Social Networks and Protest Participation: Evidence from 130 Million Twitter Users

Jennifer M. Larson, Jonathan Nagler, Jonathan Ronen, Joshua A. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pinning down the role of social ties in the decision to protest has been notoriously elusive, largely due to data limitations. Social media and their global use by protesters offer an unprecedented opportunity to observe real-time social ties and online behavior, though often without an attendant measure of real-world behavior. We collect data on Twitter activity during the 2015 Charlie Hebdo protest in Paris, which, unusually, record real-world protest attendance and network structure measured beyond egocentric networks. We devise a test of social theories of protest that hold that participation depends on exposure to others' intentions and network position determines exposure. Our findings are strongly consistent with these theories, showing that protesters are significantly more connected to one another via direct, indirect, triadic, and reciprocated ties than comparable nonprotesters. These results offer the first large-scale empirical support for the claim that social network structure has consequences for protest participation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)690-705
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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