New Research Report: The Alt-Right Twitter Census by JM Berger


VOX-Pol has released its latest report in the VOX-Pol publication series, titled The Alt-Right Twitter Census:  Defining and Describing the Audience for Alt-Right Content on Twitter, authored by J.M. Berger, on 15 October 2018.

About the Report

This report defines and describes the alt-right audience on twitter, and identifies the top ten most influential twitter accounts for the alt-right online. Since 2016, the alt-right have held a significant spot in global politics due to their continually expanding online presence. The report examines this online presence ‘with robust metrics and an analysis of content shared by adherents’, primarily on Twitter.


Key Findings

There were four overlapping themes apparent that dominated the alt-right network in this study:

  • Support for US President Donald Trump, support for white nationalism, opposition to immigration (often framed in anti-Muslim terms), and accounts primarily devoted to transgressive trolling and harassment.
  • @realdonaldtrump was the most influential Twitter account among all users analysed in this study; @richardbspencer was the most influential account within the specific network of users who followed accounts that contained the phrase ‘alt-right’ in their Twitter profiles.
  • Support for Trump outstripped all other themes by a wide margin, including references to his name and various campaign slogans in hashtags and user self-descriptions. The most common word in user profiles was ‘MAGA’ (short for Make America Great Again, Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan), and the most common word pair in user profiles was ‘Trump supporter’.
  • The alt-right network was most consistently ‘for’ Trump, but users frequently defined themselves by what they were ‘against’. Top word pairs in user self-descriptions included ‘anti-EU’, ‘anti-Islam’, ‘anti-globalist’, ‘anti-feminist’ and ‘anti-Zionist’.
  • While the alt-right’s presence on Twitter was substantial, probably encompassing more than 100,000 users as a conservative estimate, the sample analysed here showed extensive evidence of manipulation, including manipulated follower counts, follower tracking, and automated tweeting. Neither the source nor the exact scope of these efforts could be conclusively determined.

About the Author

J.M. Berger’s  prior publications include, with Jonathon Morgan, The ISIS Twitter Census (2015), with Jessica Stern, ISIS: The State of Terror (2015), and Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam (2011), along with numerous other reports and papers.

Previous to joining VOX-Pol, J.M. Berger was a Fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, a Non-resident Fellow with Brookings’ Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, an Associate Fellow at VOX-Pol partner the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London (KCL), and an Associate Fellow at the International Centre for Counter-terrorism (ICCT) — The Hague.

Berger works as a consultant, researcher and trainer on issues related to extremism and social media for clients that include Western governments and technology and security companies.


Accessing VOX-Pol Reports

All VOX-Pol reports are open-access. This report is available for download HERE. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the report, please email with your request.

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