The online media has created novel opportunities for the production and distribution of content from the far-right, as well as the mobilizing capacity. FREXO examines the broader societal and political impact of this development. In the project the term far-right is used to describe political parties, organizations and groups that can be placed on the right side of the conservative right.
On the one hand FREXO studies how the far-right, including alternative media, activists, groups and organizations, create and share content on online platforms. On the other hand, we investigate the effects of far-right content on the general public and targeted groups, such as ethnic and religious minorities and political opponents. The project compares the situation in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The Scandinavian countries shares many similarities, but also differs when it comes to the mobilisation and visibility of the far-right.
FREXO uses mixed methods to study the research questions and combines analysis of digital networks, content analysis of media texts, surveys and qualitative interviews with editors of established and alternative media, as well as audiences.
An important precondition for the project is to define and discuss which actors that can be categorized as far-right. As part of this work, FREXO has reviewed the international literature and researchers in the project have developed a conceptual framework for the project. An insight is that the label far-right must be understood in the context of historical, social, political and cultural boundaries.
A phenomenon that is studied in FREXO is the prevalence and use of right-wing alternative media. Studies conducted in the project show that alternative news media position themselves as being in opposition to the established mainstream and that they are often motivated by topics that are important to the far-right, including immigration and Islam. Even though alternative media is relatively modest in terms of readership, they manage to gain visibility on social media and consequently compete for agenda-setting power.
A crucial contribution of FREXO will be to study the impact of social media on both the capacity and the effects of far-right politics, and to enhance reflection about countermeasures. Such knowledge is relevant to stakeholders such as the police, public officials, civil society organizations, and the media in developing strategies in relation to far right politics online.
The primary aim of the FREXO project is to assess how online media affect both the mobilizing capacity and the broader societal and political impact of far right politics. The project is a fully comparative study of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and combines two sub-studies that examine how far right extremist groups (WP1) and hyper-partisan alternative media (WP2) produce and distribute content, with two sub-studies that study the impact of far right communication on public opinion (WP3), and the specific impact of far right online hate speech (WP4). FREXO employs a multi-method approach, combining content analysis, network analysis, survey methods and qualitative interviews. A separate WP (5) is dedicated to drawing out the theoretical and practical conclusions from the empirical studies, and to assess implications for the societal resilience of the Scandinavian countries. The research topics of FREXO are ethically demanding in terms of being politically and normatively sensitive, and concerns for anonymity and data security will be critical in all phases of the project.
A crucial contribution of FREXO will be to study the impact of social media on both the capacity and the effects of far right politics, and to enhance reflection about counter-measures. Such knowledge is relevant to stakeholders such as the police, public officials, civil society organizations, and the media in developing strategies in relation to far right politics online. FREXO is interdisciplinary, including experts on far right extremism on the one hand, and experts on the public sphere, digital journalism, public opinion and hate speech, on the other, and it is based on cross-institutional cooperation between the Institute for Social Research, Center for Research of Extremism at the University of Oslo, and Oslo Metropolitan University. A strong and active international advisory board will enhance the capacity of the project to contribute to the international research front.