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Guy Next Door and Implausibly Attractive Young Women: The Visual Frames of Social Media Propaganda

Bastos, M. T. ORCID: 0000-0003-0480-1078, Mercea, D. ORCID: 0000-0003-3762-2404 & Goveia, F. (2021). Guy Next Door and Implausibly Attractive Young Women: The Visual Frames of Social Media Propaganda. New Media and Society, 25(8), pp. 2014-2033. doi: 10.1177/14614448211026580


This study combines data analysis with multilevel processing of visual communication to classify the visual frames of state-sponsored social media propaganda. We relied on Twitter’s Election Integrity data to sample five propaganda targets of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), including Russian and American partisan groups, and explored how their operations deviated from canonical state propaganda marked by symbols of national identity and heroic masculinity. The results show that the visual frames employed by the IRA are designed to embody the vox populi with relatable, familiar, or attractive faces of ordinary people. The results also indicate that IRA influence operations displayed cultural acuity and familiarity with the social identity of their targets, and that the visual narrative the agency crafted trafficked primarily in the tropes of regular guys or attractive young women. We discuss these findings and argue that statesponsored propaganda has attuned to subcultural and visual affordances of social platforms.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright ©2021, the authors.
Publisher Keywords: Visual Framing; Disinformation; Propaganda; Internet Research Agency; Twitter
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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