Yannis Theocharis
The Wealth of (Occupation) Networks? Communication Patterns and Information Distribution in a Twitter Protest Network

Journal of Information Technology and Politics, 2013: 10, Heft 1, S. 35-56
ISSN: 1933-1681

Can social media facilitate better protest action organization and coordination? This question has been at the forefront of discussion between media pundits and academic scholars. But what networking mechanisms and communication patterns help activists achieve better organization and coordination? This study uses social network analysis to explore students' Twitter use during the 2010 university occupations. It maps the interconnections between Twitter occupation accounts at the peak of the online protest network's activity and examines how this structure benefited the entire network. It identifies (a) how “closely” accounts were connected, (b) which were the best connected, and (c) which acted as brokers. Findings show that the protest groups used the Twitter network structure to establish horizontal, direct lines of communication to efficiently redistribute information. Although some accounts played a larger role in distributing information than others, occupation accounts could continue to receive information from the decentralized network even if well-connected accounts were removed.