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Expand chart
Data: Storyful; Note: Chart uses a log scale to compare values across a wide range; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The alt-right communities that circulated millions of political memes and conspiracy theories last election cycle are working behind the scenes to test new messages and memes that will resonate on big platforms ahead of 2020.

Why it matters: Most of the conversations happening on Gab, 4chan and 8chan involve finding themes or messages to bolster the Trump candidacy or to sow divisions among Democrats, according to a new research from social media and news intelligence agency Storyful.

There's one strange exception: Longshot Democratic candidate Andrew Yang has also emerged as a popular subject among fringe conservatives, mainly because of his universal basic income platform that he's created in response to the threat of automation on the workforce and jobs.

  • Storyful journalist and analyst Kelly Jones says these actors at first embraced Yang, thanks to support he has garnered from far-right influencers.
  • But quickly, the counter-culture meme community is beginning to turn against him, according to Buzzfeed reporter Ryan Broderick,

The big picture: Jones notes that a possible reason is that fringe right communities try to elevate or highlight Democrats with no shot in an attempt to splinter the Democratic Party, and make it harder for one candidate to emerge strong enough to take on Trump.

Be smart: Similar tactics were used during the 2018 midterms. Jones notes that the popular hashtag #nomenmidterms was used in memes that were made to look like they came from Democrats, while they actually came from 4chan in an effort to sow division in the party.

What's next? "We're going to see a lot of references like that leading up to 2020," says Jones. "Fringe campaigns to manipulate the popularity of certain Democrats over others will increase, especially now while there are so many Democratic candidates in the field." Jones cites the down-ranking of Elizabeth Warren's YouTube videos as an example of this.

Go deeper: Andrew Yang wants the support of the pro-Trump internet. Now it's threatening to devour him, by Buzzfeed reporter Ryan Broderick.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove Richard Spencer and Joe Rogan as examples of far-right influencers.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Skripal poisoning suspects linked to Czech blast, as country expels 18 Russians

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two with the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two "assault rifles" believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI told news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

U.S. and China agree to take joint climate action

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry waves as he arrives at the Elysee Presidential Palace on March 10, 2021 in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.