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The role of social media in the formation of public opinion towards Islamists: A content analysis

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Internet technologies – and specifically social media – have provided Egyptians with a new public space for communication and expression, as they offer a chance to participate in discussions about matters of common concern. The virtual world of Face-book offers participants a chance to interpret news provided by the media, shape or re-shape them according to their ideologies and post them via the wall, which is considered a free open forum for discussion.

This research aims to investigate the way users of social media – particularly Facebook groups and Twitter users – express their opinions towards the emerging Islamic movement in Egypt. It argues that both comments and opinions expressed through social media – whether pro or anti-Islamist – show specific frames of expression that are formed and spread over the interactive nature of social media. Research questions investigated the different frames used by Islamists and non-Islamists; the arguments or reasons used by social media users to support those frames; the descriptions of evidence used to support their point of view; and finally, the overall tone of the social media message. The wall comments on online editions of newspapers and Tweets have been analysed using qualitative content analysis. The analysis was conducted across two phases in the years 2011 and 2012. The results of the content analysis verified the development of a new negative attitude towards Islamists, and a shift from positive attitudes and optimistic public opinion towards Islamists to the opposite side of having a negative public opinion towards their political performance.
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Keywords: Egypt; Facebook; Islamists; Twitter; framing; social media

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Misr International University

Publication date: March 1, 2013

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  • The emergence of satellite TV, the internet and digital technology have dramatically changed the way audiences receive information and interact with the media. The sudden success of Al-Jazeera and other Arab broadcasters have altered the way the Arab world narrates itself and reports news from the region to the rest of the world. The journal aims to lead the debate about these emerging rapid changes in media and society in Arab and Muslim parts of the world.
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