YouTube, Federal Politics, and the Alt-Right

A collage of pepe memes, taken from the Rebel
Screencap of “Anti-Defamation League vs. Pepe the cartoon frog.” Rebel Media, September 30 2016.

In collaboration with the University of Amsterdam’s Open Intelligence Lab, the Infoscape Lab is analyzing the influence that alt-right political commentators have on the Canadian 2019 Federal Election through YouTube and other mainstream social media platforms. Underneath the discourses and social profiles of mainstream social media platforms lies a web of mostly anonymized, ideologically far-right deep web communities tied together by primary discourses of ironic banter, conspiracy theories, and fake news narratives.

Over the last two years, deep web products such as QAnon, Pizzagate, and others have made their way onto mainstream platforms through YouTube commentary. These discourses perpetuate themselves due to YouTube’s specific platform affordances such as the autoplay algorithm, the related videos algorithm, and the affective bonds created by consuming news through audiovisual commentary. This phenomenon projects to grow as an increasing majority of younger generations use YouTube as their primary source for political and current event news.

Using the 2019 Canadian Federal Election as a case study, the project aims to understand how this dissemination process interacts with the specific platform affordances of YouTube, providing a key location to understand the contemporary epidemic of fake news and the sociotechnical frameworks that influence its spread.