The Syrian War on Facebook: A call for mixed methods
Keywords:social media, Syrian civil war, mixed methods, Facebook, Machine Learning
In this paper, I analyze thirty-two public Facebook pages that actively support a side in the ongoing Syrian turmoil to study users’ online expressions to test whether the war has translated metaphorically onto these Facebook pages. This study is in conversation with and contributes to the online political polarization scholarship, the role of online platforms in the “Arab Spring,” and the digital methods used to analyze online data in Arabic. I use a supervised, machine-learning approach to classify more than four million unique comments and more than seventy thousand unique posts, from Facebook to test whether the Facebook pages are becoming warring spaces where opposing parties “fight.” Or whether they are producing spaces for conversations and “connections”? Or whether they are just echo chambers? My findings show that these pages are producing echo chambers rather than becoming warring spaces or conversing spaces. My findings also show that religious expressions are overwhelmingly used by all sides. I conclude by suggesting future methodological and analytical approaches for research of Social Network Sites (SNS).
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