Facebook Information Diffusion and Protest Mobilization: State-Level Analyses of the 2018 March for Our Lives Demonstrations

Arizona State University

Abstract

Social movements have defined themselves as integral parts of participatory democracy. Although social media, and Facebook in particular, has been underscored as a catalyst of contemporary social movements, the relationship between Facebook information diffusion and actual protest mobilization has yet to be adequately studied. This project aims to explore ways in which Facebook information diffusion, represented by temporal Facebook URL data, led to the mobilization of March for Our Lives, one of the largest student-led demonstrations in American history. Two goals are proposed: First, we will examine diffusion patterns of movement-relevant information, categorized into (a) trigger events, (b) movement agents, (c) actionable events, and (d) misinformation that discredits the cause of movement. As part of the first aim, we will examine how the political and demographic characteristics of each state influences information diffusion patterns. Second, we will conduct statistical modeling to examine the effects of information diffusion–related variables on the onsite protest mobilization in each state. In addition to Facebook data, we will leverage government, academic, and news sources. This project will use state-level aggregate data only, posing a minimal risk to user privacy.

Research Team

Principal Investigator

K. Hazel Kwon

Associate Professor, Arizona State University

  • Bio ▾

    K. Hazel Kwon (PhD in communication) is an associate professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Her research centers on social technologies with an emphasis on the dynamics in which networked environment influences citizen engagement, collective sense-making, news diffusion, and incivility. Kwon’s work is interdisciplinary in collaboration with information scientists, computer scientists, and mathematicians. The National Science Foundation, HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory), and the US Department of Defense have supported her research. As an active researcher and scholar, Kwon has received multiple awards, including the Herbert S. Dordick Dissertation Award from the International Communication Association, the Emerging Scholars award and the Jung-Sook Lee Award from the Association for Journalism and Mass Communication, Kappa Tau Alpha Research Award from National Honor Society in Journalism and Mass Communication, a top four paper award from the National Communication Association, and a visiting scholar fellowship from the Social Media Lab at the Ted Rogers School of Business, Ryerson University.

Participants

Shawn Walker

Assistant Professor, Arizona State University

  • Bio ▾

    Shawn Walker is an assistant professor of critical data studies in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the New College at Arizona State University. His research focuses on new forms of political participation emerging on social media platforms and the related challenges of collecting, analyzing, and working with data from these platforms. This work examines how new forms of political participation emerge on social media platforms through the analysis of social media posts surrounding social movements, protests, and elections. His work on social media methods addresses gaps in our understanding about social media data, collection methods, and the implications (ethics, representation, etc.) of using those methods. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees in information science from the University of Washington Information School and degrees in international studies and liberal studies, with a focus on public policy and technology, from Northern Kentucky University.

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