Social Networks and Protest Participation: Evidence from 93 Million Twitter Users

39 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2016

See all articles by Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson

New York University (NYU)

Jonathan Nagler

NYU - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Jonathan Ronen

Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology

Joshua A. Tucker

New York University (NYU)

Date Written: June 15, 2016

Abstract

Pinning down the role of social ties in the decision to protest has been notoriously elusive, largely due to data limitations. The era of social media and its global use by protesters offers an unprecedented opportunity to observe real-time social ties and online behavior, though often without an attendant measure of real-world behavior. We collect data on Twitter activity during the 2015 Charlie Hebdo protests in Paris which, unusually, record both real-world protest attendance and high-resolution network structure. We specify a theory of participation in which an individual’s decision depends on her exposure to others’ intentions, and network position determines exposure. Our findings are strong and consistent with this theory, showing that, relative to comparable Twitter users, protesters are significantly more connected to one another via direct, indirect, triadic, and reciprocated ties. These results offer the first large-scale empirical support for the claim that social network structure influences protest participation.

Keywords: Protest, Social Networks, Political Participation, Charlie Hebdo, Social Media

Suggested Citation

Larson, Jennifer and Nagler, Jonathan and Ronen, Jonathan and Tucker, Joshua Aaron, Social Networks and Protest Participation: Evidence from 93 Million Twitter Users (June 15, 2016). Political Networks Workshops & Conference 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2796391 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2796391

Jennifer Larson (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Jonathan Nagler

NYU - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

Dept of Politics - 2nd floor
19 W. 4th Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

Jonathan Ronen

Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology ( email )

Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin (MDC)
Robert-Rössle-Str. 10
Berlin
Germany

Joshua Aaron Tucker

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

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