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From Tweets to the Streets: Twitter and Extremist Protests in the United States

Gisli Gylfason ()
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Gisli Gylfason: PSE - Paris School of Economics - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, PJSE - Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement

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Abstract: How does social media affect the composition of political protests in the United States? Using early adoption of Twitter at the 2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival as a plausibly exogenous source of variation in county-level Twitter penetration (Müller & Schwarz, 2023), and comprehensive data on protest events, this paper finds that Twitter penetration increases the frequency of protests overall, but also radicalizes them. Twitter disproportionately fuels protests with participation of "extreme" groups-groups that are particularly militant, radical, or hateful. These effects do not depend on the topic of the protest nor political leaning. I also present survey evidence suggesting that coordination is not the only mechanism driving these results: An increase in county-level Twitter penetration implies an increase in respondent's willingness to justify violence against other people, normalizing the participation in extreme groups and extreme protests.

Keywords: Twitter; Collective action; Protests; Social media; Information Technology (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2023-08
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ict and nep-pay
Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://shs.hal.science/halshs-04188189
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