Research on Migrant Representation in Media

Social media are increasingly part of people’s routine, but its use and dynamics can violate human rights. These researches explore how platforms’ models of governance and algorithms can lead to severe intrusions of fundamental rights such as the rights to equality, non-discrimination and privacy, and can escalate to new forms of systemic violence.

Including social media, all the media platforms are virtual spaces where people follow the news, exchange their opinion, communicate with friends, look for information and read news. Contrary to the traditional media, such as newspapers and television, social media allows people to create their own online identities, establish their own networks, tell their stories, and contribute to the public debate, bringing it to new directions.

With social media being increasingly part of people’s routine, its use and dynamics have become controversial in terms of violation of fundamental rights, racism, sexism and lack of transparency and accountability. The platforms’ models of governance, and the new forms of content creation and sharing can lead to the severe intrusions on fundamental rights such as the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to privacy and can escalate to new forms of systemic violence. 

The social media infrastructure is defined by opaque algorithms and obscure practices that reinforce stereotypes and create new forms of discrimination that are particularly harmful to the social groups that are marginalised by the power structure. Migrants and refugees are part of the community affected by these new forms of discrimination. Understanding and managing the particular risks connected to the use by, and the representation of refugees and migrants in social media platforms need to be a priority of regulations addressing the digital space. 

For an effective management and mitigation of these risks, it is fundamental to identify and understand how social media’s socio-technical dynamics work, how they manipulate the representation of reality and affect the experience and representation of marginalised communities. This report contributes to this objective, and it is divided into four main sections.

Section 1

Introduces the main topics that will be discussed in this report, it outlines the purpose of the “Re:framing Migrants in the European Media” project and explains how this report is aligned with it. It presents the approach on which the report is based and the key definitions of the lexicon used.

You can download the report

Section 2

Identifies and discusses the key social media dynamics that affect the representation of marginalised populations on social media. It provides an overview of how social media algorithmic dynamics works, how they silence marginalised communities and where bias affecting them can arise. It illustrates stories of discrimination, silencing of voices and manipulation of reality. To this end, this section is structured around four themes: content moderation, shadowban, content selection and sharing, and targeted advertisement.

Section 3

Focuses on the migrant and refugees’ population. It shows how social media plays an important role in shaping new forms of migration and how this can represent a danger for migrants


The research by por Causa aims to understand the representative framework of the narrative on migrants and refugees in the European media. Madrid based foundation, por Causa is adopting the sustainable development goals in its work strategy.

The actions that have been carried out are framed in a mapping and gap analysis that has as deliverable a library of existing research and initiatives on media representation of marginalised communities. 

The steps followed to achieve the objectives consisted of two phases. The first phase, called existing information, consisted of collecting, filtering and analysing existing information on the representation of migrants and refugees in the European press. 

You can download the report

The second phase of the research focused on the construction of archetypes on the representation of migrants and refugees in the European press. 

In this research a total of 123 news items were analysed in six languages – Spanish, English, Arabic, French, Italian, German and French – filtered by the following keywords such as: migration, refugees, boat, border, fence, crime, heroes, Islamo-gauchisme. Once the search for information had been completed, the most relevant sections were filtered in order to construct the archetypes on the representation of migrants and refugees in the European press. A total of 47 news items were used to create the archetypes. You can see the complete database from the link

In this media representation research, seven archetypes were detected in the European press regarding the representation of migrants and refugees and the four archetypes of how migrants and refugees are perceived in the European press are: normalisation, victimisation, burden, and threat. 

The representation of migrants and refugees is different in the European press. An analysis of the press in the different European countries shows that the Austrian, Czech and Slovak media portray refugees as a threat to the security and economy of the country. In the case of the Spanish press, solidarity towards refugees is shown in the context of victimisation. To see more information about the research you can access the report below.