Online Networks of the Italian and German Extreme Right

This article applies instruments of social network analysis to a study of communication networks within the Italian and German extremist right. Web links between organizational websites are used as a proxy. Indeed, extremist groups increasingly use and abuse the Internet for their propaganda and their recruitment, and also for their internal communication. The analysis includes both political parties and non-party organizations, even violent groups. In a macro-, micro-, and meso-analysis, the various specificities of the two national political sectors are demonstrated and linked to the offline reality. The Italian network appears to be very fragmented, highly diversified, and difficult to be coordinated (‘policephalous network’), whereas the German network is denser and much more concentrated on a few central actors (‘star structure’). These differences are mainly due to political opportunity structures in the two countries. Additionally, whereas the Italian network structure allows for the construction of a typology of sub-groups of organizations, the German communicative structure seems to be more erratic and less coordinated. The article also highlights the function of websites which are not related to any specific group. Indeed, these are of special importance for the far right as a political arena which is usually banned from the dominant societal discourses (if not even legally forbidden). Considering this, new modes of communication can be of greater use for extremist groups than for more traditional political actors.

Tags: Extreme Right, Mixed Methods, Network Analysis, Recruitment