Nick Pickles, Twitter UK Head of Public Policy, referred to my Northern Ireland Community Relations Council funded study ‘Social Media, Parades and Protest’ during an interview about the microblogging site on BBC Good Morning Ulster last Friday (22nd January). He also mentioned the study in a blogpost entitled ‘Amplifying voices of respect and tolerance across Northern Ireland.’
The report, which I co-authored with independent researcher Dr Orna Young, explored the potential role of social media in providing accurate, real-time information to residents affected by controversial parades and protests.
I was responsible for the collection and analysis of Twitter data in the report.
Key findings included:
- Twitter provided users with an array of information sources courtesy of the citizen and professional journalists who were tweeting their perspectives on events as they unfolded.
- The latter were more influential in these information flows, primarily due to the high number of retweets for content produced by journalists from BBC NI and UTV;
- Citizens were quick to check the veracity of the reports emerging from the scene. There were also several examples of citizens using the site to refute rumours and expose those responsible for photoshopping images, as was seen with the Randalstown bonfire and a picture of a protester in Ardoyne;
- The relatively short lifespan of these rumours, not to mention the lack of media coverage they received, illustrated how effectively tweeters corrected misinformation during this period;
- The users that contributed to the Twelfth hashtags tended to be full of praise for the peaceful and non-violent conduct of the Orange Order. In particular, there was much support for its ‘graduated response’ to the Parade Commission’s decision to ban the return leg of the Ligoniel Orange lodges from passing by the Ardoyne shops.
More information on the Twitter study can be found here