Arjun Maitra deposited Red Card: Key Themes in the Contentious Social Media Debate on the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup in the group Global Digital Humanities Symposium on Humanities Commons 5 months, 3 weeks ago
Global sporting events are a source of nationalistic pride for the host country. However, many recent host countries have been spotlighted for alleged human rights abuses. Qatar, the 2022 FIFA World Cup host, invested enormous resources into its infrastructure while deploying a worldwide public relations exercise to project a positive societal image. Nonetheless, the World Cup was dogged by unprecedented negative coverage calling for boycotts and public viewing blackouts. Online activism was most prevalent on Twitter, where close to 150,000 tweets since September 2022 expressed concerns about the choice of the FIFA host country. The analysis, based on tweets with hashtags related to “BoycottQatar2022”, used three natural language processing methods to analyze the dataset. First, a topic modeling analysis identified the key issues and the primary keywords in the tweets. Next, a linguistic and geographic analysis was carried out on the tweet dataset to see if there were any geospatial patterns to the Boycott Qatar movement. Finally, a sentiment analysis examined the change in public sentiment between the 2018 Russian World Cup and the 2022 Qatar World Cup. The analysis identified three primary topics of the social media debate: the treatment of migrant workers, LGBTQ/Women’s Rights, and corrupt acts by FIFA and Qatar. The online activism was mainly based in Western Europe and the U.S., with English, French, and German being the most prominent languages to use the hashtags. While the sentiment associated with the World Cup as a sporting event improved between 2018 and 2022, there was a significant rise in negative sentiments for numerous FIFA officials over the same period. The Boycott Qatar controversy had ramifications not only for Qatar’s public image but also for FIFA and its associated sponsors. This analysis quantitatively assessed the most pertinent subjects underlying the controversy from a social media context that clouded a celebratory sporting event.