Debate: The ‘gilets jaunes’ movement is not a Facebook revolution

In less than a month, France’s gilets jaunes (yellow vests) have gone from being a celebrated example of Facebook’s ability to power a spontaneous revolution to a cautionary tale of how social networks can be manipulated by outsiders to provoke outrage and sow dissent. But in both of these extreme scenarios, the central actors lie [...]

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The false media focus on violence: If it bleeds it still leads

On Sunday, August 27, in downtown Berkeley, I witnessed thousands of protesters raising their voices against a planned white supremacist “Patriot Prayer” rally. In my decades as a documentary filmmaker of activism and now an academic studying movements and media, it was one of the most positive, diverse and unifying gatherings I ever observed. While [...]

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Competing Twitter hashtags reflect divided response to Paris attacks

On Friday night, November 13, I had just left a movie theater near my home in Toulouse, France, when I received an e-mail from a friend asking me if I was OK. Curious, I went on Twitter and immediately saw reports from French news agencies that there had been a series of attacks across Paris. [...]

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5 reasons why online Big Data is Bad Data for researching social movements

I know, I know, it’s digital blasphemy to say that using Internet data is a terrible way to study social movements. What about all of those Twitter and Facebook revolutions of the Arab Spring? And Occupy Wall Street? #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter spread like wildfire, for God’s sake. You may think that I’m a luddite who [...]

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