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
Date Written: November 19, 2014
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
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