Elites tweet to get feet off the streets: Measuring regime social media strategies during protest

Kevin Munger, Richard Bonneau, Jonathan Nagler, Joshua A. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

As non-democratic regimes have adapted to the proliferation of social media, they have began actively engaging with Twitter to enhance regime resilience. Using data taken from the Twitter accounts of Venezuelan legislators during the 2014 anti-Maduro protests in Venezuela, we fit a topic model on the text of the tweets and analyze patterns in hashtag use by the two coalitions. We argue that the regime's best strategy in the face of an existential threat like the narrative developed by La Salida and promoted on Twitter was to advance many competing narratives that addressed issues unrelated to the opposition's criticism. Our results show that the two coalitions pursued different rhetorical strategies in keeping with our predictions about managing the conflict advanced by the protesters. This article extends the literature on social media use during protests by focusing on active engagement with social media on the part of the regime. This approach corroborates and expands on recent research on inferring regime strategies from propaganda and censorship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)815-834
Number of pages20
JournalPolitical Science Research and Methods
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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