Elites Tweet to Get Feet Off the Streets: Measuring Regime Social Media Strategies During Protest

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Authors Kevin M. Munger, Richard Bonneau, Jonathan Nagler, Joshua A. Tucker
Paper Category
Paper 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 pursue different rhetorical strategies in keeping with our predictions about managing the conflict advanced by the protesters. This paper 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.
Date of publication 2019
Code Programming Language R

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