Freedom of expression or censorship of antisemitic hate speech?

Editorial and audience perspectives on comment moderation in far-right alternative media


  • Birgitte P. Haanshuus The Norwegian Centre for Holocaust and Minority Studies



far right, alternative media, comment moderation, online comments, editorial control, audience participation, hate speech, antisemitism, freedom of expression, anti-Muslim prejudice


Taking the dilemma between freedom of expression and censorship of antisemitic hate speech as a point of departure, this article explores how three prominent and controversial Norwegian far-right alternative media perceive and perform comment moderation and how editorial and audience perspectives on the issue correspond. Based on a critical discourse analysis of interviews with key staff members and a strategic selection of comment sections, the article demonstrates how both moderators and debaters understand the boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate expressions and how transgressive content should be dealt with. The article argues that when it comes to regulating comment sections, these oppositional media actors are not so alternative after all. The study illustrates how comment moderation is crucial for all actors who seek to obtain or protect their legitimacy, regardless of their (counter-) position in the public sphere. While there is widespread agreement on antisemitic hate speech as illegitimate, there is, however, more tolerance for generalising statements about Muslims and immigrants, which underpins these actors’ antagonism towards these groups.


Anderson, A. A., Yeo, S. K., Brossard, D., Scheufele, D. A., & Xenos, M. A. (2016). Toxic talk: How online incivility can undermine perceptions of media. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 30(1), 156–168.

Bergström, A., & Wadbring, I. (2015). Beneficial yet crappy: Journalists and audiences on obstacles and opportunities in reader comments. European Journal of Communication, 30(2), 137–151.

Berntzen, L. E. (2020). Liberal roots of far right activism: The anti-Islamic movement in the 21st century. Routledge.

Castelli Gattinara, P. (2017). Framing exclusion in the public sphere: Far-right mobilisation and the debate on Charlie Hebdo in Italy. South European Society and Politics, 22(3), 345–364.

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. (2018). Experiences and perceptions of antisemitism—Second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU.

Figenschou, T. U., & Ihlebæk, K. A. (2019). Challenging journalistic authority: Media criticism in far-right alternative media. Journalism Studies, 20(9), 1221–1237.

Haanshuus, B. P., & Ihlebæk, K. A. (2021). Recontextualising the news: How antisemitic discourses are constructed in extreme far-right alternative media. Nordicom Review, 42(s1), 37–50.

Heft, A., Mayerhöffer, E., Reinhardt, S., & Knüpfer, C. (2020). Beyond Breitbart: Comparing right‐wing digital news infrastructures in six western democracies. Policy & Internet, 12(1), 20–45.

Hoffmann, C., & Moe, V. (Eds.) (2017). Attitudes Towards Jews and Muslims in Norway 2017. Population Survey and Minority Study. The Norwegian Centre for Holocaust and Minority Studies.

Holt, K. (2020). Right-wing alternative media. Routledge.

Holt, K., Ustad Figenschou, T., & Frischlich, L. (2019). Key dimensions of alternative news media. Digital Journalism, 7(7), 860–869.

Ihlebæk, K. A., & Figenschou, T. U. (2022). Knock, knock! Right-wing alternative media is at the door. Institutional boundary work in a hybrid media environment. In P. Ferrucci & S. A. Eldridge II (Eds.), Institutions Changing Journalism: Barbarians inside the gate (pp. 17–31). Routledge.

Ihlebæk, K. A., & Krumsvik, A. H. (2015). Editorial power and public participation in online newspapers. Journalism, 16(4), 470–487.

Ihlebæk, K. A., Løvlie, A. S., & Mainsah, H. (2013). Mer åpenhet, mer kontroll? Håndteringen av nettdebatten etter 22. juli. Norsk Medietidsskrift, 20(03), 223–240.

Ihlebæk, K. A., & Nygaard, S. (2021). Right-wing alternative media in the Scandinavian political communication landscape. In E. Skogerbø, Ø. Ihlen, N. N. Kristensen, & L. Nord (Eds.), Power, communication, and politics in the Nordic countries (pp. 263–282). Nordicom, University of Gothenburg.

Jackson, P., & Feldman, M. (2014). Introduction. In M. Feldman & P. Jackson (Eds.), Doublespeak: The rhetoric of the far right since 1945 (pp. 7–35). ibidem-Verlag.

Kahmann, B. (2017). ‘The most ardent pro-Israel party’: Pro-Israel attitudes and anti-antisemitism among populist radical-right parties in Europe. Patterns of Prejudice, 51(5), 396–411.

Larsson, A. O. (2011). Interactive to me – interactive to you? A study of use and appreciation of interactivity on Swedish newspaper websites. New Media & Society, 13(7), 1180–1197.

Løvlie, A. S., Ihlebæk, K. A., & Larsson, A. O. (2018). User Experiences with Editorial Control in Online Newspaper Comment Fields. Journalism Practice, 12(3), 362–381.

Lurås, H. (2018). Ta ekstra godt vare på jødene i Norge. Resett.

Moffitt, B. (2017). Liberal illiberalism? The reshaping of the contemporary populist radical right in Northern Europe. Politics and Governance, 5(4), 112–122.

Mudde, C. (2007). Populist radical right parties in Europe. Cambridge University Press.

Newman, N., Fletcher, R., Schulz, A., Andı, S., & Nielsen, R. K. (2020). Digital News Report 2020. Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Noppari, E., Hiltunen, I., & Ahva, L. (2019). User profiles for populist counter-media websites in Finland. Journal of Alternative & Community Media, 4(1), 23–37.

Nygaard, S. (2020). Boundary work: Intermedia agenda-setting between right-wing alternative media and professional journalism. Journalism Studies, 21(6), 766–782.

Reich, Z. (2011). User Comments. The transformation of participatory space. In J. B. Singer, A. Hermida, D. Domingo, A. Heinonen, S. Paulussen, T. Quandt, Z. Reich, & M. Vujnovic, Participatory journalism: Guarding open gates at online newspapers (pp. 96–117). Wiley-Blackwell.

Reisigl, M., & Wodak, R. (2016). The discourse-historical approach (DHA). In R. Wodak & M. Meyer (Eds.), Methods of Critical Discourse Studies (3rd ed., pp. 23–61). SAGE Publications Ltd.

Robinson, S. (2010). Traditionalists vs. convergers: Textual privilege, boundary work, and the journalist-audience relationship in the commenting policies of online news sites. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 16(1), 125–143.

Ruiz, C., Domingo, D., Micó, J. L., Díaz-Noci, J., Meso, K., & Masip, P. (2011). Public sphere 2.0? The democratic qualities of citizen cebates in online newspapers. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 16(4), 463–487.

Rustad, H. (2019). Resett bommer totalt: Antisemitter har samme forhold til ytringsfrihet som islamister. Document.

Schwarzenegger, C. (2021). Communities of darkness? Users and uses of anti-system alternative media between audience and community. Media and Communication, 9(1), 99–109.

Singer, J. B., Hermida, A., Domingo, D., Heinonen, A., Paulussen, S., Quandt, T., Reich, Z., & Vujnovic, M. (2011). Participatory journalism: Guarding open gates at online newspapers. Wiley-Blackwell.

Storhaug, H. (2018). Grotesk jødehat i Resetts kommentarfelt. Human Rights Service.

Thorbjørnsrud, K., & Figenschou, T. U. (2020). The alarmed citizen: Fear, mistrust, and alternative media. Journalism Practice, 16(5), 1018–1035.

Yılmaz, F. (2011). The politics of the Danish cartoon affair: Hegemonic intervention by the extreme right. Communication Studies, 62(1), 5–22.




How to Cite

Haanshuus, B. P. (2022). Freedom of expression or censorship of antisemitic hate speech? Editorial and audience perspectives on comment moderation in far-right alternative media. Journalistica, 16(1), 12–34.



Special Issue: Exploring The Boundaries Of Nordic Journalism (NordMedia Conference 2021 Special Issue)