Recent scholarship has generated two distinct impressions of US-based social media activism, one for the ideological left and one for the right. For the left, the dominant mode of engagement is hashtag activism, which entails coordinated online and offline protest campaigns linked by hashtagged slogans. The right channels its priorities through a densely networked, hyperpartisan media ecosystem that makes frequent use of disinformation and other false claims. The respective empirical records underlying these portrayals are very solid, yet questions remain about how exclusively these strategic repertoires cling to ideological fault lines. In particular, there appears to be little extant research on either conservative hashtag-based activism or on left-leaning disinformation. A comprehensive understanding of social media activism demands further explorations of these possibilities, especially in the critical areas of mis- and disinformation. I pay special attention to how the events of Jan. 6 are likely to change scholarly perceptions of potential asymmetries in activist tactics.
Suggested reading: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6508/1197
Deen Freelon is an Associate Professor in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who studies political uses of social media and other digital technologies. He is also a principal researcher for UNC’s interdisciplinary Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP). He has authored or co-authored more than 50 journal articles, book chapters and public reports, in addition to co-editing one scholarly book. An expert in multiple programming languages including R, Python, and PHP, Freelon has written software applications for a range of computational research purposes. He formerly taught at American University in Washington, D.C.
COMM230X: Digital Civil Society Speaker Series: This series provides a forum for scholars and community-based innovators to present their work, learn from those working on related issues from different disciplinary perspectives, and spark or nurture cross-disciplinary engagement around the big questions that animate the digital civil society Lab. Topics covered this quarter notably include polarization and social media, algorithmic audits, digital rights advocacy in Africa, transnational social movements, philanthropy and racial justice, misinformation and social protest.
This event is open to all members of the Stanford community and requires pre-registration with a stanford.edu email.