Panel A- Raised Voices

Tuesday, May 23
Room F 0.01

Twitter is at once the soapbox of the powerless and a platform for the powerful. It is the megaphone of the voiceless and an echo chamber for state and corporate speech. This panel examines Twitter’s capacity to amplify voices raised in protest, while extending the reach of official speech.

#Euromaidan: Framing the Ukrainian protests of 2013-2014 on Twitter
Mykola Makhortykh, University of Amsterdam

The paper investigates the use of social media for framing the Euromaidan protests of 2013-2014 in Ukraine. Using an automatic classification of a large set of Twitter data, it explores how the representation of protesters’ goals and identities changed throughout the protest campaign and how the interpretation of protest campaign itself varied between different language streams. While doing so, the paper attempts to answer the following questions: How the dynamics of protest-related frame production on Twitter changed throughout the protest campaign and whether or not those changes can be related to certain episodes of the protests? What were the differences between tweeted and retweeted content in terms of framing the protests and whether or not these differences can be also attributed to the language in which tweets were produced? And, finally, how the image of the Euromaidan protest campaign evolved on Twitter during the protests and how the use of social media affected the development of the political crisis in Ukraine.

Mykola Makhortykh is a PhD student in the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture at the University of Amsterdam. His PhD research is focused on Second World War memory in Ukraine and how it is affected by the processes of de-Sovietisation, nationalisation and digitisation that the country is currently undergoing. In his recent research, he has also explored the use of social media in the context of the Ukraine crisis and the role of cultural memory in securitisation of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

Occupy All Tweets: An Insider Perspective
Yonatan Miller, Occupy Wall Street

Yonatan was involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement from its beginning in September 2011 until its end roughly around 2013. He participated in the Occupy social media Twitter collective “Tweetboat” for just over three years. Tweetboat was responsible for all the tweets at @OccupyWallStNYC. Yonatan will address in greater detail four of the topics mentioned below in a powerpoint presentation containing select tweets, data analytics and photos of their collective in action.

1. Functions and goals of the collectively managed “Tweetboat”.
2. How Tweetboat was internally organized and how it represented and promoted the movement its members were a part of.
3. How @OccupyWallStNYC influenced news outlets and served as a dual power.
4. Who really owns a movement account?

Yonatan Miller is a digital rights activist and software developer. He was active in the Chelsea Manning Support Network, Occupy Wall Street movement and has participated in numerous movements since then. When he is not coding or getting in trouble, he likes to travel and tweet. He currently resides in Berlin, Germany.

Faking It: Astroturfing, Twitter and Political Communication
Niki Cheong, The University of Nottingham, UK

Twitter’s mark-up culture, such as the use of @mentions and #hashtags, raises several trust issues with regards to how information flows on the platform. Using Mark Granovetter’s social networking theory The Strength of Weak Ties which states that novel information is more likely to flow through weak ties, it can be argued that this mark-up culture serves as “bridges” – through which information flows between clusters of people.

However, on Twitter, bridges are not just weak ties but absent ties as well, particularly through the use of hashtags. With absent ties, there is no ascertaining the credibility of the information of sources and becomes increasingly problematic when used for political communication, and when disinformation and misinformation is disseminated.

An analysis of tweets sent out during the Duduk Bantah (sit-in) Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2012, found the existence of astroturfing – known in Malaysia as cybertrooping – that is, calculated efforts to influence public sentiment through staged movements disguised as grassroot mobilisation.

This paper will use the Malaysian context to discuss the ways in which astroturfing is used around the world for various reasons: suppressing dissent, propaganda purposes, reverse censorship and manipulation and spin. This would include analysis of the aforementioned tweets, and other political communication material found on the “Malaysian Twittersphere” including the mobilisation of hashtags in support of political leaders, and the spamming of propagandistic content.

The discussion on this form of manipulation is all the more pertinent currently considering the current global political climate following the EU referendum and the election of President Donald Trump in 2016. An empirical study on astroturfing offers a different element to the current discourse surrounding of post-truth politics, alternative facts and fake news, a form of manipulation that has been practiced long before Brexit and Trump.

Niki Cheong is a former journalist currently reading for a PhD in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies at The University of Nottingham, UK. Niki has been writing his The Bangsar Boy column in Malaysia’s largest English daily, The Star since 2006, and recently published a collection of his writings in a book titled Growing Up In KL: 10 Years of The Bangsar Boy.

A New Bottle for Old Wine: the Abuse Narrative Against Occupy Wall Street on Twitter
Photini Vrikki, Brunel University London

Twitter abuse was part of how the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) was perceived on Twitter in 2011. The discourses that shaped abuse against OWS on Twitter formed such an influential narrative around the movement that they somehow managed to change the movement’s story as a whole. Key abusive themes such as defining OWS in the negative conceptualisation of hippie culture and the descriptions of the protesters as residing in unsanitary conditions at Zuccotti Park shaped the perceptions of the public and presented the movement in the dark light of unlawfulness and criminalisation, altering the public image of the movement. The distinctiveness of some of the individuals who lived at Zuccotti Park, alleged property damage, and multiple rape allegations, as well as the ‘anti-Americanism’ tag given to OWS, somehow even succeeded in instilling twists of violence into the story of the movement. It is the extent of this complex notion of abuse on Twitter that lays down the grounds for this paper: one that includes verbal abuse expressed through social media. The analysis will more specifically look into the micro-narratives that construct the abuse narrative against OWS on Twitter. The purpose is not to offer a holistic analysis of Twitter abuse against OWS but to examine: 1) the patterns in which abuse stories show up on Twitter, and 2) the meanings these patterns have granted OWS with. This paper will be addressing these two points by analysing Twitter data and the stories told from people tweeting during OWS’ 40 last days on- the-ground. Twitter abuse stories against OWS will underline how inherent these experiences have become on Twitter and how they can change or influence social movements. Acknowledging this, this paper attempts to point to the lessons learned from OWS and suggest how social movements can address Twitter abuse.

Photini Vrikki is a Research Fellow in Digital Humanities at Brunel University London. She is currently leading on the digital side of the Creative Interruptions: grassroots creativity, state structures and disconnections as a space for ‘radical openness’ project. Her focus is on tracing the gaps and links between the anti-racism movements of the 70s and 80s with contemporary social media-infused anti-racism movements. Her research interests span from the politics of data and data storytelling to the identity politics, social movements, and solidarities forming in social media networks and VR environments. Photini completed her PhD in Digital Culture and Society at King’s College London in 2016.