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>> The Alternative for Germany is winning the online battle ahead of bellwether elections in Germany. The far right party's campaign is provocative and polarizing, a big change from the staid style typical of post-war Germany. Here, they call for asylum seekers to be deported and here, for Islam-free schools.
I'm Doug Busvine reporting for Reuters from Frankfurt. The AfD won seats for the first time in last year's general election with a campaign that appealed to Germans unsettled by the influx of more than 1 million asylum seekers. It's repeating that formula as it campaigns in Bavaria. The election there is a key test for the Christian Social Union, the regional ruling party that backs Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Polls show the CSU facing its worst result in decades, and that could put strains on Merkel's coalition in Berlin. The AfD, meanwhile, is latching onto reports of crimes against Germans that it blames on migrants, including the recent killing of a man in the eastern city of Chemnitz. It's mobilizing its supporters on the streets, and it's mobilizing them on social media.
A new study shows just how adept the AfD is at getting its message out. The report by researchers from the Technical University in Munich looked at last year's general election campaign. It found that the AfD outperformed all comers when it came to Facebook likes, comments and shares. And on Twitter, of the 100 most popular posts half of them were about the AfD.
The party polled 12.6% in last year's general election. And according to recent national tracking polls, its support has risen to the mid to high teens.
AfD supporters often shared stories from right wing alternative news media that share the party's hardline nationalist views. But in contrast to the US presidential election of 2016, the researchers didn't find much evidence of fake news spreading in Germany. What they did find was frustration. Of all the parties, Facebook posts the AfD's were most likely to attract a reaction in the form of a click on the angry emoji.