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  • 1.
    Eriksson Krutrök, Moa
    et al.
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
    Through a white lens: Black victimhood, visibility, and whiteness in the Black Lives Matter movement on TikTok2023In: Information, Communication and Society, ISSN 1369-118X, E-ISSN 1468-4462, Vol. 26, no 10, p. 1996-2014Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    In this paper, we explore how highly visible users in the context of #BlackLivesMatter on TikTok shape the narrative around Black victims of police brutality, the understanding of these narratives by others, and the potential consequences of these portrayals for the movement at large. To examine these dimensions, we analysed the 100 most circulated TikTok videos and associated comments depicting victims of police brutality using the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag through multimodal critical discourse analysis. We identified how users attempted to increase visibility of their content, and how this was supported or criticised by commenters depending on the perceived motives of these efforts. Furthermore, we showcased how influencers raised awareness of the movement with little personal effort or risk, sometimes appearing to leverage the movement for self-exposure. Our analysis showed that many of the most liked videos were made by white content creators who, in their videos, seemed to be addressing an imagined white audience. While these efforts portrayed the movement favourably, the content creators remain outsiders who have not themselves been in harm's way of police brutality. While there were exceptions that promoted the perspectives of marginalised communities, and while the white narratives were consistently supportive of the movement, they also work to displace focus on racial (in)justice away from those directly affected by it, that is, away from Black people’s own experiences of police brutality. We discuss these findings in relation to questions about digital representations of Black victimhood, digital visibility and practices of whiteness, on TikTok and beyond.

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  • 2.
    Merrill, Samuel
    et al.
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
    Schroeder, Ralph
    University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
    Jumle, Vihang
    University of Bern, Germany.
    Rau, Jan
    Leibniz-Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institute, Germany.
    Schwieter, Christian
    Stockholm University, United States.
    Yan, Pu
    Peking University, United States.
    Kessling, Philipp
    Leibniz-Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institute, Germany.
    The shifting image of Sweden abroad: framings of the 2022 Swedish election in traditional and far-right online media from the United States, Germany, India, and China2024In: Nationalism & Ethnic Politics, ISSN 1353-7113, E-ISSN 1557-2986Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The 2022 Swedish election saw a radical-right populist party—the Sweden Democrats—gain direct government influence in the country for the first time. This contrasted with the international image of Sweden as a progressive county yet resonated with the country's growing ideological use by foreign far-right actors. This article analyzes the framing of Sweden's image in traditional and far-right online media from the United States, Germany, India, and China during this election. It explores to what extent and when Sweden gained online media attention and how the election was framed across these countries and media types.

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  • 3.
    Merrill, Samuel
    et al.
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
    Standing up for Sweden?: the racist discourses, architectures and affordances of an anti-immigration Facebook Group2018In: Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, E-ISSN 1083-6101, Vol. 23, no 6, p. 332-353Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Facebook has faced growing criticism regarding its handling of hateful user-generated content(UGC) with research revealing how the platform can foster both covert and overt racism. Thisresearch has tended to focus on racist content while relying on abstract references to the generallogics of social media platforms. In this article we consider how Facebook shapes the production ofracist discourse in more concrete ways by integrating a concern for the platform’s architecturesand affordances within a broader analysis of the immigration-related discussions of a largeSwedish Facebook group. We combine a quantitative topic modeling of a large data set of thegroup’s UGC with a qualitative critical discourse analysis (CDA) of a sample of that data set. Ourfindings show how Facebook enables and influences various discursive strategies of identificationand persuasion—within which covert and overt racist discourses are embedded—through pro-cesses of cybertyping, role-playing, crowdsourcing and (counter-)reaction.

  • 4.
    Palmgren, Amanda
    et al.
    Umeå University.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
    Viklund, Lisen
    Umeå University.
    Refugees versus 'refugees': the role of Islamophobia in Swedish alternative media’s reporting on Ukrainian asylum seekers2023In: Media Culture and Society, ISSN 0163-4437, E-ISSN 1460-3675, Vol. 45, no 7, p. 1400-1417Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This paper analyses how immigrants are understood by Swedish alternative media and the role that Islamophobia plays, if at all, in these representations. What is remarkable is that although all articles were sampled explicitly to discuss Ukraine, the analysis showed that Muslim immigrants figured with unexpected frequency throughout. The value of these two immigrant groups were antagonistically contrasted through arguments of alleged differences in culture and geographical origin, perceived legitimacy as asylum seekers, and in terms gratitude and supposed level of threat to Swedish society. With this, the unity that is formed around Islamophobia trumps any nationalist views of the Swedish nation state as particularly superior or white and the social and economic consequences which are usually believed to be at risk due to immigration. By extension, the war in Ukraine is articulated as a matter of whiteness and works to exploit war for strengthening the transnational far right.

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  • 5.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
    Automatiserad datainsamling2021In: Digitala metoder i humaniora och samhällsvetenskap / [ed] Johan Jarlbrink; Fredrik Norén, Lund: Studentlitteratur AB, 2021, 1, p. 137-160Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [sv]

    Tillgången till stora datamängder online har inneburit möjligheter att utforska nya studieobjekt och forskningsfrågor, och givit upphov till nya storskaliga digitala analysmetoder. Men innan sådana analyser kan påbörjas behöver data först samlas in. Automatiserade datainsamlingsmetoder kan utnyttja de stora mängder data som finns tillgängliga online och extrahera material som hade varit alltför omfattande och tidskrävande att samla in på manuellt vis. Detta kapitel berör de generella möjligheter och förutsättningar som finns att samla in olika typer av digitala material från internet med hjälp av automatiserade datainsamlingsmetoder. I kapitlet ges en överblick av dessa metodtyper. Här problematiseras också frågor om urval, avgränsningar, tekniska färdigheter och etik samt betydelsen olika val kan ha för analys och tolkning. Den avslutande delen av kapitlet ger exempel på hur automatiserad datainsamling kan gå till och hur insamlade datamaterial sedan kan förberedas för analys.

  • 6.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
    Dog whistling far-right code words: the case of ‘culture enricher' on the Swedish web2022In: Information, Communication and Society, ISSN 1369-118X, E-ISSN 1468-4462, Vol. 25, no 12, p. 1808-Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This paper uses the Swedish, once neo-Nazi expression culture enricher (Swedish: kulturberikare) as a case study to explore how covert and coded far-right discourse is mainstreamed, over time and across websites. A sample of 2,336 uses of the expression between 1999 and 2020 were analysed using critical discourse analysis. The findings illustrate how the expression works like a ‘dog whistle’ by enabling users to discretely self-identify with an imagined in-group of discontent white ‘Swedes’, while simultaneously showing opposition to the priorities of a generalised ‘establishment’. It shows how the expression is circulated in settings ranging from mainstream to far-right, and particularly, it highlights the potential role of semi-radical settings to act as gateways between mainstream and far-right ideas. Finally, the analysis shows evolving, ever more covertly hateful uses of the expression over time, illustrating the adaptability of far-right language online more generally, as a means to evade unwanted exposure by the far-right.

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  • 7.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. DIGSUM.
    Far right, right here: interconnections of discourse, platforms, and users in the digital mainstream2022Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    Background: This thesis explores the far right online beyond the study of political parties and extremist far-right sites and content. Specifically, it focuses on the proliferation of far-right discourse among ‘ordinary’ internet users in mainstream digital settings. In doing so, it aims to bring the study of far-right discourse and the enabling roles of digital platforms and influential users into dialogue. It does so by analysing what is communicated and how; where it is communicated and therein the roles of different socio-technical features associated with various online settings; and finally, by whom, focusing on particularly influential users.

    Methods: The thesis uses material from four different datasets of digital, user-generated content, collected at different times through different methods. These datasets have been analysed using mixedmethods approaches wherein interpretative methods, primarily in the form of critical discourse analysis (CDA), have been combined with various data processing techniques, descriptive statistics, visualisations, and computational data analysis methods.

    Results: The thesis provides a number of findings in relation to farright discourse, digital platforms, and online influence, respectively. In doing so it builds on the findings of previous research, illustrates unexpected and contradictory results in relation to what was previously known, and makes a number of interesting new discoveries. Overall, it begins to unravel the complex interconnectedness of far-right discourse, platforms, and influential users, and illustrates that to understand the far-right’s efforts online it is imperative to take several dimensions into account simultaneously.

    Conclusion: The thesis makes several contributions. First, the thesis makes a conceptual contribution by focusing on the interconnectedness of far-right efforts online. Second, it makes an empirical contribution by exploring the multifaceted grassroots or ‘non-party’ dimensions of farright mobilisation, Finally, the thesis makes a methodological contribution through its mix of methods which illustrates how different aspects of the far right, over varying time periods, diversely sized and shaped datasets, and user constellations, can be approached to reveal broader overarching patterns as well as intricate details.

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  • 8.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. Centre for Digital Social Research (DIGSUM).
    Influence Without Metrics: Analyzing the Impact of Far-Right Users in an Online Discussion Forum2021In: Social Media + Society, E-ISSN 2056-3051, Vol. 7, no 2, article id 20563051211008831Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The study presented in this article explores the processes through which influence takes shape in eclectic online forums with few vanity metrics. Using a dataset of 7.5 million posts in the large Swedish online discussion forum Flashback, it explores who becomes influential, their strategies for appealing to the community, and others’ support of them. While it has been known that Flashback hosts far-right users and content, the current study shows that these sentiments are not fringe or obscure, but instead seemingly widely supported and influential in the forum. It illustrates that the influential users - those who are supported and acknowledged by others as important - exclusively and continuously expressed far-right ideas and displayed an embeddedness within the far-right, as well as in the forum’s culture. The study finds that despite few visible markers, many users learned to recognize influential users and their far-right content as worthy of support. In the absence of built-in functions, some users engaged in manual “liking” and “sharing” of influential users’ content via their replies, acknowledging it as a way to legitimize them. At the same time, the analysis showcased how a lack of vanity metrics countered potential echo chamber effects in the forum as disliked users - advocating progressive gender and immigration ideas - were unintentionally amplified by those who attempted to silence them. The article also discusses the role of Flashback as a platform in the proliferation of hate.

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  • 9.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
    Politics of deliberate inaction: the disconnect between platform justifications and user imaginaries on content moderation in a ‘free speech’ online forum2023In: New Media and Society, ISSN 1461-4448, E-ISSN 1461-7315Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This article analyses the ‘free speech’ online forum Flashback, which adheres to a strict non-interference policy when it comes to user-generated content, but beyond this also forbids users from deleting their own content or accounts. Through a qualitative content analysis, this article sought to understand the relationship between the platform and its users with respect to this unconventional approach to moderation and content removal. This article discusses both the position(s) taken by Flashback as it pertains to its policy of minimal moderation, and the expectations as expressed by users navigating Flashbacks rules and their practical implementations. The article shows a discrepancy between how Flashback (incoherently) justifies minimal moderation and how users had imagined the platform operating. The article also discusses how Flashback maintains these policies through its community’s active encouragement via supportive posting and silencing of non-conformers, and the consequences that Flashback’s inaction has in terms of residual hate.

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  • 10.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. Umeå University.
    Representations of Trans People in Swedish Newspapers2019In: Journalism Studies, ISSN 1461-670X, E-ISSN 1469-9699, Vol. 20, no 9, p. 1319-1338Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This article analyses the discursive representations of trans people in 15,901 mainstream Swedish newspaper articles between 2000 and 2017 using topic modelling and critical discourse analysis. Drawing from critical perspectives on gender it was found that the articles to various degree assisted in maintaining heteronormativity. The discursive strategies employed by the journalists included trivialisation of trans expressions as dress-up and incorporation of them within binary stereotypes. Trans people were also excluded and deemed as deviant in some articles through insensitive gender descriptions and descriptions. Through the voices of experts, trans people were silenced and pathologized and while some representations of trans people were meant to empower, and offered a slightly less rigid view on gender, these articles too reinforced heteronormativity through continuous referral to binary gender.

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  • 11.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
    The importance of influential users in (re)producing Swedish far-right discourse on Twitter2020In: European Journal of Communication, ISSN 0267-3231, E-ISSN 1460-3705, Vol. 35, no 5, p. 613-628Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Using a combination of descriptive statistics, sentiment analysis and close readings of a collection of 74,336 Swedish tweets, this article explores the platform usage patterns of users who are influential in a Swedish far-right discourse on Twitter and how these users help to (re)produce far-right discourse. Specifically, it focuses on their use of platform functions and on language use. The analysis shows that influential users have a narrow focus in terms of the content they post and how they profile themselves. They are highly active, have more followers and produce more original content than other users. Surprisingly, while previous research has found that emotionally charged tweets are retweeted more and that highly popular and influential Twitter users tend to express more emotion while tweeting, influential users in this dataset often posted far-right content concealed as neutral, factual statements. This use of seemingly neutral language creates an inclusive far-right context, lets influential users evade responsibility for their content as well as facilitates more overtly hateful interpretations.

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  • 12.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
    The Sweden paradox: US far-right fantasies of a dystopian utopia2023In: Journal of ethnic and migration studies, ISSN 1369-183X, E-ISSN 1469-9451, Vol. 49, no 19, p. 4789-4808Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This paper analyses how Sweden has come to be imagined and represented on the websites of US far right organisations since the start of the so-called 'migration crisis' of 2015. It focused specifically on when Sweden is discussed by the US far right and in relation to what events, and what values and associations are attributed to Sweden. The analysis showed that news events were not reported on by US far-right organisations as they took place in Sweden but instead appropriated and accentuated when they could be used to make certain points directed at the audiences of these organisations. Furthermore, the findings showed that the texts tended to focus on scaremongering about Muslim immigrants and Islam in ways that highly resembled those of the European far right. The paper discusses how such framing helps the international far right form a coherent narrative and all-applicable template for the problems of Muslims facing the Western world. Finally, the analysis showed how Sweden is positioned in a complex juxtaposition: as something both good and bad; superior while also inferior; a great nationalist role model but also a warning example, and how Swedish whiteness plays a central role in these depictions.

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  • 13.
    Åkerlund, Mathilda
    et al.
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
    Nylén, Daniel
    Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics.
    From technology speculation to value creation: the changing discourse and actants in the construction of IoT on Twitter2021In: First Monday, E-ISSN 1396-0466, Vol. 26, no 12Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly becoming an important technology, affecting our everyday lives, and is predicted to do so even more extensively in the coming years. Still, the concept remains somewhat fuzzy. As IoT continues to grow in importance and scope, so does the need to understand how the concept is used and what it represents. This study analyzes over nine million tweets over an extended sample period, applying a mixed methods approach to investigate how IoT is understood on Twitter over time, and importantly, the human and non-human actors that were prolific in shaping the discourse. The findings reveal a changing focus within the IoT discourse over time — from a primary technological, engineering perspective to one which highlighted practical implementations and particularly ways of leveraging IoT solutions to cultivate service innovation and generate novel forms of value creation. However, the scholarly community is not keeping up with this change. Furthermore, the analysis shows that over time, bots become increasingly prominent in tweeting IoT-related content, at the expense of individual Twitter users. This finding puts into new light the question of who shapes emerging technological concepts and the accountability and agency of bots.

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