Dr. Florian Toepfl (Group Leader)

Short BiO

Dr Töpfl heads the seven-year project (2014-2021) as a Junior Research Group Leader. Presently, he is also Principal Investigator an ERC consolidator project about "The Consequences of the Internet for Russia's Informational Influence Abroad" (RUSINFORM). Moreover, he is head of the Research Unit for Political Communication at the University of Passau.


Dr Toepfl received his PhD in political science from the University of Passau in 2009. Since then, he has been a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science; a researcher and lecturer at the Institute for Media Studies and Communication Research, LMU University Munich; and a postdoctoral fellow at the Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian and Eastern European Studies at Columbia University, New York. Dr Töpfl has also held visiting fellowships at the Aleksanteri Institute for Russian Studies, University of Helsinki, and in the Sociology Department at the Higher School of Economics, St Petersburg.


REseach Interests

Dr Töpfl's research focuses on the inter-relations between old and new media and politics in non-democratic regimes, with a strong focus on Russia and the post-Soviet world. More specifically he is interested in how the rapid rise of the internet in the past decade has changed political communication, politics, polities, and political culture in non-democratic regimes. Dr Töpfl's research projects are largely based on qualitative empirical data from post-Soviet countries. However, in interpreting and theorizing the data, he aims consistently for comparative perspectives with both western democracies and (semi-)authoritarian regimes in Asia and the Arab world. In addition, Dr Töpfl is interested in how the recent rise of far-right social movements in many Western countries has affected political communication, media structures and politics under democratic rule. In this research area, the empirical focus of his research is on his home country Germany. 


Selected Publications

  • Zerback, T., Toepfl, F., & Knoepfle, M. (in press). The disconcerting potential of online disinformation: Persuasive effects of astroturfing comments and three strategies for inoculation against them. New Media & Society.
  • Toepfl, F. (2020). Comparing authoritarian publics. The benefits and risks of three types of publics for autocrats. Communication Theory. Published online first here. [Link to free open access version]
  • Litvinenko, A., & Toepfl, F. (2019). The “Gardening” of an Authoritarian Public at Large: How Russia’s Ruling Elites Transformed the Country’s Media Landscape After the 2011/12 Protests “For Fair Elections”, Publizistik (published online first). [Link to publisher's website] [Link to free depository version].


More information

Dr Toepfl's CV with a full list of publications is available here.



Dr. Florian Toepfl
Dr.-Hans-Kapfinger-Str. 14c, Room 410
94032 Passau