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Polarising politics in Canada: A Facebook study.

Anyone interested in Canadian politics should keep an eye on Facebook. While the 2019 federal election is still a long way off, some Page administrators have begun to campaign for their desired outcome, and followers are actively taking up the cause, sharing and engaging.


Facebook is also a space where hot topics, such as the Omar Khadr deal or the commemoration of Canada’s 150th anniversary are discussed — with opinions varying considerably across the political landscape with little common ground between left and right.

All of this may sound completely normal in a highly-connected and open society where social media activity mirrors to some extent users’ attitudes or interests in real life. However, with the rise of fake news and growing political tensions in the aftermath of both the U.S. and U.K. elections, all in an increasingly distorted information space, the following analysis of Facebook Pages identifies potentially troubling signs for what may lie ahead for Canada — signs of societal polarization are already here, no matter how we, as rational individuals, wish to believe otherwise.

But, all is perhaps not lost! There is one topic both sides seem to get behind: Trudeau isn’t living up to the job.

Building on similar research conducted for the U.S. 2016 presidential and U.K. 2017 general elections, this analysis investigates 20 Facebook pages on both the left and right of the Canadian political spectrum, providing insight into online networks and community perspectives.

A Summary of the Findings

We have a tendency in Canada to suffer from a certain smug superiority in relation to our American neighbours to the south. The crazy things that happen to them, could never happen here, is a safe thing to think for most Canadians. Unfortunately, political polarization can happen anywhere humans are. And this brief glance at Canadian Facebook Pages suggests we already have a growing disconnect between how those on the left and right of the political spectrum in Canada view the world. What’s more, name calling and belittling will do little to reconcile these differences — let the current situation in the U.S. stand as an example of that.

On the one hand, there is a body of Canadians who are concerned about the environment, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, not to mention other forms of discrimination plaguing different groups, and economic equality. This segment of Canadian society is suspicious of the establishment and police. They find it difficult to be patriotic towards a country with serious unresolved issues. These people are organizing, at least on Facebook, around interests that matter to them, which might not always be easy to understand or that open to outsiders. In some cases, to achieve the ends they desire, they are creating organizations, like LeadNow.ca which aims to drive change — albeit a particular kind.

Not everyone sees the left-leaning change as the progress it claims. One of the few Pages to allow reviews, LeadNow is alternately praised for its good work, and denounced as a foreign-sponsored agent of traitors.

On this other hand, and often at odds with the perspectives of the first group, is another body of Canadians. They are patriotic, supportive of military and police. They also feel as though the country they think they know is changing, and are suspicious and even spiteful of others who don’t accept their beliefs. They too are organizing, and openly backing a group of Conservative politicians and the party to which they belong.

These two groups see very little the same. And their respect for each other is dwindling to dangerous lows. It shouldn’t be a giant leap to see the similarities between the Democrats and Republicans in this Canadian example.

The one perspective they seem to share is a disdain for the work to date by the Liberal government. Granted, one side is far more hostile than the other. However, if Trudeau and the Liberals lose their base on the left, how might the party fare in the next election? Unlike the U.S., there are other left-leaning options in Canada. Of course, this also presents the issue of splitting the vote. And then the question becomes: do Canadians really not have an appetite for the Trumpian politics that these right-leaning Pages analysed seemed to be espousing?

Following Donald Trump’s win in the 2016 election, many Canadians began to speculate whether his brand of politics could take hold in Canada. Certainly, the campaign run by Kellie Leitch for the leadership of the Conservative party made more people wonder. Her failure to win the party leadership led to the same sigh of relief that seemed to globally escaped after the recent Dutch and French elections, where far-right politicians were unable to win. That victory, though, isn’t as secure as some might like to believe. And indeed, when Stephen Harper lost the last election in 2015 — after running a campaign that some regarded as hateful, raising issues about Canadian values — he didn’t lose as many seats as the Conservative party did when last thrown out of power in 1993, in fact, he didn’t even lose his riding. This suggests a certain percentage of Canada is comfortable with at least some of this farther-right rhetoric — and, indeed, with fewer Pages in the network, the right-leaning Pages enjoyed more shares and higher rates of engagement.

Just how much influence any of these Pages have among a wider Canadian audience is up for debate. Anecdotally, it wasn’t until after several of these right-leaning Pages began to appear in my own Facebook feed before I embarked on this study. (As it turns out, I have connections who like four of the right-leaning Pages, and five on the left.) These posts appeared as shares from other friends, some family, but also politicians that I know. Mostly these posts related to the Omar Khadr settlement, but also on Canada’s 150th anniversary and, in retrospect, on Ontario’s long-reigning Liberal government, which has been a constant target of complaint thanks to soaring energy prices. What is striking in all of this, is the diversity of people I know who have been sharing them, coupled with the fact that most might not even realize they are sharing posts from what appear to be organized Conservative supporters — not that these people will likely mind; same as those contacts on the left won’t mind sharing from interest-groups either.

Methodology

This research is intended as an introduction to the Canadian political landscape on Facebook, and as such can act as a baseline for further monitoring of activity in the lead up to the next election.
Why Facebook?

Facebook was chosen for its prevalence in Canadian social media usage, with upwards of a 75% penetration rate in Canada. Facebook’s advertising platform claims to reach 24M people in Canada aged 18 years and older. Other estimates put this figure much lower, at around 17 million. If survey data is contrasted against the 2016 census results, it is more likely that there are some 16.2M Facebook users in Canada of voting age — or 45% of the electorate. Regardless of the rates, Facebook far outstrips other platforms (with the exception of YouTube) in social network usage in Canada, making it a worthy sampling for analysis of online activity.

Why These Pages?

Through my research with academic partners at Ryerson University’s Social Media Lab on the 2016 U.S. Primary Election, it became apparent that social network analysis must move beyond looking at official candidate accounts.

Our own research related to engagement rates of content posted by the candidates during the primary election, attempting to find predictors for what type of posts garner more likes. The extremely low rate of engagement across candidate pages (1% or fewer of campaign page followers were actually liking posts), suggested that direct methods of voter online interaction were not as effective as other techniques.

As details about trolls, memes, bots and fake news related to the campaign emerged, particularly those connected to digitally savvy campaign supporters, the outlines of a wider propaganda ecosystem began to emerge in my understanding. To investigate this further, a study of “community” Facebook Pages that support particular candidates began, looking beyond official campaign pages. The intent was to better understand how these supporters work as a community and interact with other organisations.

This approach was quite useful in the lead up to an election as Pages launch with expressed motives to support a particular candidate or party. In the current research, with two years before the next election in Canada, and long before official campaigning would normally begin, the approach had to be modified

To accommodate for this challenge in finding a right-leaning Facebook Page, I drew from knowledge of U.S. and U.K. Facebook activity. In the American and British elections, Pages such as America First and Britain First supported right-leaning political candidates and parties. Given that a pattern seemed to be emerging between closely aligned trans-Atlantic countries, it seemed likely that Canada might too have a similar Facebook Page active — and indeed does, with Canada First.

Finding left-leaning pages that might be supportive of the Liberal party in Canada was, perhaps surprisingly, more challenging. Ultimately, pages that had been actively campaigning against the last conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, emerged, and a Page called Enough Hate was selected as a seed page for the left-leaning Pages.

Beginning with these two pages, nine more were identified from either side of the political spectrum for being either publicly liked or having had posts re-shared by the initial seed page and those connected to it. The 20 Facebook Pages analysed are as follows:

RIGHT-LEANING FACEBOOK PAGES

Canada First: “Publishes news the liberal media won’t tell you about, we also have opinions, everyone has the right to free speech, or do we anymore?”

Drain The Canal: “Founded on November 19, 2016” to “Keep the elites accountable”

Conservative Tomorrow: No description provided but website address listed points to Canadiandaily.news

The Canadian Daily: “Founded in 2014” with a mission “together we can end biased and targeted media” and claim to provide “coverage on the issues the media just wont [sic] touch.”

Canadian Political Memes: “Simplifying Canadian Politics…with memes! Politics is sometimes difficult. Whether its figuring an issue out, getting answers, or figuring out someone’s logic. We aim to take the guess work out.”

Share This Canada: “We bring you shareable stories from Canada and around the world.” This Page is arguably the one outlier in the right-leaning Pages, for not being necessarily Conservative-only

Debate Post: “We are Canadian Conservatives, if you have a story you would like to share, please send a message.”

Canadian Liberals: Purports to be a “Canadian Liberals organization” but posts critical content about the Liberal Party

Canada Proud: “Like and Share this page if you’re a proud Canadian”

Elect Conservatives: “Real Grassroots Conservatives, Promoting Real Conservative ideas. [We are NOT affiliated with the Conservative Party of Canada]” The page has a mission to “Expose the lies and deceit that Justin Trudeau & co. have been feeding us since day 1. Expose the truth & promote fiscal responsibility. Putting Canadians first.”

LEFT-LEANING FACEBOOK PAGES

Enough Hate: A page originally dedicated to attacking Stephen Harper, it has since been revived to counter conservative political rhetoric

Occupy Canada: “Founded on September 25, 2011”, the page claims to “In stand solidarity with #OccupyWallStreet, and the countless other peaceful movements across the world,” including Idle No More.

ShitHarperDid.com: No description is provided. The page is less active since the last election but appears to have been created to counter conservative political rhetoric.

Leadnow.ca: The page was launched in March 2011 and “brings generations of Canadians together to achieve progress through democracy” with an emphasis on social justice.

Fight for $15 & Fairness: “We’re fighting for a $15 minimum wage & fairness at work in the province of Ontario, Canada! Join us!”

Recognition2Action: Launched early in 2017, “Recognition2Action.ca is a civic engagement campaign to educate people about the role Indigenous peoples have played in founding Canada.”

Born Rebels: While not Canadian page, Born Rebels was shared on seed pages and describes itself as “Rebels, Anarchists, Anti-Fascists, Anti-Racists decolonizing and banging on the system.”

Idle No More: Launched 29 November 2012, Idle No More shares “share information in regards to the legislation the Harper government is attempting to pass and impose on First Nations across Canada. Plus any other information relevant to First Nations across Canada.”

Sustainability the Musical: A page launched by Michael Naubert in 2011 about “the world’s first green documentary musical it continues to share information about the environment.”

Black Lives Matter — Toronto: “Black Lives Matter TO is a coalition of Black Torontonians resisting anti-Black racism, state-sponsored violence, police brutality…”

The following publicly available data for all of these pages was collected on 20 July 2017 using Netvizz:

Facebook Page Like networks. Beginning with an initial “seed” page, all of the other Facebook pages liked by the seed are collected in a directed network of pages, meaning the data shows which page likes which. Using an analytical tool called Gephi, these networks can be visualised. The data in this pull also included information regarding page categories, follower numbers, and rates of engagement.

Facebook page posts. All of the posts made by these pages during the period from 17 June to 17 July 2017 were also collected, including information regarding the type of post, engagement rates and embedded links.

A Word of Caution

While the findings in this piece shed light on the viewpoints of specific online communities, it is but a small window into a much wider political landscape and by no means is entirely representative. This study looks more closely at 20 pages, which belong to a Facebook Page Like network of 793 pages on the left, and 217 on the right, with average Page followers in that network of 307,759 and 375,823, respectively, representing some 2% of Canadian Facebook users. As such, this work is but a starting point from which further research could be launched to monitor and analyse the Canadian political landscape leading up to the next election. This research could be used in conjunction with other analysis such as polling data, media and internet mentions, and other social network analysis to better understand Canadian political perspectives and how interest-based groups are mobilizing in a political context.

Findings

United We Post?

The right-leaning Facebooks Pages were united in a common cause: criticising Liberals and their supporters. Beyond their lack of love for the opposing political parties, the right-leaning Pages also tended to be concerned with the same issues, often sharing the same messages. These recurring issues included the economy, immigration, Omar Khadr, terrorism, and promoting Conservative politicians.

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During the time period analysed, the Liberal government in Canada had reached a $10.5 million settlement with Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was accused of fighting for the Taliban, captured by the US forces at 16 and detained in Guantanamo without a trial. This settlement angered the administrators of the right-leaning Facebook Pages analysed in this study, who felt that Khadr is a “terrorist” and a “traitor.” All but one of the right-leaning Pages posted about Khadr, accounting for 23% of all posts analysed. Three pages dedicated a significant number of posts to the topic, including Conservative Tomorrow (38%), Canadian Political Memes (37%), and Canadian Liberals (80%).

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While only two left-leaning Facebook Pages posted about Khadr, their perspective was quite different. The left-leaning Pages suggested that Khadr’s rights had been violated — and moreover, that it wasn’t the Liberals who are to blame, but past governments, including that under Conservative Stephen Harper.

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A majority (80%) of right-leaning Pages were also very concerned with terrorism accounting for 10% of all posts analysed, while half of the Pages also posted about Islam accounting for 7% of all posts. These posts were often disparaging in nature, and positioned Canadians (among others) under threat of Islam’s encroach. The Pages Debate Post and Canada First were particularly interested in Islam, with 32% and 17% of their respective posts covering the issue.

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Left Alone?

The left-leaning Facebook Pages tended to appear less on the same message than did the right-leaning ones. The left-leaning Facebook Pages each tended to be much more focused on a single topic, such as Fight for $15 & Fairness on raising the minimum wage, Sustainability the Musical on the environment, and Enough Hate, on criticising Conservative politicians. Interest-based Pages posted almost exclusively on their focused topic, rendering the left-leaning Pages less cohesive in their posts than those in the right-leaning group. That being said, several topics did appear in posts across many Pages, including posts about racism, police brutality, both liberal and conservative politicians, the economy and issues concerning Indigenous peoples in Canada.

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Oh, Canada Day?

A particular line of posts shared across most of the left-leaning Facebook Pages addressed the controversy surrounding celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Canada, (which took place 1 July 2017, during the period analysed). Out of the 10 left-leaning Pages, seven shared posts about how problematic the commemorations are from an Indigenous peoples’ perspective.

Posts such as this video by Maclean’s, a Canadian magazine, explained why not everyone in Canada was celebrating, were shared by Leadnow.ca, Recognition2Action and Occupy Canada.

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Other Pages posted Facebook video feeds from protestors, news coverage, and custom images explaining the controversy. Sustainability the Musical posted a different point of view, namely Canada’s perceived favour of economic policy over tackling climate change.

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Canada Day was also featured on right-leaning Facebook Pages, albeit, quite differently.

Absent were mentions of protestors “Unsettling Canada 150…in support of Indigenous self-determination over land, territories and resources.” However, Canadian Political Memes criticised the Ryerson Students’ Union logo created to support #Resist150

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The right-leaning Pages instead focused on criticising Justin Trudeau’s omission of Alberta in a speech, the 150th anniversary flag, and the cost to Ontarians (a province with a Liberal premiere) of bringing a giant rubber duck to the waterfront on Canada Day. Whereas the left-leaning Pages expressed shame for Canada’s past regarding Indigenous peoples and the environment, the right-leaning pages expressed frustrated patriotism at not having Canada marked as they saw fit.

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Justin Trudeau: Love, Love Me Don’t?

One topic seemed to enjoy consensus among almost all of the Pages analyzed: the Liberal government’s shortcomings. As mentioned above, all of the right-leaning Pages shared posts criticizing the Liberal government, accounting for 51% of all posts analysed. On the left, 70% of the Pages posted critical content about the Liberals, in 18% of theirs posts. The reasons for criticism vary between the two sides.

The left-leaning Pages pointed to the government’s failure to make electoral reforms, address pressing issues related to Indigenous peoples, or implement changes to Access to Information Laws.

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On the right, Justin Trudeau, the Liberal party, and Liberal supporters were all the targets of critical posts, including memes. One line of complaint seems to build on the Liberal government’s settlement with Khadr. In these posts, Trudeau is said to have secretly converted to Islam or referred to as “Jihadist Justin”. Other posts position supposed Liberal policies as leading to the introduction of Sharia law in Canada.

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Another stream of posts goes beyond attacking politicians to mocking Liberal voters. These posts often featured humorous memes, and attempted to engage users by posing questions or asking them to tag Liberal friends in the comment section.

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My Network is Bigger Than Yours

The Facebook Page Like network of the two groups of Pages also differed.

On the Left

The Facebook Page Like network of the left-leaning Pages is noticeably larger than that of the right-leaning ones, with more than 3.6 times the number of nodes and 12 times as many connections between them. The inclusion of Occupy Canada, which was launched in 2011, accounts for most of this size discrepancy as it connects into a wider community of international counterparts, represented in the network diagram below by the green coloured grouping. In turn, Occupy Canada is a key node between the wider Occupy networks and a community of Canadian pages, represented in purple, which include Leadnow.ca, ShitHarperDid.com, David Suzuki Foundation, Tar Sands Blockade, and Idle No More. Pages such as Fight for $15 & Fairness (in orange) and Black Lives Matter — Toronto (in pink) are connected to the overall network, but through minimal links and are thus outliers.

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View the PDF file here

On The Right

The right-leaning Pages, on the other hand, have a smaller network, but appear much better coordinated between each other, often sharing the same posts as noted above. This includes a series of posts telling followers that a million Likes on a post will result in Trudeau’s resignation, and another story from Debate Post outlining how Donald Trump could become Prime Minister, which was shared by three Pages, with a fourth posting on how Canadians want this outcome.

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Likewise, the same content criticizing the Khadr settlement was reposted across right-leaning pages, sometimes reposted multiple times on a single Facebook Page.

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Two Pages, Conservative Tomorrow and The Canadian Daily, shared the nearly exact same posts accounting for 70% of the former’s posts, and 100% of the latter’s. These posts were shares from another Facebook Page, The International Review, a Media/News Company that purports to be “bringing you the truth”. Given that both Pages are sharing the exact same content, accounting for most if not all of their posts, it is likely that these Pages were created simply to promote The International Review. Reposting of content like this across Pages helps seed the website URL and, in turn, can contribute to manipulating trend and search algorithms and was done in the Trump 2016 campaign.

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Right-leaning Pages also shared other Facebook posts. One third of all posts made by the right-leaning Pages were shares from other Pages and accounts.

Beyond sharing the same content and each other’s posts, the right-leaning Pages are also tapping into official political organizations. Through the key node, Elect Conservatives, the right-leaning Pages are connecting into the Conservative Party of Canada and affiliated political figures, helping to spread their messages.

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View the PDF file here


True North Proud and… Conservative?

Among the right-leaning Facebook Page network was a series of Pages named for Canadian provinces. Beyond Canada Proud, several other geographically focused Pages also appeared within the right-leaning Facebook Page network, mostly manifest in their posts being shared by the 20 right-leaning Pages analysed. The Pages included:

· Saskatchewan Proud

· Manitoba Proud

· BC Proud

· Proud Ontario

· Proud Albertan

Most of these Pages appeared to be dedicated to criticising those provincial governments that are not currently Conservative, a theme which was also manifest in the half of the right-leaning Pages analysed.

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But Not That Kind of Pride

Several Canadian Pride festivals took place during the period analysed, including in Edmonton (9–18 July 2017), Toronto (1–25 June 2017), Victoria (1–9 July 2017) and

Halifax (20–30 July 2017). Both the left- and right-leaning Facebook analysed discussed the topic.

Those left-leaning Pages that posted about Pride tended to be supportive in their messaging. This support was also reflected in posts about wider topics related to the LGBTQ+ community. Half of the left-leaning Pages referenced such topics, accounting for 3% of the posts analysed. One Facebook post of note from Born Rebels criticised the alt-right personality, Milo Yiannopolis, referencing his sexual orientation vis-Ă -vis his political beliefs.

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Half of the right-leaning Pages made posts about sexual orientation, accounting for 3% of all posts analysed. Some of these posts were articles produced by Debate Post on its website, and shared by the right-leaning Pages. These posts might be considered by some as satirical, such as one entitled “Non-Gay Sex May Be Banned Because It’s Bad For The Environment”, which is a dig at two left-leaning groups: the LGBTQ+ community and environmentalists.

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Regarding Pride, the right-leaning Pages were mostly critical, and in particular focused on Justin Trudeau’s support of festivals and parades. Debate Post used pictures of Trudeau’s participation at the Halifax Pride parade for articles on its site claiming that the Prime Minister had been “rushed to hospital for [a] mental health assessment”. An image from the Toronto Pride parade in 2016 of Trudeau with his wife, Sophie Grégoire, was posted by Canada First with a challenge to followers to “describe them in one word”. Other posts about Pride asked followers whether Canadian taxpayers should be funding such events.

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Conservatives and the Beasts?

Some right-leaning Pages were worried about Canadian laws on bestiality. Three of the 10 Pages analysed posted alarming messages that Canada had legalized sex with animals. This topic was such a going concern, Elect Conservatives posted three times on the subject alone.

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The story that bestiality was now legal in Canada was not reported in mainstream media outlets, and Snopes, a fact checking website, debunked the claim noting that during a specific court case the Supreme Court of Canada had “ruled that the current definition of bestiality only included penetrative acts,” and that no “new law legalizing oral sex with animals” had been passed in the country. This clarification will come as little relief to administrators of the right-leaning Pages, however. If an update by Debate Post is any indication, Snopes is not a trusted news source among the right-leaning Pages, as it is “a Liberal left leaning website”, full of staff with “liberal backgrounds”.

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Stranger Danger?

Views on immigrants varied markedly between the right- and left-leaning Facebook Pages.

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Seven of the right-leaning Pages posted about immigration, accounting for 5% of all posts analysed. These posts were widely critical of newcomers to Canada, and suggested an unwillingness to accommodate others. A thread among these posts focused on Muslim immigrants in particular, and expressed concerns about burkas, Sharia law, and changes to Canadian customs, more broadly.

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On the whole, immigration was not raised as much on the left-leaning Pages. In total four Pages out of 10 posted on the topic, accounting for just 1% of all posts. The posts made to the left-leaning Pages were generally supportive of immigration and the people who help new Canadians. Enough Hate criticized Conservative politicians for their approach to immigration.

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Post and Post Some More

The right-leaning Pages posted more than the left-leaning ones. On average, the right-leaning pages shared 3.45 times as many posts than those on the left.

Elect Conservatives was notable for its volume of posts. The Page shared 1,416 posts in the month analysed, or 2.3 times as much the next most active Facebooker analysed, Canada First. To put this volume of posts into context, in research on the U.K. 2017 election, a comparable Page, Momentum, — which also purports to be a grassroots, community-based page supporting a political party but not an official wing of it — shared just 266 posts in the month leading up to voting day.

Whether it is the volume of posts or something else, the approach appears to be working for the right-leaning Page, who were also talked about, on average, twice as much on Facebook than the left-leaning Pages.

Looking at the top posts with the highest rate of engagement across the right-leaning Pages, 40% asked followers a question, 30% asked them to share a post, and half were about Khadr. Six of the right-learning Pages had 70 posts in total that each enjoyed 1000 or more shares. By comparison, four of the left-leaning Pages had one post each garner shares of 1000 or more.

That said, the post that enjoyed the highest rate in engagement was published by the left-leaning Page, Born Rebels. The video post was a clip from a press conference in which an Indigenous activist reacts to a reporter’s question about Trudeau’s culpability in “the death of an Indigenous youth.” The post, at the time of pulling the data, was shared 38,583 times, garnering 79,291 engagements.

The most shared post came from Elect Conservatives asking followers to share a picture of Trudeau if they are ashamed because of the Khadr settlement — albeit put in different terms. This post was shared 43,896 times (as of the data pull), and garnered 46,932 engagements.

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It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Media

All of the Pages analysed shared links to external websites, other than social networking sites.

CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster, continues to be an important source across both groups of Pages — even if it isn’t always liked. Four right-leaning Pages shared links to CBC. And CBC was the most shared domain for the right-leaning Pages, Canadian Political Memes, Canadian Liberals, Elect Conservatives, and the second most shared by Drain The Canal. CBC was also shared by 70% of the left-leaning Pages, and was the first or second most shared source on those pages — accounting for an average of 25% of the links shared by those Pages.

The left-leaning Pages shared a greater variety of sources, with an average of 35.14 different websites shared per Page, versus 22.88 on the right-leaning Pages.

Both groups were critical of the media. Ironically, both sides felt that the media is helping support or foster the opposition’s messaging. On the left-leaning Pages this was manifest in criticism over providing right-leaning activists a public platform through news coverage and the media’s role in normalizing intolerance. In the case of Enough Hate, mention of media is again more an attack on what Conservative politicians are saying about the journalism.

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Six out of 10 right-leaning Pages referenced the media in posts, usually in the context of “how it gets it wrong” or suppresses stories.

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In many ways, these right-leaning Pages purport to be offering an alternative access to Canadian media. Six of the 10 right-leaning Pages have opted to describe themselves as a Media/News Company or Media Agency. Three of them, Debate Post, Canada First, and The Canadian Daily refer specifically to media, in particular offering content that mainstream media will not publish.

Websites like Debate Post featured heavily in shares by right-leaning Pages analysed in this study. Half of the right-leaning Pages shared articles from debatepost.com, accounting for 76% of the links shared by Canada First and nearly all of the links to the Debate Post Facebook Page. Other notable links included internationalreview.com, and grittyhits.com, which was shared by three of the right-leaning pages. All of these sites post anti-Trudeau content, and offer little by way of who is behind these sites. The content posted to these website is also reminiscent of the myriad sites that supported Trump during the 2016 election, posting stories of questionable provenance about Muslims and opposition politicians that enjoy high rates of shares on Facebook.

For example, one story on the sexual assault of a young girl in Idaho allegedly by a Muslim lacked any sources or references. In another, Oslo police are said to have “lost the city”, but no official corroboration can be found online (although a series of right-leaning websites that have appeared repeatedly in prior research on political campaigns in the U.S. and U.K. also spread the same story). Moreover, a reverse image search of the associated picture returns similar claims and stories, but in Sweden, published by sites such as InfoWars and the neo-Nazi site, The Daily Stormer.

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Just as right-leaning Pages shared Conservative sources, the left-leaning pages shared many “progressive” sources. Left-leaning websites like PressProgress.ca, run by the “progressive” Broadbent Institute (whose website was also shared on the left), Americanprogress.org, ProgressAlberta.ca, and ShareProgress were all notable links shared by left-leaning pages.🔷


Author image
Director of Strategic Communications at The SecDev Foundation.