The Yemen War Online: Propagation of Censored Content on Twitter

21 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2018

See all articles by Helmi Noman

Helmi Noman

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Robert Faris

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

John Kelly

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Date Written: February 2018

Abstract

We study the sharing of information on Twitter among different political groups related to the ongoing conflict in Yemen. We find that the networks on Twitter are organized around and segregate along political lines, and cite web content, including censored websites, that reflects and informs their collective framing of the politically sensitive issues. Each of the factions relies almost entirely on their own sources of information. We also test for the availability of this open web content shared on Twitter in the countries most engaged in the public debate over the conflict and find that national filtering policies also seek to shape the narrative by blocking views and perspectives that diverge from government positions on the conflict. While selective exposure to web content is often associated with polarization, we show that social media -- in this case Twitter -- is used to propagate censored content from the open web, making it more visible to users behind open-web filtering regimes. The evidence shows that government attempts to corral social media users into government-friendly media bubbles does not work, although government filters make it more difficult to access some content. Instead, social media users coalesce into self-defined media spheres aligned around social and political affinities.

Suggested Citation

Noman, Helmi and Faris, Robert and Kelly, John, The Yemen War Online: Propagation of Censored Content on Twitter (February 2018). Berkman Klein Center Research Publication No. 2018-2. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3130860 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3130860

Helmi Noman (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Robert Faris

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

John Kelly

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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