The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Tibor Dessewffy, Zsofia Nagy, Daniel Vary: Where are those Better Angels?

Tibor Dessewffy (ELTE), Zsofia Nagy (ELTE), Daniel Vary (ELTE)

The present refugee crisis poses the biggest challenge to Europe since the end of the Cold War. From early 2015 the Hungarian government has been taking a tough hardliner position: there are no refugees, only economic migrants. They are ‘to quote the government billboard campaign- jeopardizing our way of living’, ‘our culture’and ‘ready to take our jobs’. This hard-liner position not only gain support within the Hungarian society, but Prime Minister Viktor Orbсn became point of reference for the anti-refugee discourse all over Europe

Although we tend to describe these processes in monolithic terms, even the Hungarian response for the refugee crises was more polysemic. Actually there were thousands of Hungarian civilians who volunteered to provide humanitarian aid to those who needed-without any formal, institutional support from the state. These groups were organized in the social media, mainly on Facebook. We had carried out extended research on these groups before.

In this paper however we intend to analyze different degree of support these groups received from people belong to different ideological camps. Collecting Facebook activities on relevant pages gave us a unique opportunity to answer this question.

In order to do so, first we identify a refugee proxy Facebook public pages and posts that support the relief work for refugees. Then by using Facebook Graph API we collect the relevant likes and comments from those pages. We repeat this logic on the leftist/liberal, conservative and far right public pages. First identify the relevant pages then collect activities data with Graph API. In our SQL database we hash these data entries, and with using Python scripts we can analyze the correlations on the group level. It is hardly surprising that people with anti-government feelings, that are the leftist-liberals, supported refugee relief aid posts strongly. But our previous research also shows that reality was not black and white as mass media representations tend to suggest. There were for instance, even among people who actively liking extreme right wing political pages, some who shows empathy and support for the relief work.

We had already finished a methodological trial pilot study, to test our data collecting and database building capacities. In this pilot we collected data from for 100 000 people for our leftist proxy and 80 000 people for our pro-refugee proxy. In their subset there were 21 000 people with 150 000 likes. In our proposed paper however we intend to run a new data collection to get a bigger and more comprehensive data base.

Tibor Dessewffy, Zsofia Nagy, Daniel Vary