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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Lebanon’s Presidential Candidates in the Social Media Debate

Monday , 24 July 2023
Design: Marc Rechdane


This study is part of a series of reports that monitor the social media discursive trends accompanying Lebanon’s electoral cycles. The objective of this particular study is to analyze the primary headlines and sentiments surrounding the presidential election within the Lebanese public opinion. The study covers the period between May 15 and June 14, 2023; the latter date marking the last failed parliamentary session held to elect a president.

Our focus is to better understand the trends related to hate speech, disinformation, political violence, and human rights. To achieve this, we have gathered data from tweets discussing or mentioning the presidential election. To assist us in sorting and analyzing the vast amount of information available in the online public debate, the Samir Kassir Foundation (SKF) has partnered with Reputell, a data service provider with access to extensive data and software technology to sort the wealth of information.

This report begins with background information on recent developments in Lebanon. Following that, we provide an overview of the data collected and our analytical framework. We then proceed with a thorough analysis of the information. Finally, the report concludes by highlighting key takeaways and indicators.

Based on the quantitative and interpretive analysis, the monitoring process has revealed several key trends:

■ Ad hominem attacks, hate speech (particularly homophobia), and misinformation were frequently employed by political actors online to delegitimize or promote specific presidential candidates.

■ Hezbollah partisans and supporters are the primary agents behind such behavior, exploiting or fabricating their opponents’ affiliations with external forces to enhance their candidate’s image among the public.

■ Sectarian forces in Lebanon have effectively co-opted the digital sphere, which was once utilized by alternative personalities and groups. The online space now serves as a platform for expressing polarizing national sentiments and for traditional political parties to crowd out nuanced voices.

■ The primary focus of the discussion revolves around the political contestation between Jihad Azour and Sleiman Frangieh. Conversations regarding Ziyad Baroud and Joseph Aoun are only relevant in connection to this contestation.

■ The distribution of original tweets and retweets mentioning each candidate indicates varying patterns in how different forces engage with the platform. Notably, there is a higher proportion of original contributors in tweets mentioning Sleiman Frangieh compared to those mentioning Jihad Azour.

■ Change and independent forces played a crucial role in online debates, addressing the implications of a Frangieh presidency and the tactical considerations behind the choice to vote for Jihad Azour.

■ Political partisans supporting Frangieh, aligned with Hezbollah, actively promoted his candidacy, accounting for a significant share of the tweets mentioning Frangieh during the monitoring period. Interestingly, the same group of partisans also constituted the majority of tweets mentioning Azour, further reaffirming the importance of “negative” campaigning in their pursuit of political gains.

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