D5.2 Country Report | January 2023

Authors: Hannah V. Guy, Ozge Ozduzen – University of Sheffield

The DRad 5.2 UK country report studies the online agents of far-right extremism and the ways in which citizens and members of civil society attempt to tackle social and political problems related to radicalisation in the UK. By looking at the patterns of visual political communication on social media platforms, the report showcases everyday expressions of sexism, misogyny, transphobia, and racialisation in the UK. In doing so, it aims to provide a scholarly discussion on the textual and visual affordances pertinent to social media platforms that help reproduce existing power structures and social inequalities in society, whilst reinforcing legacy media norms. The report identifies several reasons to explain the underlying issues that help the formation of performative masculinity and its mainstreaming as a far-right reference point for wider users and audiences. First, the Brexit vote in 2016 and subsequent right-wing, nativistic, and populist political leaders such as former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have made certain radicalised and divisive narratives mainstream in the UK. Second, recent research questions the algorithmic systems underlying new technologies and how they bolster already existing social inequalities and exclusions as well as the communicative tools of social media platforms and apps that boost the visibility of various forms of online hate. Moreover, social media platforms remain largely unregulated, with proposed regulations facing major backlash as some proponents of freedom of speech oppose strict regulation. Problematic and controversial figures can also move from platform to platform, avoiding absolute removal. Although the report is interested in users’ engagement with newer platforms (e.g. TikTok) and the ways these actors and stakeholders engage with them, the report also analyses different types of radicalisation and deradicalisation on legacy social media platforms (e.g. YouTube) where narratives hit the mainstream, are legitimised in society, and reach wider audiences and receive wider support.