Author(s): Erin Walk, Elizabeth Parker-Magyar, Fotini Christia, Kiran Garimella, Ahmet Akbiyik
Status/Format: In Progress
Publisher: MIT Political Science Department Research Paper
Volume and Issue: 2022-2
Social Media Narratives across Platforms in Conflict: Evidence from Syria
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.