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.