Communities and Web 2.0

‘Fake news’ and Facebook: the growth of right-wing political groups in Australia

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Right-wing political groups are on the rise in Australia. This paper examines the role that Web 2.0 technologies and the social networking site Facebook have played in this growth. Facebook’s structure of networked communities facilitates the broad dissemination of sensationalist content, including misinformation and ‘fake news’, creating an effective and relatively unrestricted platform from which right-wing political groups can amplify their message and grow their member base. This paper uses examples of recent activity on Facebook by Australia’s right-wing groups to demonstrate how the social networking site is being used to grow and strengthen the right-wing community across the country.


Right-wing politics has been present in Australia since the early 1900s (Campion, 2019). Over the past 15 years, however, there has been a significant rise in the number and effectiveness of right-wing political groups across the country (Aly, 2015, as cited in Dean et al., 2016). The majority of these groups have developed an online presence, most notably on the social networking site, Facebook (Dean et al., 2016). Right-wing ideology traditionally relies on the “perception (or construction) of a threat that imperils [that community’s] way of life” (Campion, 2019, para. 4). The activities of right-wing groups, which are centred around fighting this perceived threat, destabilise the political environment by distracting from real issues, increase tension and division by encouraging racial, religious and sexual discrimination, and normalise extreme behaviour which can result in violence (Lewis et al., 2019). Social media has become an important tool in this alleged battle, with right-wing political groups in Australia creating and sharing sensationalist content aimed at maximising engagement and stimulating intense debate. The mobility and weak cooperation enabled by Web 2.0 technologies and social networking sites create an effective way for attention-grabbing content to be broadly shared and enable these groups to amplify their message. The structure of Facebook groups, in particular, allows for the effective dissemination of sensationalist content throughout the networked community and encourages confirmation bias, which further strengthens and amplifies ties between community members. This paper argues that the weak cooperation enabled by Facebook facilitates the dissemination of sensationalist content, including misinformation and ‘fake news’, which has played a key role in growing and strengthening right-wing communities in Australia.

The perfect conditions for growth

The right-wing community in Australia has embraced Facebook. Research undertaken by Dean et al. (2016) detailed the strong online presence of the most popular right-wing political groups in Australia in 2016. As at 27 January 2016, the eight major groups identified as a part of this research all maintained active Facebook accounts. Although several of the groups identified by Dean et al. (2016) are no longer present on Facebook (or are not present under the same name), new groups with similar agendas have emerged in their place. Of the groups that remain, membership has significantly increased since 2016. In particular, the Australian Liberty Alliance has grown from 21,788 members on 27 January 2016 (Dean et al., 2016) to 87,714 members on 7 April 2020 (Australian Liberty Alliance, n.d.) – an increase of 400% in just over four years. This aligns with the trend identified by Wroe and Koslowski (2019), who reported that dozens of Australian right-wing political groups have emerged on Facebook since 2015. These statistics demonstrate the important role Facebook plays for the right-wing community in Australia.

The growth of these right-wing groups can also be attributed in no small part to the technologies and characteristics associated with Web 2.0, particularly mobility and weak ties. Web 2.0 technologies, which enable people to communicate with each other from a distance, have also facilitated a shift towards ‘networked individualism’ (Hampton & Wellman, 2018). According to Hampton and Wellman (2018), individuals are increasingly involved with various loose knit communities instead of remaining within one geographically static environment. This mobility means that communities have moved from being “bounded, densely knit local groups to multiple, partial, often far-flung social networks” (Rainie & Wellman, 2012, as cited in Hampton & Wellman, 2018, p. 643). According to Aguiton and Cardon (2007), these networked communities rely on the propagation of weak ties to strengthen and grow. In Australia, right-wing political groups on Facebook – which range from small informal groups of several hundred people, to well-organised communities with tens of thousands of members – share weak ties through the “specific and limited context” (Donath & boyd, 2004, p. 80) of their views on multiculturalism, immigration and religion (Tran, 2017). Facebook provides an easily accessible space where members of this loose knit community can come together to share and discuss ideas.

United against a common threat

A community with weak ties is strong when it moves towards a common goal. Facebook groups are tailored to bring communities with weak ties together by creating a place where users can connect over shared interests (Facebook, n.d.). These loose knit communities are strengthened by ‘weak cooperation’, which Aguiton and Cardon (2007) describe as the cooperative opportunity to share and magnify content that is only discovered once the production of individual content is made public. Facebook enables weak cooperation through its accessible interface that allows individual users to quickly and easily create and share posts. As discussed by Granovetter (1973), while the process of weak cooperation does not require large amounts of individual effort in itself, the collective result of these “small-scale [interactions] become translated into large-scale patterns” (p. 1360). It is here that loose knit online communities find their strength, as they multiply and magnify content with very little effort. The efficacy of this structure was demonstrated recently when a Facebook post making false claims about refugee entitlements under Australia’s immigration policy was shared more than 49,000 times (AFP Australia, 2019). The post, which incorrectly asserted that “people who cross the Australian border “illegally” are eligible to receive a job, a driver’s license, a $70,000 grant, and numerous other benefits” (AFP Australia, 2019, para. 1), claimed to be based on advice from an Australian barrister. This example illustrates the strength that is created through the cumulative total of individual, ‘granular’ contributions from a community with weak ties (Aguiton and Cardon, 2007). Australian right-wing political groups are using Facebook to harness and grow this collective strength to fight the perceived threat posed by individuals and groups that do not align with their ideology.

A new kind of soapbox

Facebook provides right-wing political groups in Australia with an unprecedented ability to reach a wide and geographically disperse audience. The structure of Facebook groups is particularly effective for disseminating content, as the social networking site creates a web of disparate yet interconnected networked communities (boyd & Ellison, 2007). When content is posted on a group page, members of that group can ‘like’, ‘comment’ or ‘share’ the post. Depending on the privacy settings of the original post, when a user reacts to that post, the post and the user’s response will appear in their own personal Facebook feed and can be seen by other people in line with that person’s privacy settings (Dumais, 2019). The greatest reach occurs when a post is set to ‘global’. However, given the nature of Facebook’s networked communities, a post with the setting of ‘friends of friends’ also has the potential to reach an audience far beyond the poster’s original network. Many of the right-wing Facebook groups in Australia are publicly accessible and post content using the ‘global’ setting, which enables their posts to reach the largest possible audience. Using Facebook in this way creates high levels of engagement (Bramble, 2018) which results in the content published by these groups being seen by users that sit outside the pre-existing networked community. This increased reach creates greater opportunities for right-wing political groups to communicate with and convert new members.

Sensationalism sells

The use of sensationalist content, including misinformation and fake news, extends the reach of these groups even further. On Facebook, the most successful posts maximise engagement through highly targeted content that delivers a resonating call-to-action through links, images and videos (Sehl, 2019). Posts that combine these elements with sensationalist material create even more engagement. Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, admits that “one of the biggest issues social networks face is that […] people will engage disproportionately with more sensationalist and provocative content” (Hutchinson, 2018, para. 4). This position is echoed by Kozinets (2017) whose research revealed that “one of the most effective ways to achieve mass appeal [is] by turning to the extreme” (para. 10). This situation is well-suited to right-wing groups as they tend to pit themselves against a constructed threat (Campion, 2019) and post strong and visible content in response to that perceived danger. Facebook further enables the spread of this type of sensationalist content as its policies do not currently restrict the publication of misinformation or fake news (Hanbury, 2019). Many of the posts made by Australia’s right-wing Facebook groups are often controversial or sensationalised and are aimed at provoking a strong emotional response in order to unite and strengthen the community.

The leaders of these right-wing groups have developed an aptitude for profiting from these conditions to grow their community using content they have created or through the coordinated distribution of existing content. In 2017, members of Patriot Blue, an Australian nationalist group, used their smartphones to film as they verbally attacked Sam Dastyari, an Iranian-born non-practising Muslim Labor senator (Hunter & Ham, 2017). According to Haynes and Henderson (2017), experts agreed that the video, which was posted to the Patriot Blue Facebook group soon after the incident, was made for the express purpose of being shared on Facebook. While the video itself received less than 200 likes, the post was highly successful as it sparked significant debate that resulted in nation-wide media attention (Haynes & Henderson, 2017). More recently, Australian right-wing groups rolled-out a well-timed campaign across a number of different Facebook pages. The campaign, which included a link to a video post, made false claims that police had “refused to arrest Muslims who waved terror flags against Jews in Melbourne” (Knaus & McGowan, 2020, para. 8). Many of these posts were made with ‘global’ privacy settings and the majority of comments made in response to the posts received multiple ‘likes’ from other Facebook members, further extending the audience from that of the original group. Responses to these posts on Facebook (No Sharia Law Ever, 2019) show a community strongly united in their stance against Muslims, and more generally towards restricting Australia’s immigration policies. The publication of sensationalist content such as this serves two main purposes: firstly, to normalise extreme behaviour among the communities who view it (Tran, 2017) and secondly, to find new audiences in an attempt to grow and strengthen the associated networked communities (Kozinets, 2017). The activity and growth of right-wing political groups on Facebook suggests that this approach is successful.

Viral popularity

People are attracted to, and remain members of, these groups because the content and associated discussion resonates with their beliefs, creating an insular culture where ‘confirmation bias’ is enabled and encouraged. Nickerson (1998) defines confirmation bias as “the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs [or] expectations” (p. 175). Facebook’s right-wing groups in Australia are made up of people who share a similar ideology. As such, members of this community are generally receptive to content posted by group leaders or other community members. This is evidenced by the viral post making false claims about refugee entitlements in Australia (AFP Australia, 2019) which demonstrates that members of these groups are unlikely to check the veracity of content posted by other members before sharing with their own networked communities. A lack of regulation around the publication of misinformation and fake news on Facebook (Idris, 2019) means that content does not need to be verified for accuracy before being published. These conditions contribute to the viral popularity of content posted by right-wing groups on Facebook, which stimulates engagement and increases the size and strength of these groups.


Facebook is an effective platform for growing and strengthening the right-wing community in Australia. The social networking site enables members of this community to find each other through the publication of attention-grabbing content. This, coupled with the mobility afforded to users by Web 2.0 technologies, means that people across the country who share similar views are using Facebook as a virtual town hall for sharing and progressing right-wing ideologies. This loose knit community has found strength in the weak cooperation that Facebook facilitates. A lack of regulation around what can be published on the social networking site means that these groups are creating and sharing sensationalist content, including misinformation and fake news, that has been created to align with the right-wing agenda, maximise engagement and grow the community’s member base. This raises significant concerns, as an increasingly strong and vocal right-wing community threatens to destabilise Australia’s political environment, increase social division through the discrimination and vilification of minority groups, and normalise extreme and violent behaviour.


Reference list

AFP Australia. (2019, December 2). False Facebook posts about Australian immigration policy claim ‘illegal’ immigrants are entitled to a job, welfare and $70,000. AFP Fact Check.

Aguiton, C., & Cardon, C. (2007). The strength of weak cooperation: an attempt to understand the meaning of Web 2.0. Communications and Strategies, 65, 51-65.

Australian Liberty Alliance. (n.d.). Home [Facebook page].

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Bramble, J. (2018, November 26). 13 Facebook engagement tactics for your business page. Social Media Examiner.

Campion, K. (2019, March 21). Right-wing extremism has a long history in Australia, and support is surging. ABC News.

Dean, G., Bell, P., & Vakhitova, Z. (2016, October 16). Right-wing extremism in Australia: the rise of the new radical right. Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, 11(2), 121-142.

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Hanbury, M. (2019, September 27). Facebook is the most popular social network for governments spreading fake news and propaganda. Business Insider.

Haynes, J., & Henderson, A. (2017, November 9). Sam Dastyari warns white nationalism on the rise after pub ambush by far-right group. ABC News.

Hunter, F., & Ham, L. (2017, November 9). ‘You terrorist’: Labor senator Sam Dastyari racially abused in pub. The Sydney Morning Herald.

Hutchinson, A. (2018, November 16). Facebook rolls out news feed algorithm update to disincentivize controversial content. Social Media Today.

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Knaus, C., & McGowan, M. (2020, February 4). Far-right ‘hate factory’ still active on Facebook despite pledge to stop it. The Guardian.

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Lewis, J., Pond, P., Cameron. R., & Lewis, B. (2019, October 1). Social cohesion, Twitter and far-right politics in Australia: Diversity in the democratic mediasphere. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 22(5-6). 958-978.

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Nickerson, R. S. (1998, June 1). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of General Psychology, 2(2), 175-220.

No Sharia Law Ever – Never Ever Give Up Australia. (2018, December 29). Australian police refused to arrest Muslims who waved terror flags against Jews in Melbourne. [Image attached] [Status update]. Facebook.

Sehl, K. (2019, October 9). 5 key elements of a high converting Facebook post. Hootsuite.

Tran, D. (2017, November 10). Patriot Blue and other far right groups are ambushing politicians because they want publicity. ABC News.

Wroe, D., & Koslowski, M. (2019, March 19). Australia’s right-wing extremist problem: Are we doing enough? The Sydney Morning Herald.

36 replies on “‘Fake news’ and Facebook: the growth of right-wing political groups in Australia”

Hey Anna!
Great to run into you again here. How’s it going?
First of all – LOVE the topic choice. Great pick!
It definitely is something that impacts our society and moods – I know reading right-wing comments sometimes really frustrates me and can stay with me for awhile.
Have you ever seen the Bold Type? It’s a show on Stan that had an episode where one of the characters wanted to write about a political figure. Every time this political figure did something right-wing or controversial, they would wear an outfit that was horrible, to distract the media. Just an example I thought that corroborated what you said. I would have enjoyed a solid case study of this but it was still well done!
I liked that you brought up the relevance to our society today with the growing numbers paragraph.
Great section titles too – my personal favorite was “a new kind of soapbox”.
I enjoyed how you neatly laid out all the problems, causes, and evidence to back up what you were saying!
I would agree with the attention grabbing videos and fear mongering. I would have liked to see more about the fear tactics they use, did you come across anything more in your research?
Do you think Facebook should more closely regulate these groups for misinformation?
Good work Anna! You did well.

Hi Anne-Marie!

It’s lovely to see you here 🙂 Thanks for your very thoughtful comments.
I haven’t seen Bold Type, it sounds like I might need to hunt it down.

I didn’t delve too deeply into the specific fear tactics these right-wing groups are using, I focused more on the overall trend of the publication of sensationalist content. Dean et al. (2016) did some really interesting research on the online narratives of these groups though. There is a link to their paper in my reference list. If you’ve got time, you should have a look at it.

In terms of regulation, I believe that Facebook needs urgent regulation to curb the growing trend of misinformation and fake news. That doesn’t just apply to right-wing groups though – regulation is needed so that all sides of the political spectrum are held to account for the content they publish. It’s an area that I’m really interested in and would have liked to have delved into further… maybe in a future paper!

Thanks again,

Hi Anna

A well written and considered piece as always.

I tend to scroll past most of these extreme right-wing groups when I see their posts and I imagine many do that, because many posts are extremely vile.

It is good that some Facebook affordances label these posts as ‘disputed’ but unfortunately this article from The Guardian explains that those measures aren’t effective enough to stop the spread, but at least in your example of the ‘fake news’ post about refugee entitlements a ‘disputed’ label and greying out of the content would be of some comfort at least:

I do believe though that, as a balance to that argument, social network sites give a big voice to both sides of the political spectrum. I tend to despair at the ‘viciousness’ between the Left and the Right on social media, it is a shame that arguments cannot be more measured and debated rationally rather than addressed in the aggressive manner that they tend (more often) to be (from both sides of the fence).

Great work Anna!


Hi Leanne,

Thanks for the positive feedback! And thank you for sharing that article, it was an interesting read. The regulation of misinformation and fake news on Facebook is clearly a minefield. What I find a bit disheartening after reading that article is that, although there are people working to fact check and dispute posts, by the time that work is done it’s days later. If a post has gone viral, it’s pretty much impossible to pull the impact of that post back.

I would be very interested to know how the ‘disputed’ tag would affect confirmation bias. I feel like, for the most part, existing biases within the right-wing political groups in Australia would override that tag and people would continue to share content regardless. But, at least if that tag was there, it might make people stop and think. They do say that education one of the best ways to fight misinformation. It’s a really interesting issue that I am keen to learn more about.

In terms of balance, I agree that Facebook provides all sides of the political spectrum with the same ability to amplify their message. However, I do think that some sides are more adept at using the platform than others and that right-wing ideology, in particular, lends itself to sensationalism. I also agree that Facebook and social media are playing a signficant role in aggravating the political divide in Australia and around the world.

Thanks again for your comments!

Hi Anna
I thought this paper was really interesting and very well written. I wondered about the reaction of the right wing groups to published rebuttals on their posts and whether, given the posts you studied, you think rebuttal is a good strategy to counteract the negativity or whether, given the way social media platforms such as Facebook work, it would have the opposite effect and give their original posts even more prominence creating further negative impact.
Great paper.

Hi Nicola,

Thanks for reading my paper! I’m glad you found it interesting.

The question of rebuttal is a good one. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would be an effective tool with the groups that I looked at. The nature of right-wing ideology means that members of these groups are fighting against perceived threats to their way of life. They are essentially always in battle mode, ready to fight anything that doesn’t align with their beliefs.

The majority of activity on the Facebook groups that I looked at aligns pretty consistently with the ideology of the group as a whole. The language in response to posts is generally short, sharp and aggressive. There only appear to be a small number of people who do not fall in line with that pattern, and those people tend to get berated quite heavily. In addition, as far as I can see, there is no real moderation of the public groups. These are not necessarily ideal conditions for a logical rebuttal! I could imagine that the ensuing activity would, as you say, give the original posts even more prominence.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts,

Hi Anna,

After having learnt a bit about what you were writing the other day on the live session with Tarsh, and the various posts on the BB, I was looking forward to reading your paper and it didn’t disappoint.

It never ceases to amaze me how some people believe anything they read on Facebook (or any SNS really) considering that it is user-generated and not verified. I think it is because they themselves already hold extreme views and so these types of posts just fuel their biases and then they feel a sense of justification. They support each other because they are united in their extremes and know that they will not be challenged if they stay amongst similar minded people.

As you know, in the justice system it is supposed to be ‘innocent until proven guilty’ but in the world of social media it seems to be the opposite and once out there it is hard to retract. The seed of doubt/hatred whatever, has already been sown. As the old saying went: ‘good news doesn’t sell newspapers’ well today it is the Internet and what spreads.

I think the only way is for constant reinforcement (from primary school up) that you can’t trust what is on the Internet; the more you respond to a vile post the more it it spread and you have just helped promote it. Have you had any thoughts on the possibilities of policing?

Thanks Anna

Hi Lee,

Thanks for your very kind comments. I’m so glad my paper met your expectations!

Your comments about people seeking out information that suits their own beliefs are spot on. This was particularly strong in the groups that I researched, but I know it happens across all sides of the political spectrum and for a variety of different, polarising issues. I think Gerard’s paper examining the misinformation published on Facebook in relation to climate change is another good example of ‘confirmation bias’ in action.

Policing this kind of activity is proving to be an enormous challenge. I think you’re right that education has a key role to play, and that has to start early. I listened to an interesting Future Tense podcast for another unit which discussed the importance of educating our children in the fields of ethics and critical thinking from an early age (Funnell, 2018). The work that Dr Laura D’Olimpio discusses in this podcast demonstrates that including philosophy and critical thinking as part of the primary school curriculm does make a considerable difference, particularly with children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (Funnell, 2018).

So education is an important part of the picture, but change has to come from the top as well. Facebook must hold some accountability for what is published on their platform. Although it seems to be one step forward, two steps back on this issue at the moment, it is important to pursue. It’s something that I’ll be following with interest.

Thanks again for your feedback!


Funnell, A. (Host). (2018, April 15). Have we lost our sense of reality? [Audio podcast episode]. In Future Tense. ABC Radio National.

Hi Anna,

I’ve enjoyed reading your answers to everyone nearly as much as reading your paper😊. It was obvious from the quality of your paper that you had researched the topic well but the way you are able to answer everyone’s comments also shows you are conversant and interested in the topic too.

The idea of teaching ethics and critical thinking from an early age (Funnell, 2018) is a great idea. To actually stop and analyse what you are hearing/reading etc is such a skill that it seems a loss of a useful resource to have to wait to get to Uni before learning it! Where would Facebook be then 😊. And yes I agree Zuckerberg & co and any other founders/owners of SNS should have to take responsibility in much the same way as heads of any philanthropic or corporate organisations need to.

Thanks Anna

Hi Anna,
Your paper looked interesting, so I made it my first read 😊, and I took a lot from it. I have always had my perception of right-wing, but the definition you outline: traditionally relies on the “perception (or construction) of a threat that imperils that communities way of life” I thought hit the nail on the head.
Where you note the aim of right-wing groups sharing sensationalist content is to maximise engagement and stimulate intense debate, I wonder what proportion being shared is political strategy versus people that share it because they believe it. Another point I found interesting was under “Perfect conditions for growth”, where you note that several of the groups are no longer present on Facebook but in some cases similar groups have emerged- it would be interesting to know why some groups have ceased all together, and if the ones taking their place are official?
Reflecting on your point that the groups take advantage of Facebooks Global privacy settings for sharing to reach the largest possible audience; I bet a lot of these posts are from fake or burner accounts. That must make it a lot easier to spread their messages then standing up in front of small gatherings and standing behind their beliefs. And of course, they have the added advantage of people they have never met (And will never know) who share their content on without any fact-checking.
I enjoyed reading your paper- nice work.

If your looking for one to read in the Communities and Online Gaming category, mine can be found here:

Hi Craig,

Thanks for taking the time to read my paper. I’m glad to know it piqued your interest!

The question about what proportion of content is being shared as a political strategy and what is being shared simply because people believe what they are reading is very pertinent. It was an issue that I discussed with Tarsh as I was drafting the paper – the intentional versus unintentional spread of misinformation. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time or words to investigate that particular aspect of this issue in detail. I think that would be a very interesting paper in itself, as there are layers of intention within all of this.

The issue of groups changing is an interesting and challenging one. The research undertaken by Dean et al. (2016) to identify the top eight right-wing political groups in Australia demonstrates the level of complexity involved with identifying and tracking the memberships and linkages between these groups. Once a group is deleted or archived on Facebook, all trace of it essentially gone from the public sphere. Only members of an archived group would continue to have access to group content if they were a member at the time it was archived (Facebook, n.d.). So, you would really need to be monitoring these groups in real-time if you wanted to get a more accurate picture of their evolution.

Thanks again for your comments, and for the link to your paper. I’m going to pop across and have a read today!



Facebook. (n.d.). How do I delete or archive a Facebook group?

Hi Anna

A great paper and very passionate in your approach, I can see some of the like thinking in analysis when also looking at the issue with Facebook particularly as you describe Facebook as a virtual town hall for sharing and progressing right-wing ideologies.
My first response when reading is that there as many left wing groups actively spreading similar propaganda and campaigns on the platform such as political thugs Antifa and Get Up, in Australia but more broadly global groups activity to the point that when I read some of them it hard to discern who is the worst offender, the USA is a shocker in both camps.
Your statement”A lack of regulation around what can be published on the social networking site means that these groups are creating and sharing sensationalist content, including misinformation and fake news, ” is right on the money on so many issues that are misrepresented on Facebook, I had no resolve in my research on how to manage or even police this, did you have any ideas from your research as how this dangerous type of politics could be regulated or censored?
Great work Anna



Hi Gerard,

Thanks for taking the time to read my paper and for the thoughtful comments.

I agree that right-wing groups are not the only side of the political spectrum using misinformation and fake news to advance their agenda. However, as I said to Leanne, I think right-wing ideology lends itself particularly well to sensationalist content and that the right-wing groups in Australia are really capitalising on that.

Like you, I found that there are no immediate solutions emerging for how to manage or regulate the publication of misinformation on Facebook. There seems to be a variety of different approaches being taken, but none of them seem to be particularly succcessful or tenable in the long-term. I would be very interested to see an assessment of the current strategies and an analysis of their effectiveness. Something to think about for future research!

Thanks again for your comments. I hope you’re enjoying the conference.


Hi Anna,

The choice of topic for discussion is relevant in understanding political dynamics in Australia, especially the role that Facebook and Web 2.0 play in the rise of right-wing political groups. First, I agree with your explanation of how Facebook acts as a medium of disseminating misinformation and fake news, specifically illustrating its importance in aiding the growth of right-wing political groups fan base. Facebook, as an open online forum, is majorly responsible for the increased ring-wing political groups aimed at destabilising the political milieu in Australia. It is also true that social networking technologies like Web 2.0 do not have the mechanisms of limiting and controlling the kind of information shared; hence people can disseminate any kind of information through them. In particular, the rise of ring-wing membership can be attributed to Facebook, especially since 2016, the Alliance Liberty party membership figures rose significantly. Facebook is the major aider of right-wings, but there are also other networking platforms like twitter and telegram that contribute to their growth in Australia, they are equally important in disseminating useful information.

The overall presentation of the article is on point, giving an insight into how networking sites are essential factors in mass movements.

I like what have you written and enjoyed reading this! 🙂

Hi Cynthiana,

Thank you for your comments! I’m glad that you enjoyed my paper and that my conclusions resonated with you. I’m not at all familiar with Telegram – do you have any experience with the app or know much about it in relation to the growth of specific political groups?

Thanks again,

Hi Anna,

Telegram is basically kind of similar system or app like WhatsApp, it’s a messenger service. However, it pretty much could happen in any social platforms.

I remember reading this news about right-wing groups on Telegram, but the news was based in UK.

I might go off topic now, but there was some Australian news about Telegram being one of the ‘secret app’ for terrorist group.


Hi Anna,
Excellent paper. Have you researched the networks of 4chan and 8chan, whose many users make up some of these right-wing movements? I think its important to point out this connection, because these unmoderated message board platforms bred the right-wing extremism here which was once a fringe movement and has slowly moved into the mainstream. Even in mainstream media. Just watch any show on Sky.
I agree that FB and its affordances make it easy for these groups to spread misinformation, spurring high levels of engagement using propaganda and alarmist language.
Conversely, on FB, there are groups like ‘Doomsday Preppers’ which, is a legitimate doomsday prepping movement, but many of the offshoot pages associated or inspired by this, are more or less weighted to the extreme right; members predominantly share racist and xenophobic views, advocate violence and generally antisocial communications. I can say this because I observed this myself when I first interacted on those pages. As you also point out, these networks and communities thrive and flourish, in the absence of any tangible regulation. The manner in which ive seen members communicate and disseminate their opinions, it’s exactly what you said, that confirmation bias is alive and well in these types of networks. Look up some of those Doomsday prep pages on FB, youll find theres quite a few!
Your paper resonated with me for this reason, because SM platforms, without any moderation and vigilance, plus regulation, allow these networks and communities to form and grow.
Awesome paper. I really enjoyed this. Thanks.

Hi Bruno,

Thanks for such a thoughtful response.

I must admit that I had never had of 4chan until I watched the video that Deepti posted earlier in this unit, and so was unaware of the large amounts of right-wing activity that takes place on that platform, as well as 8chan and neinchan. Your comments prompted me to do a bit of research, and I came across an article by Vice News analysing more than one million comments on 4chan (Arthur, 2019). The results are shocking. There is a huge amount of extremist behaviour on display – at least one out of every 15 comments on the platform demonstrates some form of hate speech but it’s hard to know the true numbers as users adopt code language that was not fully deciphered for this research project (Arthur, 2019).

As I understand it, 8chan and neinchan are even more extreme, so you could expect the activity would be even more vitriolic. I’m feeling very unsettled after reading that article, but thank you for making that very important connection for me.

I would be very interested to know more about the interactions that you had with some of these groups on Facebook – perhaps that’s something we can investigate at some point in the future!

Thanks again Bruno


Arthur, R. (2019, July 10). We analyzed more than 1 million comments on 4chan. Hate speech there has spiked by 40% since 2015. Vice News.

Hi Anna
I thought you might appreciate the connection and I’m really impressed that you went and did your own research and gained your own insights. You could be going down the rabbit hole if you look at the connections between 4 and mainly 8chan and what happened in Christchurch. It all started there. It was to that audience specifically that the live feed was for. So it shows how these communications on platforms like 8 chan can end with very real consequences, as we have tragically seen. Hence why I think your paper is important in highlighting the need for regulation and governance without using that as a cover for censorship but is equally something that is needed right now.

Hi Bruno,

I just wanted to let you know that your comments have stimulated a lot of discussion around our dinner table! You have also raised points and further questions that I am interested in investigating for future research projects.

Thanks so much 🙂

Wow that’s amazing! ‘ive made a difference’
haha *dances*

Thanks Anna.

Btw Anna, Ive kept alot of literature and youre welcome to all of it. Its from my research into 4/8chan and dark web activity in general and RW extremism on social media, much of it written well before Christchurch even happened, so it will chill you to the bone to read some of the now prophetic data and information.


I’m a little bit scared about what you’ve got on file Bruno, but would also be interested to see. I’ll shoot you an email separately (to your Curtin address) so we can arrange a file transfer. Thanks!

Sounds like a plan! haha dont worry too much, the literature is maninly academic papers and the like so nothing too gruesome (:

Hi Anna,

Well done for writing an interesting topic on the growth of the right-wing political groups in Australia using Facebook.

As you pointed out, the growth of right-wing community in Australia and the Australian right-wing political groups gained strength using Facebook to fight the threats of individuals who do not align with their ideology. It is sad that that there are right-wing individuals who “destabilise the political environment by distracting from real issues”.

I agree that “the weak cooperation enabled by Facebook facilitates the dissemination of sensationalist content, including misinformation and ‘fake news’, which has played a key role in growing and strengthening right-wing communities in Australia” as you stated in your paper. In addition, ‘fake news’ and misinformation is also a growing concern in other social networking platforms such as Twitter and YouTube.

Although Facebook is working to stop the misinformation and false news, this needs to be regulated to fully address the issue as a social responsibility. Using available automated tools, vigilant fact-checkers and critical thinking users would help mitigate the spread of ‘fake news’ and misinformation that right-wing groups in Australia and other countries use.

Thank you.

Hi Kathryn,

Thanks for your comments! I just had a read through your paper and agree that both Facebook and Twitter face a lot of the same issues in terms of controlling (or preventing) the spread of misinformation and disinformation. Do you have any specific examples of where this is happening on YouTube?


Hi Anna,

Thanks again for reading my paper.

The spread of misinformation also happens in YouTube. Recent examples are from the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers from University of Oxford who studied a sample of social misinformation from January to March 2020 and fact-checkers also found false and potentially harmful videos on COVID-19 in YouTube. The social media platforms responded and removed those posts but the false and potentially harmful posts such as 59% from Twitter, 27% from YouTube and 24% from Facebook are still up (Brennen et al., 2020).

Furthermore, some YouTubers have posted dubious treatments for COVID-19 like the seven videos Guardian reported to YouTube. YouTube responded and removed four of the videos but three remain as they claim that the other three videos are not misinformation but “wellness tips”. However, YouTube said that they have removed recently thousands of misleading and dangerous COVID-19 videos (Paul, 2020).


Brenne, J, Simon, F., Howard, P., Nielsen, K. (2020), Types, sources, and claims of COVID-19 misinformation. Reuters Institute, University of Oxford.

Paul, K. (2020). YouTube profits from videos promoting unproven Covid-19 treatments.

Hi Kathryn,

Thanks for those references. I’ll look into them further.

By the sounds of things, YouTube and Facebook have similar standards in terms of what they will remove and what can remain. It appears that anything which is potentially life threatening is removed, whereas anything that is unlikely to cause death can stay (regardless of whether or not the post contains misinformation).

Thanks again,

Hello Anna, thank you for your contribution to the conference, I thoroughly enjoyed reading both it and the resulting commentary it has generated, your clarification on weak cooperation and ties is particularly appreciated. I covered effective political activism on Facebook myself in my own paper over in the Indigenous section and I’m curious as to if you were able to dig up much in the way of the groups involved making inroads into policy or legal effects of their actions as well as any reports of vigilantism? As much as Facebook is useful for dissemination and mobilisation, I think the thinness of the communities (along with the weakness of ties, etc) serve to render Facebook in and of itself fairly ineffective for particularly affecting politics (in terms of legislation and law). I dug up the Dastyari footage, and although I was not aware of the incident at the time, I can’t imagine the thuggish behaviour of the group that accosted him going down very well once widely publicised. I have to admit on a personal level, I am in favour of freedom of speech and would rather these types be out, loud and proud (where I can see them and identify their ilk), rather than potentially being driven underground through supression. Not to mention the other ways that that could be twisted into positives by garnering undeserved sympathy/support by making them appear as if they are being targeted and victimised. There are several problems of scope and scale that I can see with regards to regulation of SNS’s, particularly in terms of jurisdiction (FB is global) and monitoring (the amount of information generated is ridiculously large). I concur with the necessity of education around critical thinking, if there is a skill that is becoming increasingly essential when dealing with the overload of information afforded by the Internet it would have to be the abilities to access, weigh and accurately assess information. This is key to fighting misinformation. Once again, thank you for your thought-provoking contribution.

Hi Talep,

Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comments. I’m very happy to hear that you found the paper and ensuing discussion to be so thought-provoking.

So far these groups have proven to be reasonably powerless in terms of having any policy or legislative effect. However, they do have supporters in high places. You might remember that Senator Fraser Anning made the papers last year when he flew down to Melbourne to support a far-right protest in St Kilda hot on the heels of his ‘final solution’ speech in Parliament (Martin, 2019).

I think the real concern is that the more popular these right-wing groups are, the more their ideologies become normalised (less extreme) and the more likely it is that they will have representatives voted into power. The ongoing presence of Pauline Hanson and One Nation in Queensland is a demonstration of this.

In terms of vigilantism, from my research I found that Reclaim Australia were the most active. At the time that Dean et al. (2016) undertook their research, Reclaim Australia was the largest right-wing group on Facebook. The group seems to have splintered off into state and more locally based chapters, so it’s hard to get an accurate idea of numbers, but they have definitely been one of the most active groups in terms of organising and turning up at rallies. If you do a Google search you’ll see that these rallies often turn violent. I didn’t look into individual vigilantism as an off-shoot of these groups actitivies, so wouldn’t be able to comment on that.

I agree with you on your comments around freedom of speech, however I strongly believe something needs to be done to prevent misinformation and fake news being used to amplify the messages of these groups. I’ve been having a chat with Lachlan (Twitter Terrorism) about possible legislative responses. Quite by chance I heard on the radio last night the French Parliament has just voted on legislation which will require social media platforms to take down manifestly illicit hateful content within 24 hours. I need to look into this further but, needless to say, there has been a huge amount of debate over here about the fine line between freedom of speech and ‘hate speech’. The French have now drawn that line. It will be interesting to see how that legislation performs (it comes into effect from 1 July 2020).

If you’re interested, the only English article I could find this morning was in The Wall Street Journal here:

Once again, thanks for your comments Talep! You’ve given me even more to think about.



Martin, L. (2019, January 5). St Kilda beach rally: far-right and anti-racism groups face off in Melbourne. The Guardian.

Hi Anna

Excellent paper on an important topic! I agree with what Lee said, it is really is amazing that some people will believe everything they read, especially if it is from a SNS. Some people probably just jump the gun and out of surprise/shock share the post or react to it when the best medicine for these groups would be to simply ignore it. The less activity there is on a post, the further down the news feed it will be and soon it will be forgotten about. (until the next one!)

Do you think that these groups will use other platforms, perhaps TikTok in the future?


Hi Indre,

Thanks for reading my paper! I’m really interested in learning more about confirmation bias. It’s clearly not a new phenomenon, but it seems to have amplified with Web 2.0 making it so easy for us to access and share information.

The question about these groups using other platforms in the future is a good one. I did a quick search this morning and found an article on Al Jazeera (Macguire, 2020) reporting that Britain First, a far-right group in the United Kingdom which has been banned from Facebook and Twitter, has now started using TikTok. The leader of Britain First, Tommy Robinson, started his TikTok account in April this year and already has more than 22,000 followers.

I also think it’s a question of demographics. I think Facebook suits the demographic profile of the existing right-wing groups in Australia, as the community seems to be aged from late-20s up. However, if they wanted to attract younger members, I think that TikTok would be an effective way to get their attention. And, as shown in the UK, if Facebook and Twitter ban these groups, TikTok is a good back-up plan for continuing their activities. I think it will be interesting to watch the progression and effectiveness of these groups as new platforms become available.

Thanks for raising some interesting points Indre!


Macguire, E. (2020, April 16). Banned from Facebook and Twitter, UK far right turns to TikTok. Al Jazeera News.

Hi Anna

Thanks for finding that link! It’s quite scary knowing how there are ways these groups can infiltrate social media even when banned, especially if they can get into TikTok since it targets a younger age (as mentioned in the article). Tim Berners-Lee believes in a ‘free’ Internet without censorship, so people should have freedom of speech, but this also means that if people want to voice their opinions this must be done in a civilised manner.


Hi Anna,
Thanks for the interesting read. I thought your paper was very well thought out and presented.
The fact that there are such large groups as the ones you discussed with confirmation bias so strongly encouraged is definitely something to be concerned about, considering the lack of policing on this. Your paper brought up a lot of questions that I hadn’t previously considered and to be honest, were probably thoughts that I had pushed to the back of my mind when using Facebook. I will definitely be looking more into this topic!
I also agree with Lee as above that reading your comments about your topic have been just as great as reading your paper. It is clear that you are passionate about this issue and it definitely comes across in your writing. I wish I had comments to ask you more about this but I think you have been very well-rounded with your approach to this topic that I can’t think of any right now. Thanks for such a great read!

Hi Sarah,

You’ve made my day! Thank you 🙂 I’ve been really lucky to have such great comments on my paper that have stimulated lots of interesting debate. I’ve been enjoying the conference so much. It’s been a real privilege to read and comment on everyone’s papers, and the ensuing discussions have been so interesting. I have a pile of reading to do when the conference is finished! I hope you’ve enjoyed it as well.

Thanks again!

Hi Anna,

I quite enjoyed learning about your chosen topic. Great work to speak on something that is relevant in todays society.
An eye catching title to write about and a very fascinating choice to discuss. A well thought of topic with great use of examples and the sub headings flow from one paragraph to the next. The points you make in the paper are so very true at the moment and majority of the time. There is definitely fake news out there these days even on social media. Well Done.


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