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Introducing Vigilant Audiences

Daniel Trottier
Rashid Gabdulhakov
Qian Huang

Far-Right Digital Vigilantism as Technical Mediation: Anti-Immigration Activism on YouTube

Samuel Tanner, Valentine Crosset et Aurélie Campana

Texte intégral

The ‘Alps Mission’ and Far-Right Activism

  • 1 The mission lasted until 29 June 2018, though only about ten people from GI patrolled the area from (...)
  • 2 Their slogan is “Us before others” (Les nôtres avant les autres).

1How do far-right activists, digital media platforms and audiences interplay in the production and diffusion of discriminatory and harmful speech? Hate speech, identity claims, anti-immigration rhetoric and calls to prevent refugees from entering certain territories are all expressions of a far-right populist discourse that has become increasingly visible in the public domain in Canada, Europe and the United States (Eisler 2016; Marwick & Lewis, 2017; Perry & Scrivens, 2015). For example, the 21st April 2018, Generation Identity (Génération identitaire or GI, the youth wing of Les Identitaires), a French far-right movement, launched what they called the “Alps Mission” in the Hautes-Alpes, France.1 A few hundred people, arguing that they needed to protect the white Christian identity of the European people,2 put up a blockade to prevent migrants — mostly from the African continent — from entering French territory from Italy. Holding up gigantic “NO WAY” banners and orange security nets symbolising the physical barriers they created to prevent migrants from entering French territory, militants presented themselves as the defenders of Europe. Interestingly, the militants involved were not just from France but from different European countries as well as the United States and Canada, an ironic blurring of the “us” in their slogan. It was not the first time GI had been active: in June 2017, the group had chartered a vessel to prevent NGOs from rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and Libya, the beginning of a “summer of disturbances” (Warren, 2017) targeting NGO rescue missions.

2According to its website,3 GI uses tactics such as demagogic discourse and exploitation of resentments to mobilise the population against traditional and mainstream political parties and elites, who are portrayed as corrupt and uninterested in the population and its immediate troubles, as well as responsible for numerous social and political problems (e.g. illegal immigration, unemployment, the negative impact of globalisation on local areas). It contrasts a hardworking population involved in everyday economic and social struggles with elites presented as profiteers (Laclau, 2005) and can therefore be considered a far-right populist group.

3In this chapter, far-right populist activism is understood as a program of actions that promotes an ethnocentric understanding of people and national identity, as well as a rejection of immigration and traditional political adversaries. One of the defining features of populism is the claim by the activists involved that they are taking charge of or responsibility for a cause on behalf of a silent majority or a wider population. Populist societal vigilantism activities are often aimed at attracting a large audience, which provides both support and legitimacy. The audience — defined as that part of the public interested in a cause or a group — must therefore be taken into account when considering how vigilante groups use media. Their activism entails mobilising a wide range of actions in both the physical and the digital sphere. The digital media platforms involved are Web 2.0 Internet-based applications, which make it possible for people to create and exchange user-generated content, often selected to support their personal or political opinions (Van Dijck, 2013). The presence and anti-immigration actions of such groups have been documented in Bulgaria (France 24, 2016), Canada (Rémillard, 2015; Tanner & Campana 2019), France (Gardenier & Monie, 2018), Germany (El Jabri, 2018), Italy (Segond, 2018) and South Africa (Fourchard, 2016) and the phenomenon seems to be spreading, at least in the Western world. Given GI’s objectives of promoting collective security, maintaining an exclusivist version of identity and protecting its territory faced with what is seen as the failure of traditional authorities, as well as its insistence on self-governance (Mudde, 2017), it can be considered to be a vigilante group.

4Les Johnston defines vigilantism as involving six elements (Johnston, 1996): 1. Planning, premeditation and organization — vigilantes engage in some form of preparatory activity, such as surveillance of an individual or group and/or observation of a particular location; 2. Private voluntary agency — vigilantism is undertaken by private agents (as opposed to public actors) who are not approved or endorsed by the state; 3. Autonomous citizenship — vigilantism is engaged in voluntarily by private citizens who are not supported by the state and is often used in reference to popular movements engaged in what they see as self-protection; 4. Use, or threat of use, of force — violence, or the threat to use violence, is a common trait of vigilantism and a necessary dimension of vigilante actions, whether the violence is symbolic, such as calling for the expulsion of illegal migrants, or physical; 5. Reaction to crime and social deviance — vigilantism aimed at crime control is distinct from vigilantism intended to promote societal control or “the maintenance of communal, ethnic or sectarian order and values” (Johnston, 1996, p. 228). Both types are related to a defence of some type of rules or norms, whether institutionalised or not, but the second type is concerned less with deviance and more with values, culture or political ideas. Finally, 6. personal and collective security — vigilante action is usually a reaction by individuals who feel that their security is in jeopardy. Johnston’s definition supports our contention that GI can be considered a societal vigilante group. Its actions are planned and organised — the barrier and the banner were put up by autonomous, private citizens acting voluntarily, without help or contributions from the state or authorities. Although there is no documented use of force, activists called for the expulsion of illegal migrants, an act of symbolic violence. Finally, taking control of the frontier between France and Italy was presented as necessary to ensure the collective security of the population and maintain its communal (French) and ethnic (white) order and values (Christian).

5Moving beyond efforts to define such groups, and following the approach proposed by Favarel-Garrigues and Gayer (2016), as well as Pratten and Sen (2007), in this chapter we focus on the practices and actions of societal vigilantes. More specifically, we analyse not only how far-right populist activists use YouTube to promote and diffuse vigilante discourse, but also how the audience affects this process. What influence does the combination of digital media platforms, vigilante groups and audience have on the diffusion and visibility of far-right populism? Our analysis focuses on the materiality of the digital platforms through which digital mediation takes place (Kinsley, 2014). Materiality refers to the principle that a system or object, including digital platforms, should be understood not only in terms of its structure (what it is) but also in terms of its effects (what it does) (Drucker, 2013). Far-right populist discourse and content are the result of interaction between digital platforms (e.g. YouTube) and users (e.g. far-right populist activists). Looking at this process from a Latourian and Actor-Network Theory (ANT) perspective (Akrich, 1992; Latour, 1994; 2005; Law & Hassard, 1999), GI’s far-right populist activism as expressed in the Alps Movement can be understood as technical mediation between humans (activists), objects (digital media platforms) and the audience.

6This study focuses on a specific YouTube channel, run by Lauren Southern, a Canadian far-right populist activist who took part in the April 2018 Alps Mission. After looking at the literature on the relation between activism and digital media, we present an alternative framework — technical mediation and ANT — and show how this perspective provides new insights. We then explain our methodological approach and present a case study of technical mediation between Lauren Southern, YouTube and the audience. Finally, we discuss our main contributions and suggest a tentative path for the prevention and regulation of far-right content and online societal vigilantism.

Far-Right Populist Activism and Digital Platforms

7Research on the relation between media and social movements has produced much relevant literature (Foellmer et al., 2018; Gerbaudo, 2012, 2018). Some researchers have focused on how digital media contribute to the visibility of social movements by making it possible to promote a particular cause (Wolfson, 2014). Others, adopting the “connectivity paradigm” or the ability of Web 2.0 — given its platforms are fuelled by user-generated content — to foster online sociability and interactions, have looked at how these new capacities and their interpretation by users allow the mobilisation of social movements (Bennett et al., 2014; Kavada, 2015; Van Dijck, 2013). Platforms — in conjunction with how people use them — not only contribute to shaping a sense of community among their users (Burgess & Green, 2008; Gillespie, 2010) but also supply “validation, momentum and legitimacy in shaping social groups’ preferences, thus fostering their mobilisation” (Ellinas, 2018, p. 1). In this sense, such platforms are “important organizational agents” in the structuring and programming of social movements (Bennett et al., 2014, p. 233). Digital platforms provide access to an agenda that encourages far-right populist activists to adopt a particular frame with regard to crucial issues “such as immigration and crime, helping legitimise a political space in which the radical right can thrive” (Ellinas, 2018, p. 1; Mazzeloni et al., 2003) and making it possible for the phenomenon known as the “alt-right” to generate new perspectives.

  • 4 There is some conflict here between activism that is sincere, or goal-oriented, versus less sincere (...)

8According to Marwick and Lewis (2017, p. 3), the “alt-right” can more accurately be described as “an amalgam of conspiracy theorists, techno-libertarians, white nationalists, Men’s Rights advocates, trolls, anti-feminists, anti-immigration activists and bored young people”. Although some individuals within the alt-right, such as Richard Spencer or Milo Yiannopoulos, have become more widely known, their popularity has had a limited shelf-life. Most scholars recognise that the movement has “no real organizational structure” (Wendling, 2018, p. 5) and can “scarcely be called an organized movement” (Hawley, 2017, p. 11). However, its presence and visibility in the public sphere and in debates is large and growing. Its use of digital platforms such as Twitter, Gab, Discord and 4chan, just to name a few, has become a central topic for research. While the aim of alt-right activism is to promote identitarian and white nationalist or white supremacist discourse, its actual output consists largely of trolling, shaping and propagating “fake news”, or making use of irony and (dark) humour directed at certain categories or topics in society, such as immigrants and feminism.4 These strategies are supported by the diffusion of memes or “digital items with common characteristics that are imitated and reiterated around the web” (Nissenbaum & Shifam, 2017, p. 483) and used to “capture lurkers’ attention and to win their hearts and minds” (Hawley, 2017, p. 73). The idea of a “Molotov JPEG”, coined by Hawley (ibid.), captures this dynamic perfectly: memes can be used to ‘set fire’ to public opinion.

9Alt-right activists look for provocations in the public domain that they can use to attract attention to their message of white nationalism. Contrary to traditional online activity by far-right groups, most of which is confined to confidential Internet sites such as, alt-right digital practices have spread beyond cryptic and confidential platforms to penetrate public discourse. Alt-right discourse that appears on specialised channels such as 4chan or Gab or mainstream social media platforms like Twitter is now picked up by traditional media (Marwick & Lewis, 2017; Wendling, 2018; Philips, 2018) and widely diffused in public spaces. Looking at digital media platforms and their appropriation by alt-right activists reveals that their influence extends far beyond local street demonstrations. However, the degree of impact that online content has on the hearts and minds of the population remains an empirical question. Do social media and digital platforms have any influence beyond the online sphere, and, if so, how much and how is it achieved? Here, the concept of performativity — the possibility that an artefact or a technology produces an effect in the everyday life of those who use it or somehow relate to it — seems relevant.

10According to Paolo Gerbaudo, whose work focuses on the role of social media in social movements and collective action, digital platforms produce effects in the real world by generating different configurations of how people perceive and understand their environment and their relation to it, thus bringing novelty or change into being and shaping social movements such as the Arab Spring or the Occupy movement. Social media facilitate and enable the organisation of collective actions (Gerbaudo, 2012). To capture these performative effects, Gerbaudo coined the concept “choreography of assembly”, the process by which activists’ use of digital platforms enables “a process of symbolic construction of public space which facilitates and guides the physical assembling of a highly dispersed and individualised constituency” (ibid., p. 5, emphasis added). This symbolic construction acts as a crucial vector in shaping a sense of purpose and togetherness among activists and their audience. In line with Bennett et al.’s work (2014), this performativity affects the hearts and minds of those who are part of the assembly or influenced by it. According to Gerbaudo, “what […] has possibly brought [digital media platforms] so much attention is their internal or local use: their use as means of organization of collective action and […] as a means of mobilization in the crucial task of gathering people on the streets” (Gerbaudo, 2012, p. 3, emphasis added). Finally, he points to the central role of what he refers to as “soft leaders”, or “influential Facebook admins and activist tweeps [and YouTubers] who become choreographers, involved in setting the scene and constructing an emotional space within which collective action can unfold” (Gerbaudo, 2012, p. 5). Lauren Southern is illustrative of such “soft leaders”. The notion of “influencers” also describes such activists, or “people who shape public opinion and advertise goods and services through the ‘conscientious callibration’ of their online personae” (Lewis, 2018, p. 4). Lauren Southern is not so much selling goods and services, but as a content creator, she rather “adopts the techniques of influencers to build [an] audience […] and sell [it] on far-right ideology” (ibid.) and thus be considered as a “political influencer” (ibid.).

Understanding the Relation Between Digital Media Platforms and Activists: Technical Mediation

11Considering the performative effect of digital media offers an alternative perspective that falls between a utopian stance, in which such technology provides networks of hope (Castells, 2012), and a dystopian one, according to which social media allows some people to assuage their consciences by taking part in social or political causes online, operating from the comfort of their sofa but without any true commitment, a phenomenon known as slacktivism (Kristofferson et al., 2014; Morozov, 2009a, 2009b; Gladwell, 2010). Mattoni and Treré (2014) warn that scholars should not fetishise digital media or evaluate them strictly on the basis of what they make possible — they do not mobilise and influence public debate by themselves. Actors, however, use and appropriate them precisely for such purposes. What sort of interactions occur between technology and activists, between soft leaders and among audiences?

12We argue that technology and digital media platforms should be considered in their materiality, that is as having

some property […] that provides users with the capability to perform some action. Calling these properties out with the adjective ‘material’ seems a ploy to remind the reader that the software- [or digital media platform]-in-use does things that cannot be reduced to human intention or action (Leonardi, 2010, p. 3).

13In contrast to the way in which digital media platforms are understood from an instrumentalist perspective, we suggest that they are not neutral tools but have a significant effect on the ends to which they are put (Bourne, 2012; Feenberg, 1999). This materiality should be taken into account in their use by, or interaction with, activists. To better grasp these dynamics, we adopt a conceptual framework based on the Actor Network Theory — ANT (Akrich, 1992; Latour, 1994; 2005; Law & Hassard, 1999). ANT’s central notion, technical mediation, entails looking at societal vigilantism as a program of action, a series of objectives, decisions and intentions by agents in episodes in which digital media platforms, far-right populist activists and the audience interplay.

14Bruno Latour grounds the concept of technical mediation on four elements. The first is translation, “which does not mean a shift from one vocabulary to another […] but the displacement, drift, invention, meditation, the creation of a link that did not exist before and that to some degree modifies two elements or agents” (Latour, 1994, p. 32). The agents involved can be human or nonhuman. However, since it is uncommon to refer to nonhumans as agents, ANT uses the term actants for both humans and nonhumans — “a borrowing from semiotics that describes any entity that acts in a plot until the attribution of a figurative or non-figurative role” [e.g. front or back stage], in his example the roles are “‘citizen’ or ‘gun’” (ibid., p. 33). Following Latour, neither far-right populist activists nor digital media platforms can be considered responsible for the meme of the Molotov JPEG. Instead, such symbolic constructs are shaped by interaction, or mediation, between the two types of actants (at least). Human and nonhuman actants exchange properties, characteristics and competences, giving one another new possibilities, new goals, new functions (ibid., p. 35) that need to be accounted for to understand how the technical mediation is unfolding. In this endeavour, one has to account for obstacles that may arise during the unfolding and analyse how actants negotiate them. (For example, many far-right activists turned to an alternative digital media platform, Gab, after Twitter and Facebook strengthened their regulations against hate speech.) Introducing the idea of technical mediation makes it possible to provide a microanalysis of how far-right activists, digital media platforms and audiences interplay in the production and diffusion of discriminatory and harmful speech. What is the sequence of the mediation and translation processes staging these actants?

15The second meaning of technical mediation is composition, in which action is understood not as the exclusive property of humans but rather as belonging to an association of entities, or actants. In composition, “actants are in the process of exchanging competences, offering one another new possibilities, new goals, new functions” (ibid, p. 35). The final product of this composition is a blackbox “that makes the joint production of actors and artifacts entirely opaque” (ibid., p. 36). This is where the analytical challenge takes place: can we open the blackbox? Can we provide a more fine-grained analysis that makes it possible to better grasp the mediation that occurs between human and nonhuman actants? This process is the third meaning of technical mediation — “reversible blackboxing” — and is composed of seven mechanisms: disinterest, interest, composition of a new goal, obligatory passage point, alignment, blackboxing and convergence.

16Disinterest refers to the first step, where actants are considered in parallel. At this point in the mediation process, the two actants evolve separately, showing no interest in each other. Enlistment brings a new step — interest — to the technical mediation process and the actants connect. Such connection, or assemblage, is related to an exchange of properties between the entities and provokes a new goal. The process remains highly iterative and dependent on the nature of the interactions between the actants in a network. This step is followed by an obligatory passage point that introduces a qualitative novelty whereby the assemblage identifies “what counts” as decisive or as knowledgeable (Latour, 2005). This translation comes with obstacles and constraints that the actants have to overcome in order to align with each other. The new assemblage that emerges from the successful overcoming of obstacles presents new modes of functioning and capacities. According to this perspective, blackboxing is a process of composition, in which technology and society are co-emergent, which assembles power relations in particular configurations and renders them fixed, invisible and logical. Convergence refers to the final product and is important in understanding technical mediation. For the topic under discussion here, technical mediation in shaping a societal vigilantism program and promoting anti-immigration discourse involves an assemblage composed of at least Lauren Southern, YouTube and the audience. The result is the production of memes as blackboxes — or, in the larger program of promoting anti-immigration and white nationalist societal vigilante discourses, as Molotov JPEGs.

17Finally, the fourth meaning of technical mediation is delegation, when meaning is “materialized” into or “engraved” on (Latour, 1994, p. 38) matter, which then has the power to influence the actions of individuals.


18To analyse the societal vigilantism program and the promotion of anti-immigration discourse exemplified by the Alps Mission, we undertook a case study of one activist — Lauren Southern — and her commitment to promoting Génération Identitaire’s Defend Europe mission, largely through YouTube. Southern is representative of far-right soft leaders — or political influencers — in her exploitation of the interactive and participatory character of digital media platforms to set the scene and bring “a degree of coherence to people’s spontaneous and creative participation in the [online] protest movements” (Gerbaudo, 2012, p. 13). Her leadership consists of proposing “collective images” and “forms of actions […] or ‘scripts’” that participants are invited to perform (ibid., p. 44). YouTube,

even more than television, is a particularly unstable object of study, marked by dynamic change (both in terms of videos and organization), a diversity of content (which moves with a different rhythm to television but likewise flows through, and often disappears from, the service), and a similar quotidian frequency, or ‘everydayness’ (Burgess & Green, 2018, p. 6).

19For the sake of the analysis, and in order to understand the technical mediation, or the interplay between Southern, YouTube and audiences, we adopted a sociotechnical approach to the microanalysis of a video available on Southern’s YouTube channel and produced while actively taking part in the Alps Mission. We selected the video from among the 136 videos she had uploaded on her channel5 based on its “raw” character, meaning that it was unedited, in process (rather than edited afterwards) and live streamed. It therefore provided valuable material for the study of the chronology of the technical mediation process, and significant empirical material for the analysis of the blackboxing involved in Southern’s societal vigilantism.

20We extracted the selected video and converted it into an MP4 file, as this format is more convenient for analysis. We then made a complete transcription of its content, capturing not only the audio but the setting (including the presence of people around the activist, actions unfolding around her, interactions with individuals that the viewer does not see in the video, etc.), context, live comments and also how the message is staged.

21The technical mediation to be analysed includes the sender (Southern), the technology (digital media platform YouTube) and the audience (identified only by the pseudonyms they used when posting). These nodes are crucial parts of the choreography of the presentation of the Alps Mission as framed in the video produced on Southern’s YouTube channel. The video, as a meme, a Molotov JPEG, is intended to set fire to public opinion, at least as it is exemplified by Southern’s audience, and thus provides a frame, or a symbolic space, that “keys” (Goffman, 1974) the public’s interpretation of the event. Our objective is to analyse the genealogy of that meme to show how it is the outcome of crossing-overs of properties between the actants involved in the technical mediation.

Analysis: Societal Vigilantism as Technical Mediation

22In this section, we focus on reversible blackboxing, Latour’s third meaning — or way of understanding — technical mediation, as it seems the most promising to help us better understand how a network of actants contribute to making digital societal vigilantism visible. We analyse each of the seven mechanisms discussed in the earlier exposition of Latour’s theory.


  • 6 Breitbart is a populist ultra-conservative news network created in the United States in 2007. Its s (...)
  • 7 In one of her last videos, posted on 14 August 2018, Southern announced that she was taking a new d (...)

23To analyse the actants involved in the mediation process, let’s start by providing a precise description of each one. First, Lauren Southern. Born in 1995 in Canada, she is a central figure in Canadian far-right populist activism as well as an Internet personality and influencer. At the age of 20, she ran as candidate for the federal Libertarian Party in a district in British Columbia, getting 0.9 % of the vote. Until 2017 she worked as a journalist for Rebel Media — a copycat version of Breitbart6 — founded in 2015 by Ezra Levant, another important figure in Canadian far-right populism. She was active as a YouTube vlogger until autumn 2018 and is still followed by 685K people.7 She has produced and posted 115 videos at the time of writing, whose duration varies between two minutes and 90 minutes. Her viewing metrics vary between 38K and 2.9M views. The videos consist mainly of interviews with figures involved to varied extents in far-right populist activism, or reports on events where far-right populism is denounced, or multiculturalism, LGBTQ+, or civic rights are promoted. In the latter cases, Southern, adopting a provocative or trolling style, interviews activists or militants involved with such causes. In a video posted in 2015, she holds a sign saying “There is no rape culture in the West” at a SlutWalk demonstration in Vancouver. In another, shot during a demonstration by LGBTQ+ activists in March 2016, she argues that there are “only two human genders”. In response LGBTQ+ demonstrators empty a container of urine on her. On two occasions, Southern was banned from entry into the UK and New Zealand based on the alleged risk she presents by stirring up ethnic and religious tensions. Her views include antifeminism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-multiculturalism (Shaw, 2018). In May 2017, Southern was involved in GI’s attempt to stop the NGO ship Aquarius from leaving Sicily to search for and rescue migrants off the coast of Northern Africa. She and her colleagues were arrested and detained by the Italian Coast Guard but justified their actions by stating: “If the politicians won’t stop the boasts, we’ll stop the boats” (Claxton, 2017), referring thus to a vigilante repertoire of actions. In April 2018, Southern took part in the Alps Mission. In giving visibility to far-right populist discourse and content, Southern undertakes what Neveu (2011) refers to as political work in which the human actant designates, nominates, provides a language and orders the world.

24The second entity, the non-human actant, is YouTube. Launched in 2005 by Steven Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim and bought a year later by Google, YouTube is a “software for distributing, accessing and combining (or ‘publishing’, ‘sharing’ and ‘remixing’) media content on the web” (Manovich, 2013, p. 24). Its goal is “to remove the technical barriers to the widespread sharing of video online” (Burgess & Green, 2009, p. 1). One of its primary missions, as stated on its site, is to provide, or supply, a channel through which “everyone can make their voice heard and discover the world” and its stated goal is to promote four fundamental freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of information, freedom of opportunity and freedom of belonging. YouTube hopes to provide everyone with an equal opportunity to speak and become informed (Gillespie, 2010). According to recent numbers, “over 1.9 billion logged-in users visit YouTube each month, and every day people watch over a billion hours of video and generate billions of views”.8 The platform also hopes to make the world more connected and is available in a total of 80 different languages (covering 95 % of the Internet population).9 YouTube’s mission statement fits with rhetoric emphasising the Internet’s potential for democratisation and enthusiasm for the medium’s most popular characteristics, namely its “User Generated Content” (UGC) (Gillespie, 2010) and the “participatory culture” that is generally held to be part of the Internet (Jenkins, 2006). According to Burgess and Green (2018; 2009) YouTube may be thought of as a “patron”, enabling — but also constraining — collective creativity by fostering the participation of a large number of actors in the creation and broadcasting of contents, while maintaining control of the conditions under which “creative content is produced, ordered, and re-presented for the interpretation of audiences” (Burgess & Green, 2009, p. 60). The content produced on the platform is thus the result of the interplay between the platform’s architecture — its affordances — and user tactics (Cardon, 2008).

  • 10 Michael Golebiewski and danah boyd specify that YouTube is both a social media platform (it allows (...)

25YouTube is distinct from other digital media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter; Murthy & Sharma, 2019) in that, in contrast to platforms such as Facebook — which is based on public, or semi-public, profiles as well as the accumulation of friends and the expansion of one’s network (boyd & Ellison, 2007; Van Dijck, 2013) — its main purpose is providing a platform for broadcasting videos.10 However, YouTube users, namely broadcasters and the audience, are able to interact and communicate on the platform (Murthy & Sharma, 2019). YouTube is characterised by a series of affordances that make it possible to express a reaction to a video. While an earlier version of YouTube emphasised sharing “self-made amateur videos” rather than “professionally generated content” (Van Dijck, 2013, p. 110), today it stands at a crossroads, making available both amateur videos as well as more familiar forms of mass media executed by professionals (2009, p. 60; Van Dijck, 2013).

26YouTube also provides access to the third actant, the audience. As Gross argues, “web-based media have made multidirectional, audience-generated communication a reality, giving citizens the opportunity to join the party as producers rather than consumers […] the top-down tyranny of the media has been effectively challenged” (2009, p. 67). It therefore becomes necessary to take into account not only UGC but also the audience: “practices of participation […] the practices of audiencehood — quoting, favouriting, commenting, responding, sharing and viewing — all leave traces, and therefore they all have effects on the common culture of YouTube as it evolves” (Burgess & Green, 2009, p. 57). In contrast to the predominant model in broadcasting, the audience can participate directly in increasing YouTube’s popularity and the attention it generates. Through its Most Viewed, Most Responded, Most Favorited and Most Discussed metrics, YouTube makes it possible to create “a simplified and atomised model of audience engagement — based on the raw frequencies of views, comments, response videos, and additions to users’ favourites” (ibid., p. 41). Measures of audience involvement then serve as the basis for promotion of what is determined to be the most popular content, fostering a “feedback loop between the perceived uses of and value logics of YouTube and its ‘actual’ uses and meanings” (ibid.).

27While YouTube as a platform depends on a business model, terms of use and legal conditions (such for example as legal restrictions on content), its existence is also strongly linked to a large technical network that enables users to watch and broadcast videos. The physical and immaterial functions of the platform that make it possible to circulate professional and amateur contents depend on a series of interdependent components. For instance, it requires a device such as a smartphone, computer or tablet to watch or broadcast videos. A broadband Internet connection is necessary to make the video available and allow it to circulate. These different devices are part of a large network of material and immaterial processes that not only makes it possible to send and view content, but also modifies the composition or the state of the actants — human and nonhuman — involved in the process.


28Southern is interested in becoming more visible, or promoting and gaining wider visibility for her views. Actant #1 (Southern) turns to actant #2 (YouTube) in order to reach actant #3 (the audience). There is no information available about why Southern chose YouTube as the way to achieve her goals, but it seems reasonable to think that the platform’s affordances played a role in her decision and fulfil her requirements. YouTube provides a valuable way to diffuse ideas, since the costs related to both production and diffusion of content (UGC) are low while the opportunity to reach a wide audience is great. While vlogs are not systematically hosted by YouTube, the platform is widely recognised as a way to encourage social participation and is a crucial tool for those looking for visibility (Burgess & Green, 2009, p. 53).

  • 11 It’s not clear why these anti-program individuals were included. Perhaps to allow the vigilantes to (...)

29On the second day of the Alps Mission, using a smartphone equipped with a camera, Southern used the YouTube app to stream live for sixteen minutes and fifteen seconds, providing an update on the situation. From the beginning of the livestream, which was of poor quality due to a bad network connection, Southern appeared in ‘selfie mode’ and let the audience know that she was broadcasting live. She was seen outdoors, in close proximity to the demonstrators, with the Alps in the background. She varied the shots by moving her mobile phone, showing some of the actants who took part in the demonstration. She also filmed actants who were part of the “anti-program”. Anti-program here refers to any action or event that disrupted the societal vigilantism of the Alps Mission or Southern’s livestreaming. These included representatives of the mainstream media11 as well as the police. Her live broadcast also contained interviews — in the form of informal conversations — with other far-right figures. Among these were US activists Brittany Pettibone and Martin Sellner, whom she presented as the “mastermind” of the Alps Mission. Pettibone and Sellner are well-known identitarian activists and YouTubers active in the anti-immigration movement. Pettibone has 115k followers and her channel contains 129 videos. Sellner has 85K followers and his channel has 341 videos.

30Just seconds after Southern launched her livestream, the audience reacted via the YouTube “live comments” function, which is described as a “module which lets you engage with the broadcaster and the broader YouTube community” (YouTube, 2010). Livestream comments were numerous and appeared very quickly, revealing interest in the activists’ actions. While there were a few comments that were sceptical about the Mission or critical of it, and even insults aimed at Southern, most comments were supportive. It was common to see encouragement of the cause and the particular action. Some comments included right-wing symbols. Negative comments largely addressed the bad quality of the broadcast, holding the technical device (the nonhuman actant) responsible.

Fig. 6.1 Lauren Southern’s livestream interface while she is interviewing Brittany Pettibone. Screenshot, 24 January 2019, YouTube.

Fig. 6.1 Lauren Southern’s livestream interface while she is interviewing Brittany Pettibone. Screenshot, 24 January 2019, YouTube.

Fig. 6.2 Screenshot of Southern’s livestream showing live comments, starting 30 seconds after the beginning of the video. Screenshot, 24 January 2019, YouTube.

Fig. 6.2 Screenshot of Southern’s livestream showing live comments, starting 30 seconds after the beginning of the video. Screenshot, 24 January 2019, YouTube.

Composition of a new goal:

31At this stage, the interaction of the main actants produces a new actant, actant #4. In technical mediation, a new actant is characterised by a goal that differs from that of previous actants (Latour, 2007). Neither human nor nonhuman goals are set in advance. Instead, a program of actions unfolds as the result of a new mediation — translation — between, in this case, human and nonhuman actants. In her societal vigilantism program, Southern specifies her approach to one event — the Alps Mission — where her goal is to prevent the entrance of illegal migrants and call attention to the wider problems they create for society. The composition of a new goal should, however, be considered in relation to what the interactions of human and nonhuman actants are as a result. For instance, the use of the livestreaming option offered by YouTube enabled the live broadcasting, but also came with constraints — the poor quality of the image was an obstacle. The tailoring of a new goal was also affected by the context — for example, Southern had to consider the actions going on around her in shaping and diffusing her message / content. If she had decided not to livestream but instead to edit the images before uploading them to her YouTube channel, the content would probably have been different.

32The translation that occurs between human and nonhuman actants transforms each of the entities through the exchange of properties, or crossovers. Such evolution in its turn produces a new state, or step, in the technical mediation. Southern becomes a visible personality promoting and amplifying an anti-immigrant discourse, while YouTube’s algorithms are affected by the presence of actants (influencers or soft leaders) such as Southern, posting similar contents promoting anti-immigrant discourses. The platform’s algorithms are impacted by the presence of the video. These algorithms, which are the basis on which videos are recommended, play a central role in the management of the platform, as stated by YouTube: “Your activity on YouTube, Google and Chrome may influence your YouTube search results, recommendations on the Home page, in-app notifications, and suggested videos”.12

33Given recent revelations by Google employees, it seems clear that “YouTube represents one of the largest scale and most sophisticated industrial recommendation systems in existence” (Covington, Adams & Sargin, 2016, p. 1). Diffusion of YouTube’s content relies on intermediary recommendation algorithms that filter as well as classify content in order to better align it to users, based on their Internet consumer habits (Van Dijck, 2013). In consequence, YouTube recommends the content that users access according to a code, which governs their experience of the Internet while promoting content selected according to an algorithm. Covington et al. (2016) reveal how YouTube uses “deep learning” to feed its recommendation algorithms. The system is grounded on two neuronal networks: the first deals with “candidate generation” and the second with “ranking”. The neuronal networks are fed by diversified criteria, such as i) the user’s record of use of the Internet; ii) “collaborative filtering”, based on the similarity between users ( “expressed in terms of coarse features such as IDs of the video watched, search query tokens and demographics” and iii) “data impressions” accessed via “a desired objective function using a rich set of features describing the video and user” (ibid., p. 2). Once these filters have operated, a list of videos, sorted by score, are promoted to the user. However, to make a final determination of the efficiency of the algorithm, or model, YouTube uses live experiments: “In a live experiment, we can measure subtle changes in click-through rate, watch time, and many other metrics that measure user engagement” (ibid.).

34YouTube’s algorithms are capable of making selected contents highly visible. However, the recommendation algorithm requires the presence and participation of an audience that leaves traces of its activity and behaviour online. The audience, by clicking, watching, commenting and liking Southern’s video, coupled with the record of its past Internet activities, contributes to the choice of the Alps Mission video, as well as other videos with similar contents, by the recommendation algorithm. The algorithm engages and both assembles and reassembles a specific audience by overvaluing and favouring some content over others. In Southern’s case, the other channels recommended on her YouTube channel (such as Breitbart and Brittany Pettibone’s channels) also promote alt-right, far-right or conservative contents. That recommendation process is the outcome of an interplay, that is a property of associated entities between the user and YouTube’s algorithm. While the user’s track records and habits on the Internet modify the code, it allows for increasingly fine-tuning the recommendations at the same time.

35The interplay between actants transforms each of them, largely through the exchange of properties that creates novelty — links or connections that did not exist before — displacement, or drifts. The new actant, #4, can be understood in terms of the following equation:

Southern (actant #1) + (YouTube #2 + audience #3) = livestream update of the second day of GI’s Defend Europe program, the Alps Mission (actant #4).

Obligatory passage point:

36As the livestreaming continues, new actants appear and disappear (and sometimes reappear) in the frame. The audience is active throughout the live broadcast and sometimes requires Southern’s attention, as she has to read the comments posted by her followers and viewers. The mediation, translation and composition processes are characterised by friction, resistance and even opposition between the actants, each of which is potentially capable of putting an end to the livestream. For example, Southern struggles with the bad quality of the stream, which makes it difficult for the audience to follow the message and increases audience discontent, which is expressed numerous times, as in the following screenshot taken directly from YouTube.

Fig. 6.3 Audience reacting to the bad streaming of Southern’s video. Screenshot, 24 January 2019, YouTube.

Fig. 6.3 Audience reacting to the bad streaming of Southern’s video. Screenshot, 24 January 2019, YouTube.

37At points, Southern also struggles with the use of her mobile phone, as her hand shakes, possibly revealing anxiety. The idea of an obligatory passage point, step 4 in reversible blackboxing, captures the need to overcome obstacles and resistances, such as those exemplified by the audience’s discontent. Since Southern’s objective is to diffuse her anti-immigration message as widely as possible, she has to keep the audience involved. The audience becomes part of the translation process and is an important actant that Southern has to consider and adapt to in the ongoing streaming process, providing a clear example of an exchange of properties between two actants. The audience, through the comments it posts, makes sense of and is responsive to the message, while Southern adjusts her message in response to her audience. YouTube’s affordances — and the audience’s use of such affordances — clearly impacted Southern’s program and how she reported on the situation. At some points, she moved her phone, positioning it differently in physical space while asking if the image was better. At other times she read comments and even responded to some of them, addressing the audience directly. While many comments expressed support for Southern’s cause, this was not the case with all those who posted. Some even criticised the lack of interaction with the audience. One user commented: “literally no reason to be live if you’re not actually going to talk and just pretend this is a pre-recorded YouTube video”.

38The outdoor setting in which the livestream occurred presented challenges to all actants, human and non-human. For instance, while broadcasting Southern also had to remain aware of her environment as the situation unfolded and things changed around her, such as the unexpected arrival of the police, whose intentions were unclear. All actants must successfully negotiate a series of such constraints or obstacles — obligatory passage points — that pave the path to the accomplishment of a particular program.


39If obstacles are overcome, a new assemblage or collective (actant #5), is formed with new modes of functioning and new capacities. Once all actants have successfully negotiated the constraints in the obligatory passage point, alignment takes place (Latour, 1994). The collective formed by Southern-enabled-by-her-smartphone-while-livestreaming-on-YouTube-and-overcoming-obstacles is now capable of providing visibility to the goal, which is better control of the borders between France and Italy through the deployment of a barrier. Southern also counts on Pettibone and Sellner to offer more details about the Alps Mission, particularly the support they received from the local population, concrete actions taken to reach the mission’s objectives, their experiences of violence from antifascists and the inaction of local authorities, including the failure of the police to protect the territory. Alignment involves Southern, Pettibone and Sellner, enabled by nonhuman actants such as YouTube and Southern’s smartphone, providing an alternative media frame on the Mission to the one offered by mainstream media (which is perceived as being too lenient toward illegal immigrants) and, according to Pettibone, “will paint [the Alps Mission as] something else”. While the message promoted by Southern, Pettibone and Sellner seems to be widely shared by the audience, who are presented from the start as “identitarian activists” and YouTubers, technical problems blur the message for some time. Southern needs to make several attempts (such as moving her phone in an attempt to get a better connection or requesting sympathy from the audience by attributing the bad connection to other actants, such as the altitude) to improve the quality of the livestream and to contain audience frustration to limit the risk of losing audience members. At points, Southern apologises to the audience for the bad quality of the livestream, another way to overcome this problem. Despite the obstacles and the low resolution of the livestream that forms part of the collective (actant #5), the message is delivered, revealing alignment. In the end, resistances and obstacles are managed and parameters reach a settled state and stability. This brings the process to a new step: blackboxing (actant #6).


40In the blackboxing step, all actants in the mediation process are integrated. The pieces identified with the previous actants are stitched together and the result is not a collection of struggles or a shaping process but a finished product — a blackbox. In the present case, the product is what the audience sees on Southern’s YouTube channel once the livestream becomes a video (a finished product). This video, or meme, is material that contributes to shaping an emotional and symbolic space, an actant that plays a part in shaping the debate, or discourse, about the status of the frontier and illegal immigration. In other words, it becomes a “Molotov JPEG” ready to set fire (and intended to do so) to public opinion (Hawley, 2017). The extent to which such a meme produces convergence in the public or influences its decisions is beyond the scope of this chapter. However, once the livestream becomes a video, a blackbox, it is put to the test by the audience, which comments on it and rates it. Within a nine-month period, Southern’s video had been watched 134K times and received 7.6K likes and 384 dislikes as well as 1,570 comments. Comments include mere registrations of presence, critiques, insults and trolling as well as approval of Southern and GI’s position. The video also develops a ‘life’ of its own beyond YouTube through its circulation across other platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) thanks to the share option.


41To make a difference, heterogeneous actants (most of them the product of assemblages) must come together. In doing so they exchange properties, functions and goals, forming a complex network — a blackbox — that cannot be easily parsed or deconstructed into its constituents (the sum of the actants that compose it). The blackbox described in step six is now available to join the larger realm of the societal vigilante program directed against immigration that includes defence of borders as well as race and identity debates (actant #7). It becomes part of Southern’s collection of videos on her YouTube channel, but it also has its own life, as shown by its role in our study and this chapter. In this sense, Southern has succeeded in meeting her primary goal of providing visibility to the Alps Mission.

42Technical mediation allows for change in the substance of message and discourse. Southern’s program — “to-act-in-order-to-make-the-Alps-Mission-visible” — was articulated around a specific platform, whose use led to production of a message that differs from the one that would have been produced if Southern had used another platform. Southern’s objective, as realised through YouTube, undergoes a process of translation: from the securitisation of the border between Italy and France by activists, it becomes the live reporting of the situation by a soft leader or influencer (Cotter, 2018; Gerbaudo, 2012). Southern’s program is thus delegated to a smartphone (equipped with camera, microphone and connection to the Internet) and a platform (YouTube). She delegates the action of “seeing” to the cellphone and YouTube, producing an additional displacement (Latour, 2007, p. 197). According to Latour, this displacement is spatial and temporal and allows the spectator to watch — and, to some extent, participate through the commenting function — without leaving his or her seat. The displacement is spatial in the sense that the Defend Europe and Alps Mission now include a new actant — Southern’s video — broadcast and archived on YouTube. The displacement is temporal in that the Alps Mission can now appear at any time on YouTube as well as on other platforms where it can be shared. A series of objects-institutions perpetuate the visibility of the mission — securing the French-Italian border against immigrants — although the action itself is over and its protagonist now involved in other activities or actions. In this sense, the whole process of technical mediation makes it possible to shape a new meme that serves as a brick in the construction of the societal vigilante program promoted by GI. The analysis framed by Southern and other GI activists (e.g. Pettibone, Sellner), as well as support from the audience and the local population have all been “boxed” in the Defend Europe Alps Mission video.

Discussion and Conclusion

43Following Gerbaudo’s suggestion that is important to understand how digital platforms “contribute to the symbolic construction of public space, which facilitates and guides the physical assembling of a highly dispersed and individualised constituency” (Gerbaudo, 2012, p. 5), we analysed the role of a soft leader in shaping online social vigilantism. More specifically, we focused on how the far-right populist activist Lauren Southern, YouTube and the audience produce a meme (a video) that contributes to shaping an emotional and symbolic space characterised by anti-immigrant and identitarian discourses and symbols. Using Actor Network Theory (ANT), we showed that the shaping and visibility of such symbolic and emotional space is the result of a series of mechanisms that characterise technical mediation between entities, both human (Southern, the audience) and nonhuman (YouTube, algorithms). ANT appears promising as a way to approach the analysis of technical mediation once it is recognised that technology has to be considered in its materiality — that a technology-in-use ‘does things’ that cannot be reduced to human intention or action only (Leonardi, 2010). This recognition requires acknowledging that the shaping of the emotional and symbolic space in question cannot be analysed and understood simply as the results of intention or as an exclusively human project. Nonhuman objects also have to be accounted for in the analysis.

44Several points should be emphasised with regard to the contributions made by the present chapter. To do this, we turn to Latour’s fourth meaning of technical mediation, delegation. Latour argues that: “techniques modify the matter of our expression, not only its form. Techniques have meaning, but they produce meaning via a special type of articulation that crosses the common-sense boundary between signs and things” (1994, p. 38). Meaning is “materialized” or “engraved” in matter (ibid.) and thus has the power to influence action. Latour’s classical example is the speed bump that forces the driver to slow down. The speed bump modifies our expression, since the driver’s slowing down is now motivated not by a moral rationale (to be careful because there may be pedestrians) but rather by an instrumentalist one (I have to slow down, otherwise I’ll damage my car). Following Latour

The engineers’ program, make cars slow down on campus, is now inscribed in concrete and, in considering this shift, we quit the relative comfort of linguistic metaphor and enter unknown territory. […] [W] e remain in meaning but no longer in discourse: yet we do not reside among mere objects. Where are we? (ibid., p. 39).

45This question is crucial not only for the study of speed bumps but also for understanding the emergence of memes central to shaping the emotional and symbolic space and program of societal vigilantism. In Latour’s words, the shift is “actorial” (ibid.), which refers to the performative effect of the new entity (composed of human and nonhuman actants). The meme is not composed only of Lauren Southern, its enunciator, nor is it completely Southern’s responsibility: “An object stands in for an actor and creates an asymmetry between absent makers and occasional user” (ibid., p. 40). The shift is also spatial: the meme’s visibility goes beyond the local space of the Alps Mission. Finally, the shift is temporal: the meme is present all the time on the web although: “the enunciator of this technical act [Lauren Southern in the present case] has disappeared from the scene — while someone, something, reliably acts as lieutenant, holding the enunciator’s place” (ibid., pp. 39–40). In this sense, delegation expresses an exchange of properties between the actants, or entities, involved in the technical mediation. The delegation of some roles to nonhumans (digital media platforms) means that humans are not in complete control: the nonhuman actant does more than express the will of the humans — it affects it. That means that while soft leaders play a crucial role in spreading digital societal vigilantism, they are only one piece of the puzzle. Other actants must be involved in the choreography if the program of actions promoted by societal vigilantes is to be sustainable. Translated into a Latourian approach, unless disinterest is transformed into enlistment and composition of a new goal, there is no chance that such choreography will transform into delegation.

46In the process of delegation and exchange of properties between human and nonhuman actants, one should not only consider far-right activists, but also YouTube’s algorithm, which contributes to the visibility of the societal vigilantism program and discourse in the public domain largely through the associations it makes between similar contents (anti-immigrant, identitarian, etc.) and its role in assembling an audience. This audience is composed mainly of individuals whose practices and track records on the Internet are characterised by consuming and producing videos, discourses and images that share the same anti-immigration and identitarian characteristics and is assembled by ‘collaborative filtering’ through which, based on the audience’s demonstrated preferences, the algorithms recommend additional content. The audience also provides fodder for collaborative filtering and contributes to the viability of individual videos. The audience thus has an effect on both the discourse (e.g. live comments favourable to Southern’s action may make her feel supported and lead her to further polarise her discourse) and on YouTube’s algorithms. Through its interaction with the video by commenting and liking (or disliking), the audience’s actions affect YouTube’s recommendation algorithms. If there is no interaction with the video, it will sink into limbo, while positive interactions increase its visibility on other YouTube channels and, eventually, in the public domain. In this sense, developing a relationship between an audience and a particular form or content of discourse is delegated to nonhumans — the YouTube platform and its algorithms.

47One should not assume that there is a unidirectionality of delegation from nonhuman to human, but rather that there is a shared governance in the production of memes between human and nonhuman actants. More specifically, neither the human nor the nonhuman actants are in complete control in the technical mediation and the production of a societal vigilantism program and discourse (e.g. in the production of memes). They need to be “actioned” and in this case this is done by collecting humans’ Internet consumption and track records. Of course, YouTube relies largely on its algorithms, but also depends on human actants, such as ‘soft leaders’ and YouTube “influencers” (Cotter, 2018), an audience.

48Finally, and provocatively, this chapter shows that the symbolic and emotional space “is a space-that-results-from-a-technical-mediation-between-human-and-nonhuman-actants-that-are-not-isolated-from-each-other” (Callon, 1991, p. 143). Such space is the result of a complex series of inscriptions, or “the result of the translation of one’s interest into material form” (ibid.). This process of inscription is cumulative, and several layers of inscriptions may exist simultaneously. The symbolic and emotional space is thus the result of negotiations and enrolments of a network of actants.

49To conclude, the sociotechnical perspective adopted in the present chapter offers insight into how anti-immigration discourse and harmful societal digital vigilantism proliferate and gain traction among audiences. It contrasts with technological determinism expressed by the notion of “radicalization by algorithm” (Tufekci, 2018; Ribeiro et al., 2019) — according to which audiences might be at risk after being exposed to far-right content pushed by YouTube’s algorithm designed to maximise the company’s profit (Munger & Philips, 2019, p. 7). We agree with Munger and Phillips that YouTube should be apprehended in its “capacity to create radical alternative political canons and interpretative communities to match” (ibid., p. 6). YouTube supplies symbolic and emotional content to individuals who reject mainstream media for all sorts of reasons, and whose criterion of assessment rather rests on emotion, beliefs and desires rather than being grounded in a thorough fact-checking process (as traditionally executed by mainstream media). In the current debates about post-truth (McIntyre, 2019), our chapter makes a contribution in showing how truth does not only rest on emotions and beliefs — rather than facts — as documented (ibid.) but also, and more concerningly, on infrastructures. These infrastructures enable a series of human actions, such as sharing, clicking and commenting, but also non-human actants like algorithms and collaborative filtering. The materiality and performativity of these actants affects the economy of information in turning “fake news” and harmful discourse into political canons that are increasingly available, with the risk that they find their match in a growing number of ‘interpretative communities’.



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1 The mission lasted until 29 June 2018, though only about ten people from GI patrolled the area from 22 April on.

2 Their slogan is “Us before others” (Les nôtres avant les autres).


4 There is some conflict here between activism that is sincere, or goal-oriented, versus less sincere trolling (for example, being an ‘edgelord’). Although this issue is important, it is beyond the scope of this chapter to analyse when alt-right activists are goal-oriented and ideologically driven or simply trolling.


6 Breitbart is a populist ultra-conservative news network created in the United States in 2007. Its stated editorial position is based on opposition to the establishment, or the elites, whether Republicans or Democrats.

7 In one of her last videos, posted on 14 August 2018, Southern announced that she was taking a new direction and has stopped posting on her YouTube channel (at the time of writing). She announced that she was not going to post on YouTube for a while, since the format she was using “did not get the proper depth of analysis [the issues we are dealing with] deserve […] I want to step away from this media rat-race of ego and narcissism and I just want to tell the truth, that is all that I wanted to do since the beginning of all these crazy shenaningans. So, I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I won’t just be disappearing of the Internet after taking a step away from YouTube. I going to be changing my pace and dedicating all of my time and energy to making full-scale and in-depth documentaries […]”.

8 See YouTube for press:

9 Ibid.

10 Michael Golebiewski and danah boyd specify that YouTube is both a social media platform (it allows the possibility of building links between users), as well as a search engine, thus indexing content (Golebiewski & boyd, 2019)

11 It’s not clear why these anti-program individuals were included. Perhaps to allow the vigilantes to present themselves as being supported by locals in contrast to local attitudes toward the mainstream media.


Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 6.1 Lauren Southern’s livestream interface while she is interviewing Brittany Pettibone. Screenshot, 24 January 2019, YouTube.
Fichier image/jpeg, 25k
Titre Fig. 6.2 Screenshot of Southern’s livestream showing live comments, starting 30 seconds after the beginning of the video. Screenshot, 24 January 2019, YouTube.
Fichier image/jpeg, 23k
Titre Fig. 6.3 Audience reacting to the bad streaming of Southern’s video. Screenshot, 24 January 2019, YouTube.
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An associate professor at the School of Criminology, Université de Montréal. He is also a member of the International Center for Comparative Criminology (ICCC) and the International Studies and Research Center (CÉRIUM) of the Université de Montréal. His research focuses on the impact of technology on policing and activism, and on digital vigilantism. His work has been published in Security Dialogue, Global Crime and New Media & Society.

Recently completed her PhD in criminology at Université de Montréal. She is junior research affilitate of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS), member of the Cybercriminology Laboratory (Université de Montréal) and research assistant at the Cyberjustice Laboratory (Université de Montréal). Her research examines violent political expression online, content moderation and algorithmic regulation. She has published in several journals such as New Media & Society and Revue Critique Internationale.

Professor of Political Science at Laval University. She held the Canada Research Chair on Conflicts and Terrorism between 2007 and 2017. She is associate director of the Canadian Research Network on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS) and member of the Centre International de Criminologie Comparée (Université de Montréal). Her research has focused for years on terrorism in internal conflicts; diffusion of violence across movements and borders and engagement in extremist movements, including Canadian far right groups. Her research appeared in numerous journals, including Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Terrorism and Political Violence, International Studies Review, New Media & Society and Global Crime.


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