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  • 1. Bastos, Marco
    et al.
    Farkas, Johan
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    “Donald Trump is my President!”: The Internet Research Agency Propaganda Machine2019Konferensbidrag (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
  • 2. Bastos, Marco
    et al.
    Farkas, Johan
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    “Donald Trump Is My President!”: The Internet Research Agency Propaganda Machine2019Ingår i: Social Media + Society, ISSN 2056-3051, E-ISSN 2056-3051, Vol. 5, nr 3, artikel-id 2056305119865466Artikel i tidskrift (Refereegranskat)
    Abstract [en]

    This article presents a typological study of the Twitter accounts operated by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a company specialized in online influence operations based in St. Petersburg, Russia. Drawing on concepts from 20th-century propaganda theory, we modeled the IRA operations along propaganda classes and campaign targets. The study relies on two historical databases and data from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to retrieve 826 user profiles and 6,377 tweets posted by the agency between 2012 and 2017. We manually coded the source as identifiable, obfuscated, or impersonated and classified the campaign target of IRA operations using an inductive typology based on profile descriptions, images, location, language, and tweeted content. The qualitative variables were analyzed as relative frequencies to test the extent to which the IRA’s black, gray, and white propaganda are deployed with clearly defined targets for short-, medium-, and long-term propaganda strategies. The results show that source classification from propaganda theory remains a valid framework to understand IRA’s propaganda machine and that the agency operates a composite of different user accounts tailored to perform specific tasks, including openly pro-Russian profiles, local American and German news sources, pro-Trump conservatives, and Black Lives Matter activists.

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  • 3.
    Farkas, Johan
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Book Review: The Ambivalent Internet: Mischief, Oddity, and Antagonism Online by Whitney Phillips and Ryan M. Milner2019Ingår i: Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, ISSN 1077-6990, E-ISSN 2161-430X, Vol. 96, nr 1, s. 317-319Artikel, recension (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
    Abstract [en]

    Review of The Ambivalent Internet: Mischief, Oddity, and Antagonism Online Whitney Phillips & Ryan M. Milner, . Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2017. 240 pp. $69.95 hbk. $24.95 pbk. $19.99 ebk.

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  • 4.
    Farkas, Johan
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Disguised Propaganda on Social Media: Addressing Democratic Dangers and Solutions2019Ingår i: Brown Journal of World Affairs, ISSN 1080-0786, E-ISSN 2014-7910, Vol. 25, nr 1, s. 1-16Artikel i tidskrift (Övrig (populärvetenskap, debatt, mm))
  • 5.
    Farkas, Johan
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Fact-based democracy or agonistic pluralism? A critical examination of the idea of a post-truth era2018Konferensbidrag (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
    Abstract [en]

    The rapid rise of fake news as a ubiquitous signifier in global politics has caused widespread debate in democratic societies concerning the distinction between true and false. A number of media professionals and scholars have argued that we might be entering a dysfunctional post-truth or post-factual era in which facts move to the background of political decision-making. According to this position, democracy is shifting from a rational to an emotional political system, as politicians no longer concern themselves with the distinction between fake and real. In order to solve this crisis, facts need to be repositioned at the center of decision-making, enabling rational discussion and consensus-based solutions. As this paper argues, however, such a ‘post-truth antidote’ might not be as free and democratic as it seems on the surface. This theoretical paper critically examines the notion of the post-truth era and its underlying ideal of a fact-based democracy. Departing from Chantal Mouffe’s theory of agonistic pluralism, the paper discusses how the proposed solution of (re-)establishing fact-based democracy could result in less freedom of thought and expression. Following the theory of agonistic pluralism, the core value of any democracy lies in its ability to give voice to opposing groups and mitigate between them. What distinguishes democratic politics, then, from say a dictatorship is not the degree of consensus it can produce, but rather the degree of accepted disagreement it can contain. From this perspective, ideals of finding one true solution to any societal issue are inherently problematic, as they fail to acknowledge how decision-making always arise as the result of discursive struggles. Building on this theoretical foundation, the paper argues that the notion of a dysfunctional post-truth era fails to encapsulate contemporary politics, as it both implicitly and explicitly idealizes consensus and objectivity over freedom of expression and agonistic pluralism.

  • 6.
    Farkas, Johan
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Multi-sited online ethnography and critical discourse studies: Exploring disguised propaganda on social media2018Konferensbidrag (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
    Abstract [en]

    Within the last decade, social network sites (SNSs) have come to play an increasingly important role in relation to both everyday and political life in Europe and North America. This gives rise to new forms of cultural and political participation, but also new modalities of manipulation. This paper explores how disguised propaganda on SNSs can be studied methodologically and analytically by combining multi-sited online ethnography (Hine, 2015; Marcus, 1998) and social media critical discourse studies (SM-CDS) (Khosravinik, 2017; Unger, Wodak, & KhosraviNik, 2016; Reisigl & Wodak, 2001). As numerous scholars have argued, SNSs should not simply be viewed as transparent or static platforms on which sociality unfolds (Langlois & Elmer, 2013; van Dijck, 2013). Rather, they represent contingent online spaces continuously shaped through the intermesh between social and technological processes. Political discourses on SNSs consequently require researchers to critically examine, not only how discourses are constructed within texts, but also how they arise through socio-technical discursive practices and processes. Based on a six-month multi-sited online ethnography, the paper discusses how participant-observational fieldwork and SM-CDS can be applied in conjunction to study the (re-)production and proliferation of racist discourses through fake SNS profiles. The study revolves around 11 Danish Facebook pages using fake Muslim identities to provoke Danish Facebook users. According to the pages, Muslims in Denmark are part of a conspiracy to take over the country, killing and raping non-Muslim Danes in the process (Farkas et al., 2017). In total, the pages received more than 20,000 comments, a majority of which expressed belief in the proclaimed authorship and aggression towards the pages and Muslims in general. The paper explores the socio-technical construction, maintenance, negotiation and contestation of racist discourses on these Facebook pages. Additionally, the paper discusses the methodological and analytical challenges of studying this type of online phenomenon. The paper concludes by arguing that multi-sited online ethnography can complement and enhance SM-CDS, although more scholarly work is urgently needed on this topic.

  • 7.
    Farkas, Johan
    et al.
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Bastos, Marco
    IRA Propaganda on Twitter: Stoking Antagonism and Tweeting Local News2018Ingår i: Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Social Media and Society, ACM Digital Library, 2018, s. 281-285Konferensbidrag (Refereegranskat)
    Abstract [en]

    This paper presents preliminary findings of a content analysis of tweets posted by false accounts operated by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) in St Petersburg. We relied on a historical database of tweets to retrieve 4,539 tweets posted by IRA-linked accounts between 2012 and 2017 and coded 2,501 tweets manually. The messages cover newsworthy eventsin the United States, the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in 2015, and the Brexit referendum in 2016. Tweets were annotated using 19 control variables to investigate whether IRA operations on social media are consistent with classic propaganda models. The results show that the IRA operates a composite of user accounts tailored to perform specific tasks, with the lion’s share of their work focusing on US daily news activity and the diffusion of polarized news across different national contexts.

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  • 8.
    Farkas, Johan
    et al.
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Bastos, Marco
    State propaganda in the age of social media: Examining strategies of the Internet Research Agency2018Konferensbidrag (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
    Abstract [en]

    This article presents a mixed methods analysis of 4589 tweets posted between 2012 and 2017 by accounts connected to The Internet Research Agency in St Petersburg, a so-called ‘troll factory’ affiliated with the Russian government. The study departs from a list of 2752 deleted accounts, which Twitter handed over to the U.S. Congress in October 2017 as part of investigations into Russia’s potential meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. By querying a historical database of tweets as well as the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, the study examines a database of nearly 5000 tweets posted by 624 deleted IRA accounts. Tweets span a range geo-political and spatio-temporal contexts, including the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in 2015. the Brexit referendum in 2016 and local news affairs in the US from 2014 to 2017. Tweets were manually coded based on 19 variables, developed through an inductive analysis of a sub-sample of tweets. Variables include geo-political context, national identity, endorsements or disapproval of political actors, fear-mongering, populist sentiments, emotional charge, polarization, hostility, conspiracy-theorization, and incitement of offline action. Drawing on propaganda studies, accounts were classified as either white, grey and black propaganda, encompassing identifiable, unidentifiable or disguised sources. The study finds that a majority of accounts were dedicated to disseminating black propaganda (53%, N=333) as opposed to grey (10%, N=62) or white propaganda (37%, N=229). Additionally, accounts with disguised sources (black propaganda) have significantly higher numbers of followers than grey and white propaganda accounts. In contrast, grey propaganda accounts consistently score higher than black and white for fearmongering (x̅=.44, .22, .01, respectively), populist sentiments (x̅=.31, .25, .02, respectively) and hostility (x̅=.26, .15, .01, respectively). The study concludes that propaganda classes can productively account for variances found in the studied data, with black and grey propaganda accounting for a majority of content sowing social discord and antagonism, disseminating polarized information, questioning public safety, and spreading rumors and conspiracy stories. Finally, the article discusses the broader political implications of state propaganda in the age social media, including the difficulties of studying and addressing the phenomenon.

  • 9.
    Farkas, Johan
    et al.
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Matamoros Fernandez, Ariadna
    The Implications of Social Media Disinformation in Reproducing Systemic Forms of Oppression Like Racism2018Konferensbidrag (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
    Abstract [en]

    Social media platforms have altered how social interactions take place online. This new era of user practices, micro-communication cultures, bots, and an increasing algorithmic shaping of sociability, opens up new research endeavours to understand how systemic racism articulates on social media platforms. Research points to the need of studying race, racism and other forms of systemic oppression as the result of user practices and technological mediation (Brook, 2009; Daniels, 2013; Massanari, 2015; McIlwain, 2016; Nakamura & Chow-White, 2012; Noble & Tynes, 2016; Sharma, 2013). However, access to data is becoming gradually scarce. This article unravels the methodological challenges involved in studying platform-articulated racism in a context of platform shutdowns of their Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and in a moment when opaque apps like WhatsApp and WeChat are used as social platforms. Platforms, even though they are private entities, resemble public institutions in that they play a fundamental role in organising public discourse and people’s lives. Although platforms often allege that users have the possibility to opt out, the way social media is entangled in our everyday lives makes the prospect to leave the service only an option for a privileged few. Thus, platforms enactment and reproduction of racism is a matter of public concern rather than a market problem to be solved. Racism, therefore, is built into spaces (social media platforms) that go beyond our more traditional institutions (for example, the state, the school, the media). We argue that the obstacles facing empirical work on social media contribute to the reproduction and enactment of systemic racism. This article departs from an analysis of empirical studies of platform-articulated racism from 2013 to 2018 that have used social media data. Findings shows that this research face a range of interconnected and complex challenges. This includes: epistemological challenges (due to techniques of concealing, covert propaganda, cloaking, lack of authorship, etc.), lack of contextual knowledge (i.e. how can we understand what we observe on one social media platform without a larger context), lack of access to data (API limitations and opaque apps), and ethical challenges. Building on the presented findings, the article discusses overall limitations of the field, possibilities of overcoming these as well as future problems posed by increasing opacity and social media companies’ questionable arrangements to collaborate and support research.

  • 10.
    Farkas, Johan
    et al.
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Matamoros-Fernández, Ariadna
    Racism on Social Media: A Critical Review of Methodological Challenges2019Ingår i: CDSMR Abstracts, Umeå university , 2019, s. 1-1Konferensbidrag (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
    Abstract [en]

    Social media platforms have altered how social interactions take place online. This new era of user practices, micro-communication cultures, bots, and an increasing algorithmic shaping of sociability, opens up new research endeavours to understand how racism articulates on social media platforms. Research points to the need of studying racism and other forms of systemic oppression as the result of user practices and technological mediation. In the realm of social media, key technological features - such as anonymity, interactivity, connectivity and datafcation - are tactically exploited to create new modalities of ‘platformed racism’. However, access to data is gradually becoming scarce, as platforms increasingly close of their Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), while new opaque platforms, such as WhatsApp and WeChat, pose challenges for empirical research. This article presents a literature review of 113 scholarly articles on racism and social media published between 2014 and 2018, collected through Google Scholar and Web of Science (of an initial sample of 270 articles). The article frst examines the geographical scope and overall methodologies described in the literature. Secondly, the article presents an in-depth analysis of the methodological and ethical challenges of studying racism on social media. Based on this analysis, the article critically discusses the overall limitations of the feld, possibilities of overcoming these as well as future problems posed by increasing opacity and social media companies’ questionable arrangements to collaborate and support research.

  • 11.
    Farkas, Johan
    et al.
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Neumayer, Christina
    Disguised Propaganda from Digital to Social Media2018Ingår i: Second International Handbook of Internet Research / [ed] Jeremy Hunsinger, Lisbeth Klastrup, Matthew M. Allen, Springer, 2018Kapitel i bok, del av antologi (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
    Abstract [en]

    Disguised propaganda and political deception in digital media have been studied since the early days of the World Wide Web. At the intersection of internet research and propaganda studies, this chapter explores disguised propaganda on websites and social media platforms. Based on a discussion of key concepts and terminology, this chapter outlines how new modes of deception and source obfuscation emerge in digital and social media environments, and how this development complicates existing conceptual and epistemological frameworks in propaganda studies. The chapter concludes by arguing that contemporary challenges of detecting and countering disguised propaganda can only be resolved, if social media companies are held accountable and provide the necessary support for user contestation.

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  • 12.
    Farkas, Johan
    et al.
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Neumayer, Christina
    IT Univ Copenhagen, Digital Design Dept, Copenhagen, Denmark..
    Mimicking News How the credibility of an established tabloid is used when disseminating racism2020Ingår i: Nordicom Review, ISSN 1403-1108, E-ISSN 2001-5119, Vol. 41, nr 1, s. 1-17Artikel i tidskrift (Refereegranskat)
    Abstract [en]

    This article explores the mimicking of tabloid news as a form of covert racism, relying on the credibility of an established tabloid newspaper. The qualitative case study focuses on a digital platform for letters to the editor, operated without editorial curation pre-publication from 2010 to 2018 by one of Denmark's largest newspapers, Ekstra Bladet. A discourse analysis of the 50 most shared letters to the editor on Facebook shows that nativist, far-right actors used the platform to disseminate fear-mongering discourses and xenophobic conspiracy theories, disguised as professional news and referred to as articles. These processes took place at the borderline of true and false as well as racist and civil discourse. At this borderline, a lack of supervision and moderation coupled with the openness and visual design of the platform facilitated new forms of covert racism between journalism and user-generated content.

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  • 13.
    Farkas, Johan
    et al.
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Schou, Jannick
    Fake news as a floating signifier: hegemony, antagonism and the politics of falsehood2018Ingår i: Javnost : The Public, ISSN 1854-8377, Vol. 25, nr 3, s. 298-314Artikel i tidskrift (Refereegranskat)
    Abstract [en]

    ‘Fake news’ has emerged as a global buzzword. While prominent media outlets, such as The New York Times, CNN, and CBS, have used the term to designate misleading information spread through websites, President Donald Trump has recently used the term as a negative designation of these very ‘mainstream media’. In this article, we argue that the concept of ‘fake news’ has become an important component in contemporary political struggles. We showcase how the term is utilised by different positions within the social space as a means of discrediting, attacking and delegitimising political opponents. Excavating three central moments within the construction of ‘fake news’, we argue that the term has increasingly become a ‘floating signifier’: a signifier lodged in-between different hegemonic projects seeking to provide an image of how society is and ought to be structured. By approaching ‘fake news’ from the viewpoint of discourse theory, the paper reframes the current stakes of the debate and contributes with new insights into the function and consequences of ‘fake news’ as a novel political category.

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  • 14.
    Farkas, Johan
    et al.
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Schou, Jannick
    Kriget mot fake news blir mer ett demokratiskt gift2019Ingår i: Dagens Samhälle, ISSN 2002-5548, nr 20191206Artikel i tidskrift (Övrig (populärvetenskap, debatt, mm))
  • 15.
    Farkas, Johan
    et al.
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Schou, Jannick
    Post-Truth, Fake News and Democracy: Mapping the Politics of Falsehood2019Bok (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
    Abstract [en]

    Western societies are under siege, as fake news, post-truth and alternative facts are undermining the very core of democracy. This dystopian narrative is currently circulated by intellectuals, journalists and policy makers worldwide. In this book, Johan Farkas and Jannick Schou deliver a comprehensive study of post-truth discourses. They critically map the normative ideas contained in these and present a forceful call for deepening democracy. The dominant narrative of our time is that democracy is in a state of emergency caused by social media, changes to journalism and misinformed masses. This crisis needs to be resolved by reinstating truth at the heart of democracy, even if this means curtailing civic participation and popular sovereignty. Engaging with critical political philosophy, Farkas and Schou argue that these solutions neglect the fact that democracy has never been about truth alone: it is equally about the voice of the democratic people. Post-Truth, Fake News and Democracy delivers a sobering diagnosis of our times. It maps contemporary discourses on truth and democracy, foregrounds their normative foundations and connects these to historical changes within liberal democracies. The book will be of interest to students and scholars studying the current state and future of democracy, as well as to a politically informed readership.

  • 16.
    Farkas, Johan
    et al.
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Schou, Jannick
    Neumayer, Christina
    Cloaked Facebook pages: exploring fake Islamist propaganda in social media2018Ingår i: New Media and Society, ISSN 1461-4448, E-ISSN 1461-7315, Vol. 20, nr 5, s. 1850-1867Artikel i tidskrift (Refereegranskat)
    Abstract [en]

    This research analyses cloaked Facebook pages that are created to spread political propaganda by cloaking a user profile and imitating the identity of a political opponent in order to spark hateful and aggressive reactions. This inquiry is pursued through a multi-sited online ethnographic case study of Danish Facebook pages disguised as radical Islamist pages, which provoked racist and anti-Muslim reactions as well as negative sentiments towards refugees and immigrants in Denmark in general. Drawing on Jessie Daniels’ critical insights into cloaked websites, this research furthermore analyses the epistemological, methodological and conceptual challenges of online propaganda. It enhances our understanding of disinformation and propaganda in an increasingly interactive social media environment and contributes to a critical inquiry into social media and subversive politics.

  • 17.
    Farkas, Johan
    et al.
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Schou, Jannick
    Neumayer, Christina
    Platformed antagonism: racist discourses on fake Muslim Facebook pages2018Ingår i: Critical Discourse Studies, ISSN 1740-5904, E-ISSN 1740-5912, Vol. 15, nr 3, s. 463-480Artikel i tidskrift (Refereegranskat)
    Abstract [en]

    This research examines how fake identities on social media create and sustain antagonistic and racist discourses. It does so by analysing 11 Danish Facebook pages, disguised as Muslim extremists living in Denmark, conspiring to kill and rape Danish citizens. It explores how anonymous content producers utilise Facebook’s socio-technical characteristics to construct, what we propose to term as, platformed antagonism. This term refers to socio-technical and discursive practices that produce new modes of antagonistic relations on social media platforms. Through a discourse-theoretical analysis of posts, images, ‘about’ sections and user comments on the studied Facebook pages, the article highlights how antagonism between ethno-cultural identities is produced on social media through fictitious social media accounts, prompting thousands of user reactions. These findings enhance our current understanding of how antagonism and racism are constructed and amplified within social media environments.

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  • 18.
    Farkas, Johan
    et al.
    Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS), Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3).
    Schwartz, Sander Andreas
    Please Like, Comment and Share our Campaign! How Social Media Managers for Danish Political Parties Perceive User-Generated Content2018Ingår i: Nordicom Review, ISSN 1403-1108, E-ISSN 2001-5119, Vol. 39, nr 2, s. 19-33Artikel i tidskrift (Refereegranskat)
    Abstract [en]

    Based on 18 qualitative interviews, this article explores how the social media managers for the nine parties in the Danish parliament articulate the role of social media during the 2015 national elections. The article finds that the interviewees emphasise Facebook as an important means for one-way political communication and the monitoring of public opinion. The majority of the interviewees articulate a sense of responsibility for facilitating public debate on Facebook through the moderation of user-generated content and/or interactions with users. Yet the social media managers do not systematically analyse political input from social media users, nor do they see Facebook and Twitter as viable means of citizen influence on political decision-making. This is explained by a perceived lack of voter representativeness among Facebook users, fear of appearing politically imprudent and scepticism towards social media’s participatory potential.

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