Social Media Narratives across Platforms in Conflict: Evidence from Syria

71 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2022

See all articles by Erin Walk

Erin Walk

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS)

Elizabeth Parker-Magyar

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Kiran Garimella

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Ahmet Akbiyik

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Fotini Christia

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: April 2, 2022

Abstract

The conflict in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands and forced more than half of the country’s population to flee their homes. We constructed and analyzed comparable datasets of public messages and images from three popular social media platforms to study how Syrian users represent the conflict amid a period of relative de-escalation. Paired with a sample of users’ responses to an open-ended questionnaire, our findings show that complementary if divergent discussions of violence remain central even as they vary across platforms. Narratives on Telegram address the violence’s day-to-day impacts, while on Twitter they contextualize violence within the conflict’s broader cleavages. A site with stricter surveillance, Facebook features more loyalist narratives. Our results underscore how actors diversify their presentation of violence to reach domestic and international audiences and to accommodate platform affordances, in ways that can impact how both users and researchers understand ongoing conflict.

Keywords: social media, conflict, syria, refugee, data set, de-escalation, platform, telegram, twitter, facebook, information

Suggested Citation

Walk, Erin and Parker-Magyar, Elizabeth and Garimella, Kiran and Akbiyik, Ahmet and Christia, Fotini, Social Media Narratives across Platforms in Conflict: Evidence from Syria (April 2, 2022). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2022-2, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4075120 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4075120

Erin Walk

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) ( email )

United States

Elizabeth Parker-Magyar (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( email )

30 Wadsworth Street (Rm 470)
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Kiran Garimella

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Ahmet Akbiyik

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Fotini Christia

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

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