No. XLIV/1 (2022)

Algorithm-driven populism: An introduction

Populizm oparty na algorytmach. Wprowadzenie

Leandro Ayres França
Universidade de Santa Cruz do Sul
Carlos Adalberto Ferreira de Abreu
Universidade La Salle

Published 2023-02-15


  • populism,
  • democracy,
  • technology,
  • algorithms,
  • social media

How to Cite

Ayres França, L., & Ferreira de Abreu, C. A. (2023). Algorithm-driven populism: An introduction: Populizm oparty na algorytmach. Wprowadzenie. Archives of Criminology, (XLIV/1), 229–251.


This paper introduces the concept of algorithm-driven populism, considering whether it has a consonant or a conflicting relation with liberal democracy. The overall argument is that social media platforms are not just new media used by populists; algorithms have co-constituted a new form of populism. Based on a literature review that connected different fields of research together in order to elucidate the relation between populism and digital media, this article details a few important features of social media platforms, examining how they set up specific affordances that endanger the values of liberal democracy.


  1. Aas K.F. (2012). ‘The Earth is one but the world is not: Criminological theory and its geopolitical divisions.’ Theoretical Criminology 16(1), pp. 5–20.
  2. Albertazzi D. and McDonnell D. (2008). ‘Introduction: A new spectre for Western Europe.’ In D. Albertazzi and D. McDonnell (eds.) Twenty-First Century Populism: The Spectre of Western European Democracy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1–11.
  3. Allcott H., Braghieri L., Eichmeyer S., and Gentzkow M. (2020). ‘The welfare effects of social media.’ American Economic Review 110(3), pp. 629–676.
  4. Barberá P. (2015). How Social Media Reduces Mass Political Polarization. Evidence from Germany, Spain, and the U.S. Proceedings of the 2015 APSA Annual Meeting, San Francisco.
  5. Barberá P. (2020). ‘Social media, echo chambers, and political polarization.’ In N. Persily and J.A. Tucker (eds.) Social Media and Democracy: The State of the Field, Prospects for Reform. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 34–55.
  6. Bartlett J. (2014a). ‘Populism, social media and democratic strain.’ In G. Lodge and G. Gottfried (eds.) Democracy in Britain: Essays in Honour of James Cornford. London: Institute for Public Policy Research, pp. 91–96.
  7. Bartlett J. (2014b). ‘Populism, social media and democratic strain.’ In C. Sandelind (ed.) European Populism and Winning the Immigration Debate. Stockholm: Fores, European Liberal Forum, pp. 99–114.
  8. Boyd D.M. and Ellison N.B. (2008). ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship.’ Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13, pp. 210–230.
  9. Bozdag E. (2013). ‘Bias in algorithmic filtering and personalization.’ Ethics Inf Technol 15, pp. 209–227.
  10. Bruns A. (2019a). It’s Not the Technology, Stupid: How the ‘Echo Chamber’ and ‘Filter Bubble’ Metaphors Have Failed Us, paper presented at the IAMCR 2019 conference in Madrid, Spain, July 7-11. Submission n. 19771, Mediated Communication, Public Opinion and Society Section.
  11. Bruns A. (2019b). Filter Bubble. Internet Policy Review 8(4). Available online: [8.10.2021].
  12. Bucher T. (2018). If… Then: Algorithmic Power and Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.
  13. Burrell J. (2016). ‘How the machine ‘thinks’: Understanding opacity in machine learning algorithms.’ Big Data & Society 3(1), pp. 1–12.
  14. Callihan K. (2020). The Opaque Operations of 21st Century Populism. Capstone Projects and Master’s Theses 793. Available online: [26.04.2021].
  15. Canovan M. (1981). Populism. New York, London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  16. Cesarino L. (2019). On Digital Populism in Brazil. Political and Legal Anthropology Review. Available online: [26.04.2021].
  17. Cioran E.M. (2010). A Short History of Decay. London: Penguin.
  18. Danah M.B. and Ellison N.B. (2007). ‘Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship.’ Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13(1), pp. 210–230.
  19. DeVito M.A. (2017). ‘From editors to algorithms: A values-based approach to understanding story selection in the Facebook news feed.’ Digital Journalism 5(6), pp. 753–773. DOI: 10.1080/21670811.2016.1178592.
  20. Engesser S., Ernst N., Esse F., and Büchel F. (2017). ‘Populism and social media: How politicians spread a fragmented ideology.’ Information, Communication & Society 20(8), pp. 1109–1126.
  21. Facebook (2021). Facebook Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2020 Results, Available online: [24.04.2021].
  22. Flaxman S., Goel S., and Rao J.M. (2016). ‘Filter bubbles, echo chambers, and online news consumption.’ Public Opinion Quarterly 80, pp. 298–320.
  23. França L.A. (2021). ‘How international should international criminology be?.’ International Criminology 1(1), pp. 46–57.
  24. França L.A. and Quevedo J.V. (2020). ‘Project leaked: Research on non-consensual sharing of intimate images in Brazil.’ International Journal of Cyber Criminology 14(1), pp. 1–28.
  25. Friedman B. and Nissenbaum H. (1996). ‘Bias in computer systems.’ ACM Transactions on Information Systems 14(3), pp. 330–347.
  26. Garimella K., De Francisci Morales G., Gionis A., and Mathioudakis M. (2018). ʻPolitical discourse on social media: Echo chambers, gatekeepers, and the price of bipartisanship.’ In WWW 2018: The 2018 Web Conference, April 23-27, Lyon, France. New York: ACM. DOI: 10.1145/3178876.3186139.
  27. Gerbaudo P. (2014). ‘Populism 2.0: Social media activism, the generic internet user and interactive direct democracy.’ In D. Trottier and Ch. Fuchs (ed.) Social Media, Politics and the State: Protests, Revolutions, Riots, Crime and Policing in the Age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. New York: Routledge, pp. 67–87.
  28. Gerbaudo P. (2018). ‘Social media and populism: An elective affinity?.’ Media, Culture & Society 40(5), pp. 745–753.
  29. Gesenhues A. (2018). Despite 280-Character Expansion, Short Tweets Are Still the Norm: After Increasing Tweets to 280 Characters a Year Ago, Twitter Says the Most Common Length of a Tweet Is Still Under 35 Characters, Available online:,reach%20the%20280%2Dcharacter%20limit [04.05.2021].
  30. Gillespie T. (2014). Algorithm (Digital Keywords), Available online [23.09.2021].
  31. Gorwa R. and Ash T.G. (2019). ‘Democratic transparency in the platform society.’ SocArXiv October 4. Available online:
  32. Hobsbawm E.J. (1952). ‘The machine breakers.’ Past & Present 1, pp. 57–70.
  33. Hopster J. (2021). ‘Mutual affordances: The dynamics between social media and populism.’ Media, Culture & Society 43(3), pp. 551–560.
  34. Howarth D. and Stavrakakis Y. (2000). ‘Introducing discourse theory and political analysis.’ In D. Howarth, A.J. Norval, and Y. Stavrakakis (eds.) Discourse Theory and Political Analysis: Identities, Hegemonies and Social Change. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 1–23.
  35. Introna L.D. (2016). ‘Algorithms, governance, and governmentality: On governing academic writing.’ Science, Technology, & Human Values 41(1), pp. 17–49.
  36. Izquierdo I. (2011). Silêncio, por favor! [Silence, please!]. São Leopoldo: Unisinos.
  37. Katyal N.K. (2001). ‘Criminal law in cyberspace.’ University of Pennsylvania Law Review 149(4), pp. 1003–1114.
  38. Katyal N.K. (2003). ‘Digital architecture as crime control.’ Yale Law Journal 112(8), pp. 2261–2289.
  39. KhosraviNik M. (2018). ‘Social media techno-discursive design, affective communication and contemporary politics.’ Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences 11, pp. 427–442.
  40. Klinger U. and Svensson J. (2016). ‘Network media logic: Some conceptual considerations.’ In A. Bruns, G. Enli, E. Skogerbø, A.O. Larsson, and C. Christensen (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics, New York: Routledge, pp. 23–38. DOI: 10.4324/9781315716299.
  41. Lessig L. (1998). The Laws of Cyberspace: Draft 3. In Taiwan Net ’98, Taipei.
  42. Lessig L. (2006). Code: Version 2.0. New York: Basic Book.
  43. Maly I. (2018). ‘Populism as a mediatized communicative relation: The birth of algorithmic populism.’ Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies 213. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.14077.20960.
  44. McNeely I.F. and Wolverton L. (2008). Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  45. Mignolo W.D. (2002). ‘The geopolitics of knowledge and the colonial difference.’ South Atlantic Quarterly 101(1), pp. 57–96.
  46. Moor J. (1985). ‘What is computer ethics?.’ Metaphilosophy 16, pp. 266–275.
  47. Mouffe Ch. (2018). For a Left Populism. London: Verso.
  48. Mudde C. and Rovira Kaltwasser C. (2017). Populism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  49. Mueller G. (2021). Breaking Things at Work: The Luddites Are Right About Why You Hate Your Job. London: Verso.
  50. Muller J.-W. (2016). What is Populism?. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  51. O’Neil C. (2017). Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. London: Penguin Books.
  52. Pariser E. (2011). The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. New York: The Penguin Press.
  53. Polonski V. (2017). The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Uses of Machine Learning in Election Campaigns. Centre for Public Impact. Available online: [26.04.2021].
  54. Pratt J. (2007). Penal populism. New York: Routledge.
  55. Pratt J. and Miao M. (2017). ‘Penal populism: The end of reason.’ The Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2017-02. Nova Criminis 9(13), pp. 71–105.
  56. Pratt J. and Miao M. (2019). ‘The end of penal populism: The rise of populist politics.’ Archiwum Kryminologii 41(2), pp. 15–40. Availabe online:
  57. Prior H. (2019). ‘Em nome do povo: O populismo e o novo ecossistema mediático’ [On behalf of the people: Populism and the new media ecosystem]. In J. Figueira and S. Santos (eds.) As fake news e a nova ordem (des)informativa na era da pós-verdade [Fake news and the new (un)informative order in the post-truth era]. Coimbra: Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra, pp. 123–145.
  58. Rosen A. and Ihara I. (2017). Giving You More Characters to Express Yourself, Availabe online: [4.05.2021].
  59. Stark B. and Stegmann D. (2020). Are Algorithms a Threat to Democracy? The Rise of Intermediaries: A Challenge for Public Discourse. Berlin: AW AlgorithmWatch gGmbH.
  60. Striphas T. (2015). ‘Algorithmic culture.’ European Journal of Cultural Studies 18(4–5), pp. 395–412.
  61. Tormey S. (2019). Populism: A Beginner’s Guide. London: Oneworld Publications.
  62. Tucker J.A., Guess A., Barberá P., Vaccari C., Siegel A., Sanovich S., Stukal D., and Nyhan B. (2018). Social Media, Political Polarization, and Political Disinformation: A Review of the Scientific Literature. Menlo Park: William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
  63. Tucker J.A., Theocharis Y., Roberts M.E., and Barberá P. (2017). ‘From liberation to turmoil: Social media and democracy.’ Journal of Democracy 28(4), pp. 46–59.
  64. Venturini T. (2019). ‘From fake to junk news, the data politics of online virality.’ In D. Bigo, E. Isin, and E. Ruppert (eds.) Data Politics: Worlds, Subjects, Rights. London: Routledge. Available online:
  65. Wardle C. and Derakhshan H. (2017). Information Disorder: Toward an Interdisciplinary Framework for Research and Policymaking. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
  66. Weiser M. (1991). ‘The computer for the 21st century.’ Scientific American 265(3), pp. 94–105.
  67. Zaffaroni E.R. (2017). O inimigo no direito penal [The enemy in criminal law]. Rio de Janeiro: Revan.
  68. Zuiderveen Borgesius F.J., Möller J., Kruikemeier S., Ó Fathaigh R., Irion K., Dobber T., Bodo B., and Vreese C. de (2018). ‘Online political microtargeting: Promises and threats for democracy.’ Utrecht Law Review 14(1), pp. 82–96.