Communication Power Struggles on Social Media: A Case Study of the 2011-12 Russian Protests

62 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2014 Last revised: 16 Jul 2016

See all articles by Viktoria Spaiser

Viktoria Spaiser

University of Leeds

Thomas Chadefaux

Trinity College Dublin, Department of Political Science

Karsten Donnay

Department of Political Science, University of Zurich

Fabian Russmann

ETH Zürich

Dirk Helbing

ETH Zürich - Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences (GESS)

Date Written: November 19, 2014

Abstract

In 2011-2012 Russia experienced a wave of mass protests surrounding the Duma and presidential elections. The protests, however, faded shortly after the second election. We study the Russian political discourse on Twitter during this period and the main actors involved: the pro-government camp, the opposition and the general public. We analyse around 700.000 Russian Twitter messages and investigate the social networks of the most active Twitter users. Our analysis shows that pro-government users employed a variety of communication strategies to shift the political discourse and marginalise oppositional voices on Twitter. This demonstrates how authorities can disempower regime critics and successfully manipulate public opinion on social media casting doubt on the assertion that traditional powers are necessarily disadvantaged in an increasingly networked and digitalised society.

Keywords: Communication Power, Social Media, Twitter, Political Discourse, Russia, Natural Language Processing, Protest

Suggested Citation

Spaiser, Viktoria and Chadefaux, Thomas and Donnay, Karsten and Russmann, Fabian and Helbing, Dirk, Communication Power Struggles on Social Media: A Case Study of the 2011-12 Russian Protests (November 19, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2528102 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2528102

Viktoria Spaiser (Contact Author)

University of Leeds ( email )

Social Science Building
Woodhouse Lane
Leeds, LS2 9JT
United Kingdom
0044 7470 122518 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.viktoriaspaiser.com

Thomas Chadefaux

Trinity College Dublin, Department of Political Science ( email )

College Green 2-3
Dublin 2
Ireland

HOME PAGE: http://www.thomaschadefaux.com

Karsten Donnay

Department of Political Science, University of Zurich ( email )

Affolternstrasse 56
Zürich, CH-8050
Switzerland

HOME PAGE: http://www.karstendonnay.net

Fabian Russmann

ETH Zürich ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
ZUE F7
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

Dirk Helbing

ETH Zürich - Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences (GESS) ( email )

ETH Zurich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
Clausiusstrasse 50
Zurich, 8092
Switzerland

HOME PAGE: http://www.coss.ethz.ch

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