Online social networks and offline protest

Z.C. Steinert-Threlkeld, D. Mocanu, A. Vespignani, J. Fowler
EPJ Data Science
4 (1), 1-9 (2015)
November 9, 2015


Large-scale protests occur frequently and sometimes overthrow entire political systems. Meanwhile, online social networks have become an increasingly common component of people's lives. We present a large-scale longitudinal study that connects online social media behaviors to offline protest. Using almost 14 million geolocated tweets and data on protests from 16 countries during the Arab Spring, we show that increased coordination of messages on Twitter using specific hashtags is associated with increased protests the following day. The results also show that traditional actors like the media and elites are not driving the results. These results indicate social media activity correlates with subsequent large-scale decentralized coordination of protests, with important implications for the future balance of power between citizens and their states.

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