Upvoting Extremism: Collective Identity Formation and the Extreme Right on Reddit

Since the advent of the Internet, right-wing extremists and those who subscribe to extreme right views have exploited online platforms to build a collective identity among the like-minded. Research in this area has largely focused on extremists’ use of websites, forums, and mainstream social media sites, but overlooked in this research has been an exploration of the popular social news aggregation site Reddit. The current study explores the role of Reddit’s unique voting algorithm in facilitating “othering” discourse and, by extension, collective identity formation among members of a notoriously hateful subreddit community, r/The_Donald. The results of the thematic analysis indicate that those who post extreme-right content on r/The_Donald use Reddit’s voting algorithm as a tool to mobilize like-minded members by promoting extreme discourses against two prominent out-groups: Muslims and the Left. Overall, r/The_Donald’s “sense of community” facilitates identity work among its members by creating an environment wherein extreme right views are continuously validated.

Tags: Collective identity, Extreme right discourse, r/The_Donald, social movement theory, social news aggregators