Far-right activists have recently used social media to attract audiences of unprecedented scale. This paper argues that this online popularity can be explained by processes endogenous to social media, specifically engagement from online audiences such as likes, shares, and comments. A case study of the far-right, anti-Muslim group Britain First and its online activism on Facebook is used to test this hypothesis. The relationship between audience engagement and Britain First’s activity, recruitment, and support on Facebook is modeled using time-series regressions, controlling for other relevant factors, including protests, framing, and exogenous events. The results show that changes in audience engagement are associated with long-term shifts in online activism, resulting in feedback loops where engagement begets further engagement. The findings demonstrate how the incentive structures of social media platforms can enable and constrain contemporary activism and how activists can develop tactics to exploit these systems to their advantage.

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