How Immigrants are portrayed on Social Media

Social media largely portrays immigrants negatively. It generates and spreads racist and anti-immigration sentiments to a broad audience, encouraging the public and policymakers to block immigration and immigrants.

Right-wing social media channels portray immigrants as criminals, terrorists, and savages. According to these outlets, Mexican and Latin American migrants are criminals, while African migrants are uncivilized and do not qualify to live in the West. Former U.S. president, Donald Trump, labeled Mexicans as rapists; social media spread the remarks to scare the public into avoiding Mexican migrants. Arab and Middle Eastern migrants are portrayed as national security threats because of their dressing, beards, and language. Social media has played a significant part in reinforcing negative stereotypes on immigrants.

Furthermore, people on social media accuse immigrants of labor shortages and economic costs. Social media circulates the narrative that migrant workers are taking jobs away from domestic workers. Moreover, migrant workers accept less pay, encouraging employers to consider them over the domestic workforce. The available data does not support these assumptions entirely, but many believe them because social media propagates the narrative. Nowadays, many domestic workers view migrants as a threat to their existence. It is common to read comments and posts stating how governments spend billions supporting illegal migrants, undermining economic growth and infrastructure development.

Immigrants are overly portrayed as illegals. Some online videos show people threatening to call law enforcement on migrants because they consider them illegal aliens. Such videos represent a widespread problem where the majority group does not believe a minority can legally be in a country. Social media videos, posts, and comments use dehumanizing terms such as illegals and aliens to describe migrants. These terms and comments negatively impact immigrants’ image and position in society. Many foreign workers are legally allowed to work in a country, but locals often view them as illegals due to social media’s portrayal of immigrants.

Moreover, the group is criminalized all over social media. Both traditional and social media disproportionately circulate cases where immigrants are involved in a crime or incarcerated. The coverage creates negative stereotypes despite data showing that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or receive prison sentences than other groups. These negative stereotypes stick because people are gullible and accept racist and anti-immigration sentiments without looking at data and facts. A substantial number of Westerners view all immigrants as potential criminals.

Despite these portrayals, online platforms allow immigrants to show more than the false stereotypes circulated by mainstream media and social media. For example, some immigrants working as doctors are taking to social media to demonstrate they are not stealing jobs, considering the host countries face doctor shortages. More immigrants highlight the work they do, refuting the stereotype that they are criminals and uncivilized people. Moreover, people in the majority group who understand immigration use social media to dispute biased sentiments against immigrants.

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