Tuiteando sobre refugiadosuna comparación internacional de discursos, imaginarios y representaciones sociales

  1. Rebollo Díaz, Carolina
Supervised by:
  1. Estrella Gualda Director

Defence university: Universidad de Huelva

Fecha de defensa: 19 May 2021

  1. Antonio Trinidad Requena Chair
  2. María Luz Congosto Martínez Secretary
  3. Emilia E. Martínez Brawley Committee member

Type: Thesis


Since its origin, the so-called refugee crisis has produced daily dramatic and humanitarian situations according to the high number of displaced, dead, and missing people, vulnerability, and risks, not to say the rejection of refugees by some governments and citizens in several countries. Social networks on the Internet, including Twitter, have functioned as digital communication tools to transmit, interact and share these and other events with other users thanks to their popularity, immediacy, and timeliness. This doctoral thesis's general objective was to know the imaginaries, social representations, and discourses expressed on Twitter about refugees in the context of the migration crisis. Relevant objectives were also to identify the dominant narratives, messages accompanying them, and identifying and characterizing the main actors participating in the public debate on Twitter about refugees, from an international perspective. It also intended to know if the narratives were ideologically polarized to know who supported each group. Likewise, we wanted to compare the messages, discourses, and actors of a specific Twitter campaign -2016, World Refugee Day- with the results obtained from the previous objectives. This research started with a data mining phase from Twitter (mid December 2015 to mid-December 2016), an entire year, on different days and times of the week through the NodeXL tool. Data were recovered from the search string "refugees" in different languages: Spanish ("refugiados"), English ("refugees"), German ("fluechtlinge"), French ("réfugiés"), Italian ("rifugiati") and Portuguese ("refugiados"). The sample consists of a total of 1,807,901 tweets. Subsequently, various data processing and filtering techniques were applied to work with different datasets depending on the analysis to be done. These were content analysis, discourse analysis and social network analysis, based on networks of retweets. Spss, Excel, Atlas.ti, T-LAB and Gephi, especially, were used for these analyses. The results yield a series of polarized narratives related to humanization and dehumanization strategies, as well as social imaginaries and representations. On the one hand, we found different discourses of support for refugees or pro refugee campaigns. Also, critical assessments of the European policies addressing the crisis, and various types of messages aimed at raising awareness in favour of vulnerable groups emerged. Imaginaries about morality and innocence and social representations of the West, girls and women also came into play. Behind these narratives are mainly organizations and social movements supporting refugees. On the other hand, we found negative discourses that disseminate refugees' terrible image with incitement components to hatred and racism. There are also anti-Islamic positions that include stereotyped arguments that support a discourse of fear towards this social group. These discourses make use of social representations of refugees as purely religious subjects (specifically Muslims) who are assumed to have homogeneous radical and violent behaviours and the representation of refugees as a threat in a context of securitization narratives. The discourses show a critical emotional component manifested through metaphors, indignation, catastrophism, or exaggerations that produce a sense of out-of control and entrench fear. In both cases, the discourses use conservative or extreme right-wing social media to be disseminated, or sources accused of sharing false news and conspiracy theories to reshape the arguments. The actors behind these discourses tend to be anonymous on Twitter or expose little information about them. Many of them have suspended Twitter accounts. We found diversity in the narratives depending on the language or territory from which they originate. There are common aspects shared among the different contexts, but discourses, imaginaries and social representations were affected by the context, they are not always universal. We conclude with some reflections on the necessary response from a type of social intervention aimed at managing diversity and integration policies for the refugee population in a coordinated and effective manner, and, on the other hand, the fight against conspiracy theories, fake news, and disinformation, as well as hate speech on social networks.