Italian election study finds social media helps populist politicians
A December 2018 analysis of the use of Facebook by Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, Italy's two populist leaders, showed that the two exploited Facebook's streaming video and live broadcast services to bypass the mainstream media and foment discord during the March 2018 Italian general election. They eventually both became deputy prime ministers under a power-sharing arrangement. Social media, the study concluded, is particularly effective at helping rising populist politicians, who may not yet be able to command the attention of traditional media and for whom social media provide a direct connection to people's frustrations. In addition, political scientists argue that social media systematically encourages simple, caustic, and divisive rhetoric of the style populists favour.
Writer: Ammar Kalia, Caelinn Barr, and Angela Giuffrida