Can social media reduce hostility to refugees?

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As the number of forced migrants continues to raise, friction between migrants and locals has become a pressing political issue globally. These discussions increasingly play out on social media, where the digitalization of interactions and engagement-based algorithms are often blamed for spreading misinformation, increasing polarization, and inflaming existing tensions. Yet social media also offers an unparalleled platform for immediate, low-cost, large-scale interventions to reduce intergroup hostility. This experiment aims to test the effects of naturalistic exposure to varied social media content on locals’ attitudes towards refugees in Turkey. As host to the world’s largest refugee population, Turkey has seen anti-refugee attitudes become entrenched across the political spectrum despite intense polarization. The study design takes advantage of this political landscape to test message vs. messenger effects alongside digital intergroup contact, exposing participants to ‘digital contact’ with content from refugee accounts paired with political content from either political ingroup or outgroup ‘messengers’.