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Far-right AfD appears as strongest German party on TikTok

June 4, 2024

Politicians and figures linked to the far-right Alternative for Germany party use TikTok as a "parallel universe" to spread extremism, a study says. Meanwhile, other parties show "weak performance" on the platform.

A hand holding a phone with an AfD social media account displayed on the screen
AfD's popularity among young German voters has increased in recent yearsImage: Janine Schmitz/ picture alliance

Of all the parties represented in the German parliament, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) uses the youth social media platform TikTok the most, according to a study published Tuesday.

"We are observing masses of openly right-wing extremist symbols and codes on TikTok," said Deborah Schnabel, the director of the Anne Frank Educational Center, which conducted the analysis. 

"Time and again, accounts from the AfD or from the party's environment are involved" in such content, Schnabel said. 

AfD party leader Alice Weidel was one of the top five political influencers on TikTok in Germany, the study noted. AfD politician Ulrich Siegmund of the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt was in first place with more than 400,000 followers. 

Woman holding a mobile phone on whose display a video of AFD politician Alice Weidel can be seen on the TikTok platform
Alice Weidel has nearly 300,000 followers on TikTokImage: Guido Schiefer/IMAGO

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's account has around 260,000 followers, and Robert Habeck's, the vice chancellor, has less than 30,000.

'Parallel universe'

The authors of the 62-page study warned that AfD politicians and right-wing extremists use the platform as a "parallel universe" to spread their ideology and garner support from young people. 

"On TikTok, the AfD presents itself as a caretaker and champion of young people — democratic parties have not yet found any good answers to this," said Schnabel. 

For example, the authors said Weidel is often shown on TikTok as spontaneous and funny, promoting a different image than that portrayed in traditional media.

A major poll published in April showed that the AfD was the favorite party among young people aged 14 to 29, with a projected 22% of the vote — double its score just a year ago.

'Weak performance' from other parties

Schnabel noted that AfD member of parliament Sebastian Münzenmaier from Mainz, for example, has almost 80,000 followers on the platform. In contrast, the center-left Social Democrats' (SPD) secretary-general, Kevin Kühnert, has around 11,000.

While many politicians and government figures have TikTok accounts, Schnabel said they must rethink their communication strategies, noting their "weak performance."

Putting explanatory videos and educational content on Tiktok is not enough, she said.

"Young people also want to be respected in their aesthetic attitudes and addressed on an emotional level," Schnabel added. She called for media skills and political education to be given a higher priority in schools.

fb/rc (dpa, KNA, EPD)

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