Comparing Trends in Anti-migrant Political Discourse in Canada and Germany

Published: Winter 2024    |    By: Jean-Christophe Boucher, Camielle Adams, Jenny Kim|   Volume 72, No. 1



 Comparing methods by which misinformation and disinformation online alters public opinion in one country sheds light on threats to democracy in others.

To this end this paper aimed to replicate a study that revealed how German far-right narratives travelled through social media platforms, news media and party networks to turn public opinion against a 2017 UN agreement called the Global Compact on Migration. Ulrike Klinger and her co-authors identified a mechanism by which information circulating within a right-wing media ecosystem escaped its confines and impacted the larger national debate on immigration. In this paper, we used Twitter data following the Syrian refugee crisis to examine the immigration debate in Canada in 2019 to assess whether a similar mechanism is visible in the
interaction between white supremacist groups and mainstream political groups on immigration.

While we found significant alignment and level of engagement between the social media followers of right-wing and far-right groups in Canada, these did not alter public opinion on immigration. Nevertheless, the German case does offer insights into how the spread of misinformation and disinformation online can generate a sense of certainty in media reporting.

About the Authors

Jean-Christophe Boucher is an Associate Professor at the School of Public Policy and at the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary. His current work focuses on applied machine learning to understand how the digital world shapes our society. He is currently holding grants from the Department of National Defence (DND) to study information operations; the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to understand civil-military relations in Canada; and holds grants from Alberta Innovates, the Vaccine Confidence Fund and Merck to study vaccine hesitancy on social media to develop better communications strategies and tools to increase vaccine uptake. He holds a BA in History from the University of Ottawa, a MA in Philosophy from the Université de Montréal and a PhD in Political Science from Université Laval. He specializes in international relations, with an emphasis on foreign policy, international security, and data analytics.

Camielle Adams is currently a Research Assistant at the University of Calgary. She also spends her time being a freelance editor and researcher for various non-fiction and fiction publications. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Tuskegee University and a current graduate student of the University of Calgary where she studies Political Science. Her current passion and research focus is studying the relationship between social media and right-wing domestic terrorism, while also exploring the depths of conspiracy theories and how they proliferate on social media. While social media and domestic terrorism are her current focus, she often works with other researchers to study fandoms and the impact that social media has had on their communities.

Jenny Kim is a data analyst at the School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, as well as a lead data scientist at 19 to Zero, a non-profit coalition of public and private health experts aimed at improving people’s health through behaviour change. Jenny’s passion lies in social media listening and developing novel ways to apply social network analysis and natural language processing to study attitudes and behaviours in social media conversations. Some of Jenny’s responsibilities include conducting research on misinformation and public health communication, specifically studying vaccine hesitant and vaccine confident discourse to develop better communication strategies. Through her work, Jenny strives to make a positive impact on public health communication and policy. Jenny has a Master’s Degree in Data Science and Analytics from the University of Calgary, and specializes in health data science and biostatistics.