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Dr. Ahmed Al-Rawi (Simon Fraser University, School of Communication) analyzes social media datasets to understand the representation of Islam by Russian trolls during the 2016 US elections.The presentation provides an empirical understanding of the way Russian trolls used the issue of Islam on social media before and after the 2016 US elections. Three main datasets taken from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are analyzed, and the results indicate that Russian trolls frequently used Islam to microtarget a variety of audiences as the messages varied depending on the receivers’ backgrounds. Despite the constant message variations, Russian trolls mostly connected Muslims and Islam to the Democrats, liberals, and social movements like Black Lives Matter. On the other hand, when conservative and Republican users are targeted, Islam is often treated highly negatively; however, when American Muslims are targeted, Islam is always framed in a positive way. The study is situated within the broader discussion of microtargeting and disinformation and introduces the theoretical concept of microtargeted disinformation that has become an easily accessible political strategy due to the marketing features readily afforded by social media platforms.
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