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A German YouTuber Tried To Make His Far-Right Hashtag Go Viral And It Was A Huge Flop

Turns out it's actually not that easy to hijack an election with memes.

Last updated on September 4, 2017, at 7:14 a.m. ET

Posted on September 4, 2017, at 7:14 a.m. ET

Last week, far-right German YouTuber Nikolai Alexander, who makes videos under the name Reconquista Germanica, invited his 33,000 subscribers to a newly launched Discord server.

BuzzFeed News entered the room under a pseudonym on Sunday night as members of the chatroom attempted to flood Twitter with far-right memes and posts against Martin Schulz’s Social Democratic Party and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, who were debating on TV at the time.This strategy of moving users from 4chan to YouTube to more private online spaces like Discord isn't new. French trolls organized several aggressive disruption campaigns on Discord servers in the lead-up to their election. And Discord servers played a key role in the organization of the protests in Charlottesville last month.Alexander hoped to use Discord in a similar way to drum up last-minute support for Germany's right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). AfD has been sliding in the polls and is currently tied for fifth place with the Green party.

BuzzFeed News entered the room under a pseudonym on Sunday night as members of the chatroom attempted to flood Twitter with far-right memes and posts against Martin Schulz’s Social Democratic Party and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, who were debating on TV at the time.

This strategy of moving users from 4chan to YouTube to more private online spaces like Discord isn't new. French trolls organized several aggressive disruption campaigns on Discord servers in the lead-up to their election. And Discord servers played a key role in the organization of the protests in Charlottesville last month.

Alexander hoped to use Discord in a similar way to drum up last-minute support for Germany's right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). AfD has been sliding in the polls and is currently tied for fifth place with the Green party.

Alexander says in his 17-minute video that he wants all his supporters to join the Reconquista Germanica Discord server because it makes it easier to coordinate online attacks.

"The first campaign starts on Sept. 1 and ends on Sept. 24 with the Bundestag election," Alexander says in the video. "The aim of the first campaign is to hoist the AfD as much as possible into the Bundestag. Today we will also start the meme war in the Bundestag against the race of mutts." After the Bundestag election, he says he wants to try to use the Discord room "to go after failed conservatives like [Markus] Pretzell and other hypocrites and strengthen the Höcke wing."
Screenshot BuzzFeed News

"The first campaign starts on Sept. 1 and ends on Sept. 24 with the Bundestag election," Alexander says in the video. "The aim of the first campaign is to hoist the AfD as much as possible into the Bundestag. Today we will also start the meme war in the Bundestag against the race of mutts." After the Bundestag election, he says he wants to try to use the Discord room "to go after failed conservatives like [Markus] Pretzell and other hypocrites and strengthen the Höcke wing."

Moderators of the server regularly make it clear to new users that the server's main goal is to support AfD.

Screenshot BuzzFeed News

According to the organizers, around 1,500 members gathered there over the weekend.

Many channels carry military names such as "General Staff", "High Command," or "Officers' Mess."
Screenshot BuzzFeed News

Many channels carry military names such as "General Staff", "High Command," or "Officers' Mess."

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Last week, BuzzFeed News found a public gallery of memes pro-AfD trolls on 4chan planned to use in the lead-up to the election.

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That same gallery of memes was shared on the Reconquista Germanica Discord sever. The channels "AfD Memes" and "Old Party Memes" link to the meme galleries from 4chan, which they refer to as "ammunition."

Screenshot BuzzFeed News

The memes then spread to Twitter during Sunday's debate via sock puppet accounts the chatroom's members have been setting up over the last week.

Screenshot BuzzFeed News

Users discussed how they don't want to rely on the help of Twitter bots, but would prefer if each person simply uses one to three Twitter accounts to push the memes.

Screenshot BuzzFeed News
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On Sunday, Alexander addressed the room, calling on members to attack the debate on Twitter and promote the hashtag #VerräterDuell ("traitor debate").

Screenshot BuzzFeed News

Except the plan didn't work super well. Alexander's #VerräterDuell tweets tended to be the most viral on Twitter Sunday night, but still only racked up a few hundred retweets.

Einen guten Roten erkennt man an seinem Abgang. #Verräterduell #Reconquista #TeamAfD #HöckeForKanzler… https://t.co/o4Mi4qLunQ

Most of his tweets targeted left-wing candidate Martin Schulz.

Ruft doch mal! Ruft doch mal Martin! #Kanzlerduell #Verräterduell #Schulz #TeamAfD #Reconquista

For the most part trolls just flooded already-trending hashtags like #KanzlerDuell ("chancellor debate") and #TVDuell ("TV debate"), pushing right-wing fan art into already-trending topics on German Twitter.

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Overall, though, it was a pretty weak showing. The members of the Discord server didn't appear to realize that newly made accounts are typically blocked from pushing trending topics on Twitter.

#KanzlerDuell #tvduell #VerräterDuell #btw17 Altparteien = Volksverrat

After basically failing to do anything meaningful on Twitter, Alexander addressed the Discord server again after the debate.

"We decided to change our tactics and concentrate on YouTube," he said. "There we can achieve more effect than on Twitter. We simply lack the impact power."It appears their next plan is to comment a lot under YouTube videos, so we'll see how that goes. BuzzFeed News reached out to Alexander for comment.
Screenshot BuzzFeed News

"We decided to change our tactics and concentrate on YouTube," he said. "There we can achieve more effect than on Twitter. We simply lack the impact power."

It appears their next plan is to comment a lot under YouTube videos, so we'll see how that goes.

BuzzFeed News reached out to Alexander for comment.

This post was translated from German.

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