Broadcasters and Hidden Influentials in Online Protest Diffusion
American Behavioral Scientist, Forthcoming
39 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2012 Last revised: 21 Oct 2012
Date Written: February 10, 2012
This paper explores the growth of online mobilizations using data from the ‘indignados’ (the ‘outraged’) movement in Spain, which emerged under the influence of the revolution in Egypt and as a precursor to the global Occupy mobilizations. The data tracks Twitter activity around the protests that took place in May 2011, which led to the formation of camp sites in dozens of cities all over the country and massive daily demonstrations during the week prior to the elections of May 22. We reconstruct the network of tens of thousands of users, and monitor their message activity for a month (25 April 2011 to 25 May 2011). Using both the structure of the network and levels of activity in message exchange, we identify four types of users and we analyze their role in the growth of the protest. Drawing from theories of online activism and research on information diffusion in networks, this paper centers on the following two questions: How does protest information spread in online networks? And how do different actors contribute to the growth of activity? The paper aims to inform the theoretical debate on whether digital technologies are changing the logic of collective action, and provide evidence of how new media facilitates the emergence of massive offline mobilizations.
Keywords: networks, information diffusion, protests, collective action, social media
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