Canada Convoy Draws Online Support From Far-Right Activists

The truck convoy protests in Canada that have roiled the nation’s capital are attracting support online among far-right activists across the world.

The protests initially focused on vaccine mandates imposed by the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but have since grown to encompass broader demonstrations over general pandemic rules like vaccination mandates, shutdowns and mask requirements.

About two weeks ago, photos of the truckers appeared on anti-vaccine groups on Facebook and other social networks. The hashtag used by the truckers, #FreedomConvoy, spread quickly across Facebook and Twitter, as well as the messaging app Telegram.

Since then, prominent far-right figures in numerous countries, including the United States, Australia and Germany, have praised the protests online, spreading the images and arguments even more widely. Some are also calling for similar demonstrations in their countries.

“I love the smell of freedom in the morning,” George Christensen, a member of Australia’s Parliament, wrote above a photo of the truckers on his Facebook page Sunday. The post was shared over 500 times, and liked nearly 7,000 times.

Christine Margarete Anderson, a German member of the European Parliament, shared images of the truckers on her Facebook page with the caption, “Hooray Canada, go for it!”

On Facebook, the #FreedomConvoy, hashtag has been shared over 1.2 million times since Jan. 24, according to Crowdtangle, a Facebook-owned data analytics tool.

Other hashtags, including #ConvoytoOttawa2022, had garnered millions of thousands of shares across the platform. Another Facebook group dedicated to following and supporting the truckers has attracted nearly 700,000 followers in the last two weeks.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said it removed several groups associated with the convoy for violating its rules. One of the groups had engaged in the types of practices commonly used by spammers, like sending people who followed the group to external sites to buy merchandise. Another group had violated Facebook’s rules by sharing content tied to the banned QAnon conspiracy movement.

The company said it was still reviewing other groups being formed in connection to the truckers’ protests.

“We continue to see scammers latch on to any hot-button issue that draws people’s attention, including the ongoing protests,” said Margarita Franklin, a Meta spokeswoman. “Over the past week, we’ve removed Groups and Pages run by spammers, including in Vietnam, who used abusive tactics to mislead people.”

“We continue to monitor the situation and will enforce against violations when we find them,” she added.

American anti-vaccine groups, which were among the first to notice and support the protests, have also begun forming local wings of the movement and urged truckers in the United States to mimic the tactics being used in Canada.

On Telegram, several far-right figures have promoted the protests. Among them are Dan Bongino and Ben Shapiro. Both have shared links to fund-raising sites that have collected millions of dollars to support the truckers.

Telegram did not respond to a request for comment.

In one Ohio-based Telegram channel started last week, hundreds of people were crowdsourcing how to send aid to the Canadian truckers, and discussing how they could form a convoy in their state.

“Does anyone know a trucker? Hell, does anyone want to become a trucker?” asked one person in the group. “We can’t let Canada have all the fun.”