Review

False equivalencies: Online activism from left to right

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Science  04 Sep 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6508, pp. 1197-1201
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb2428

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Abstract

Digital media are critical for contemporary activism—even low-effort “clicktivism” is politically consequential and contributes to offline participation. We argue that in the United States and throughout the industrialized West, left- and right-wing activists use digital and legacy media differently to achieve political goals. Although left-wing actors operate primarily through “hashtag activism” and offline protest, right-wing activists manipulate legacy media, migrate to alternative platforms, and work strategically with partisan media to spread their messages. Although scholarship suggests that the right has embraced strategic disinformation and conspiracy theories more than the left, more research is needed to reveal the magnitude and character of left-wing disinformation. Such ideological asymmetries between left- and right-wing activism hold critical implications for democratic practice, social media governance, and the interdisciplinary study of digital politics.

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