Social Media Participation in an Activist Movement for Racial Equality
From the Arab Spring to the Occupy Movement, social media has been instrumental in driving and supporting socio-political movements throughout the world. In this paper, we present one of the first social media investigations of an activist movement around racial discrimination and police violence, known as "Black Lives Matter". Considering Twitter as a sensor for the broader community's perception of the events related to the movement, we study participation over time, the geographical differences in this participation, and its relationship to protests that unfolded on the ground. We find evidence for continued participation across four temporally separated events related to the movement, with notable changes in engagement and language over time. We also find that participants from regions of historically high rates of black victimization due to police violence tend to express greater negativity and make more references to loss of life. Finally, we observe that social media attributes of affect, behavior and language can predict future protest participation on the ground. We discuss the role of social media in enabling collective action around this unique movement and how social media platforms may help understand perceptions on a socially contested and sensitive issue like race.