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A blustery populist takes a hard line on immigration, masters the use of Facebook, and leads his part
 
March 7 · Issue #98 · View online
The Interface
A blustery populist takes a hard line on immigration, masters the use of Facebook, and leads his party to a surprising electoral victory. It’s the story of Donald Trump, of course, but also of Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s far-right Lega party — and, according to this excellent BuzzFeed story, a likely “kingmaker” in upcoming negotiations to form a governing coalition. 
With 2 million Facebook followers and a relentless focus on immigration and bashing the media, Salvini appears to have mastered the modern art of social media engagement. If many of his tactics were borrowed from Trump, he proved to be an innovator in his own right. In a novel move I expect we will see repeated, Salvini essentially gamified his Facebook page in a bid for wider organic reach:
One month before election day, the Lega leader also raised eyebrows for running a bizarre competition, which encouraged followers to drive up the engagement on his Facebook page. 
“It was called ‘Vinci Salvini’, meaning 'Win Salvini’,” De Luca said. “You participated by liking and sharing Salvini’s Facebook posts, with the ones who shared and liked the most named the daily winner.”
Salvini had turned his Facebook page into a game, where thousands of people were focused on inflating the engagement on his page. “Each winner got a phone call from Salvini, a photo posted on the page and sometimes a one-on-one coffee,” De Luca said.

BuzzFeed calls this “bizarre,” but would you? In an era where Facebook has denounced “passive consumption” in favor of “meaningful interactions,” it’s hard to imagine a better strategy for promoting a candidate on the platform.
Salvini had allies in both the mainstream media (where he was a constant presence on TV) and on the internet (where networked news sites of dubious origin promulgated anti-immigrant news and misinformation.) And like many of his friends on the far right, he had a friend in Russia, El Pais reported.
According to an analysis of 1,055,774 posts from 98,191 social media profiles to which EL PAÍS has had access, a network of anti-immigration and anti-NGO activists has been sharing links of stories published mostly by Sputnik, a media organization owned by the Russian government and operating in Italian among other languages, in order to propagate a false image of Italy. In this scenario, the country has been invaded by refugees who are to blame for unemployment and inflation, in the midst of a crisis made only worse by the passive attitude of pro-European politicians; ultimately, the European Union itself is held up as a culprit
Like Trump, Salvini counts himself an admirer of Putin:
Its links with the League and the populist Five Star Movement have been evident for two years. Salvini was seen in March 2017 with Sergei Zheleznyak, in charge of relations with European parties at the Kremlin. That day an agreement that had been months in the making was signed, also via displays of admiration by Salvini for Vladimir Putin and the electoral promise of breaking with the trade embargoes against Russia, which, according to the League leader, have cost Italy €5 billion and have had a particular effect on Italian meat and textile companies.
In his victory remarks, Salvini stopped short of thanking Putin for his support. On the subject of Facebook, though, he was far more exuberant; “Grazie a dio esiste la rete, grazie a dio esistono i social, grazie a dio esiste Facebook.”
Thank God for the internet. Thank God for social media. Thank God for Facebook.  

Italy's New Far-Right Star Specifically Thanked Facebook For The Election Result Because Of Course He Did
Democracy
Publishers Could Get a New Weapon Against Facebook and Google
Russian Influence Campaign Extracted Americans’ Personal Data
Erasing History: YouTube’s Deletion Of Syria War Videos Concerns Human Rights Groups
Peter Thiel’s Money Talks, in Contentious Ways. But What Does He Say?
AP to debunk election misinformation on Facebook
Facebook Really Is Spying on You, Just Not Through Your Phone’s Mic
Elsewhere
Snap Plans Biggest Round of Layoffs Yet
Collateral damage from Facebook's news-feed changes begins to pile up
Facebook ad costs spiked higher after a big change to its News Feed algorithm
Facebook looks to change the tune with move into music
BlackBerry's Facebook Suit Is Latest Salvo in Patent Battle
Oculus Rifts around the world stopped working this morning
Instagram’s Slime Stars Pivot to Soap
Launches
Facebook Messenger Lite adds video chat
Google adds a video voicemail feature to its Duo messaging app
Takes
For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned.
“Verify, then trust”: My testimony before the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy
And finally ...
Facebook gets patent for self-balancing robot
I’ll take 10!
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Italian lessons? casey@theverge.com 
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