Social Media and the Broadening of Social Movements: Evidence from Black Lives Matter

97 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2021 Last revised: 13 Dec 2022

See all articles by Annalí Casanueva

Annalí Casanueva

Paris School of Economics (PSE)

Vladimir Avetian

University Paris-Dauphine - PSL

Sulin Sardoschau

Humboldt University - Department of Economics

Kritika Saxena

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID)

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Date Written: December 2022

Abstract

How do modern social movements broaden their base? In this paper, we provide evidence that the broadening of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the spring of 2020 was driven by an increase in the use of social media. We leverage Super Spreader Events in the early stages of the pandemic to show that pandemic exposure (COVID-19 related deaths) is causally linked to online and offline BLM protest in counties that never experienced a BLM related protest before. We show that the preceding, pandemic-induced uptake in social media can account for this broadening, using a novel index of social media penetration based on 45 million tweets, Google searches and mobility data. We estimate that a one standard deviation increase in pandemic exposure led to a 27% increase in new Twitter accounts and an increase in protest propensity of 9 percentage points. Our results suggest that the pandemic acted as a demand shock to social media and subsequently activated protesters in new segments of society to join the movement for the first time.

Keywords: social media, Twitter, BLM, protest, COVID-19

JEL Classification: P16, D7

Suggested Citation

Casanueva, Annalí and Avetian, Vladimir and Sardoschau, Sulin and Saxena, Kritika, Social Media and the Broadening of Social Movements: Evidence from Black Lives Matter (December 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3831819 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3831819

Annalí Casanueva

Paris School of Economics (PSE) ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014 75014
France

Vladimir Avetian

University Paris-Dauphine - PSL ( email )

Pl. du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny, Paris
Paris, Paris 75016
France

Sulin Sardoschau (Contact Author)

Humboldt University - Department of Economics ( email )

Unter den Linden 6
Berlin, AK Berlin 10099
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/view/sulinsardoschau/home

Kritika Saxena

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) ( email )

PO Box 136
Geneva, CH-1211
Switzerland

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