. On the other hand, these issues are framed with national emphases. The radical right networks seem to be rather dense but nationally clustered, and transnational networks are not that pertinent. However, the study implies that convergent issue agendas and even thin transnational network structures can foster the challenging of European democracy.

Barbara Pfetsch is a Professor of Communication Theory and Media Effects Research at the Department of Media and Communication at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany and principal investigator at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society. She is also involved in the Collaborative Research Centre “Re-Figuration of Spaces” (SFB 1265) at the TU Berlin. Her research focuses on changes of public spheres and political communication through the digitization and transnationalization and her projects include analyses of digital spaces issue networks, political discourse, (online) media debates and agenda building and the emergence of European and transnational public spheres.

Thursday 6 October at 14-16. Venue: Unioninkatu 35, lecture hall 116. You can follow an online stream here.

More information about the event: Juha Herkman (juha.herkman@helsinki.fi)

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