Researchers Analyze Syrian Political Cartoons on Facebook


Uncredited cartoon posted to Comic4Syria

As we’ve seen many times over, political cartoons play an important role in fomenting rebellion against repressive governments. Because it’s often difficult or impossible to distribute them through traditional print media in their own countries, many cartoonists are now taking advantage of social media to share their work. Intrigued by this use of new platforms to disseminate an old format, some researchers at the University of Kansas recently went about analyzing the cartoons shared on one Facebook page out of Syria.

Kansas journalism professor Hyunjin Seo, along with doctoral students Goran S. Ghafour and Ren-Whei Han, tracked and categorized all the cartoons posted on the Comic4Syria page over a period of 16 months. They also cataloged the number of Likes and comments that each cartoon received from fans of the page. These statistics allowed the researchers to analyze aspects ranging from which topics received the most response, to the genders and ages of people represented in the cartoons.

The Comic4Syria project continues in the same vein as Seo’s previous research, which has covered “social media use during the Arab Spring, Twitter images used in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Internet connectivity in the Middle East.” The special case of political cartoons, though, allowed the researchers to get a glimpse of how Syrians responded to the conflict in their country without the filter imposed on censored print media. Seo, Ghafour, and Han will present their findings at next month’s International Communication Association Conference in Seattle.

We need your help to keep fighting for the right to read! Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!

Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.