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Visual propaganda on Facebook: A comparative analysis of Syrian conflicts

media-war-conflictJournal abstract

Social media platforms have become important in spreading propaganda images during conflicts, as demonstrated in several recent cases including the Israeli–Hamas confrontation in 2012 and graphic internet videos by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in 2014. This study examines the role of visual propaganda in the social media age by analyzing themes, frames, and structural features of images posted on the official Facebook pages of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces in 2013 and 2014. Our content analysis shows interesting differences and similarities between the two sides in using images to promote their political agendas during the recent Syrian conflicts following the 2011 uprisings. The Syrian government used visual frames to support its narrative that President Assad is a fearless leader protecting its people and that life has continued normally throughout Syria. The Syrian opposition used various images to solidify its narrative of the Assad regime’s brutality and sufferings of Syrian civilians. There were significant differences in terms of audience reactions to images with different themes and frames. These and other issues are discussed in the context of visual propaganda and framing in social media-based information warfare.