Identity and Online Advocacy

#BlackLivesMatter, collective identity formation on Twitter to call for social and political change.


Using Black Lives Matter as an example I explore the use of hashtags on Twitter for the purpose of forming collective identity among users, as an effective mobilisation strategy for advocacy movements to rally for social change. However, I argue that the broad nature of tweets and hashtag adaptations which have surfaced that coincide with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, can cause misinterpretations and construct new meanings that may not align with the Black Lives Matter standpoint. Nevertheless, Twitter’s hashtag culture works in strengthening the online presence of advocacy movements by providing a public space to connect users with similar values, to draw attention to particular social and political issues. I will provide evidence to support this assertion by citing an empirical study that explores the timeline of events, from when Black Lives Matter emerged in public discourse to when it sustained momentum.


#BlackLivesMatter #Onlineadvocacy #Collectiveidentity #Racialinequality #Policebrutality  


Twitter’s hashtag culture strengthens the online presence of advocacy movements such as Black Lives Matter, by forming a collective identity among users to call for social and political change. Twitter was launched in 2006 as a micro-blogging platform with a 140-character limit for sending short ‘tweets’ that mirrored text messaging on mobile phones and communication functions based on previous Internet Relay Chat principles, such as the hashtag (Sharma, 2013). This structure of Twitter and the use of hashtags makes it easy for messages to be shared or ‘re-tweeted’ and also allows for new tweets to circulate through existing hashtags. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter first appeared in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted for shooting and killing unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an event which would play a major role in shaping race relations in the United States (Ince et al., 2017). The next year after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson the Black Lives Matter movement would develop and become a global phenomenon, sustaining its online presence through Twitter when Americans began repeatedly using the hashtag as a cry for racial justice and police brutality (Jackson et al., 2020). Using data collected in 2014 from tweets containing the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter Ince et al. (2017) report their findings, tracing the moment the hashtag went viral after it was announced that Wilson would not be indicted for Brown’s murder. They also explore the types of hashtags that co-occurred with #BlackLivesMatter at the time, noting the increase of hashtags in relation to tactics (Ince et al., 2017). Evidence which suggests the importance of Twitter as a platform where users can rapidly connect and communicate over mobilisation plans. However, like many other social media platforms Twitter’s broad user base can result in varying accounts of expressions and reactions to events, each of which are dependent on an individual’s personal experiences and understandings (Jackson et al., 2020). Through hashtags Twitter users are able to engage with and share topics, making it easy to debate and counter argue. This can make it challenging to position Black Lives Matter on Twitter, as the purpose and goals of the movement may be manipulated or misconstrued. This notion will be explored using the example of the hashtag #AllLivesMatter and #BrownLivesMatter, which have emerged on Twitter in reference to cases or individuals of different races that aligned with the Black Lives Matter standpoint. These adaptations have offended some of the Black Lives Matter activists and founders, who feel that appropriating the hashtag undermines the movement (Ince et al., 2017). Yet despite the variations of #BlackLivesMatter, there is a wealth of research that supports the idea that Twitter provides a platform for online activists to freely promote and distribute their views and opinions. Through this use of hashtags, Twitter has fostered an online community that magnifies the Black Lives Matter movement in order to call for collective action.

Twitter’s platform affordances

Twitter’s hashtag functionality amplified the Black Lives Matter movement online, as the platform enables a mass audience to instantly share and engage with globally trending topics. Using hashtags to convey brief messages allows users to quickly find, debate and discuss social and political topics, as well as express their own opinion by posting new ‘tweets’ or ‘re-tweeting’ existing content (Ince et al., 2017). Repetition is essential to the continuous dissemination of hashtags through Twitter, resulting in the increase of a particular hashtag’s potential reach (Yang, 2016).On Twitter the popularity of certain hashtags are labelled as ‘trending’ topics and displayed across the search page and user’s home page. Sharma (2013) explains this feature of Twitter’s algorithm in determining the standing and visibility of hashtags, where the speed of hashtag usage in a short period of time is prioritised over the number of times the hashtag was tweeted overall. As mentioned previously, Twitter’s short word limit and the ability for users to directly correspond with hashtags makes the platform appealing for campaigning for and against political and social issues. The promotion of hashtags, affiliated with social movements, events, celebrities and politicians have contributed to the viral circulation of tweets (Sharma, 2013). Therefore, we can attribute the recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement to Twitter’s user-friendly interface and the incredible momentum of hashtags as a part of digital and social culture. Yang (2016) refers to this type of online advocacy as hashtag activism, which occurs when a claim is phrased under a hashtag and appears in large numbers with the goal of driving social or political change. Yang (2016) also notes the importance of sentence framing hashtags over singular words, to align the activist movement with a narrative expressing ideas of conflict and resolution. Such is the case with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which can be easily recognised and understood due to the strong articulation of a sense of struggle and action. Ince et al. (2017) provides data reflecting their empirical analysis, taken from a sample of 66,159 tweets containing the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter from January to the end of November 2014. They reported 373 occurrences of #BlackLivesMatter prior to the shooting of Michael Brown, 19,942 related tweets after Brown’s shooting and an astounding 45,844 mentions after the non-indictment of officer Darren Wilson (Ince et al., 2017). From their study we can identify the moment Black Lives Matter achieved the highest visibility and assume that the increasing number of tweets reflected after Wilson’s trial was in response to the verdict. However, without going through each individual tweet it’s impossible to establish the exact nature of the replies containing #BlackLivesMatter and whether they agreed with or rejected the movement. Ince et al. (2017) state their findings of hashtags co-occurring with #BlackLivesMatter on Twitter in 2014, with the most common hashtags being #Ferguson 19,877, #MikeBrown 4388, #Fergusondecision 4038 and #AllLivesMatter 3139 and note the different meanings that Twitter users attached to the movement. Which suggests that when Twitter users introduce additional hashtags alongside the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter they then make new meanings.

Adaptations of #BlackLivesMatter

Online advocacy groups can be misrepresented on Twitter through user hashtags that coincide with and transform the movement’s intended message.An example of this is mentioned above in the case of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter together with #AllLivesMatter in reference to the Black Lives Matter protests, where Twitter users cited other victims of police brutality (Ince et al., 2017). Indicating a change in meaning to the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which was originally a reaction to Michael Brown’s death and the non-indictment of Darren Wilson in his shooting. This type of appropriation that Twitter users have attached to the Black Lives Matter movement allows for different denotations based on an individual’s background and understandings (Jackson et al., 2020). Ince et al., 2017 refer to Black Lives Matter as a dispersed movement where many diverse groups can adapt the phrase and promote their own objectives, the authors go on to describe Twitter as an open platform where anyone can use hashtags to manipulate the movement’s formation of meaning. Another example of this was the hashtag #BrownLivesMatter, which emerged with parts of the Latin community who also felt victimized by the same injustices and aligned themselves with the movement (Szetela, 2019). However, although some Black Lives Matter activists embraced the new hashtag, Szetela (2019) cites a 2017 interview where the founders Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors vent their frustrations at this appropriation. Garza jokes about Latin people “joining the club of what, victimization? activism?” and insists that regardless of similarities that align the two racial groups, “the idea of who is criminal is based on Black bodies not brown bodies” (Garza, 2017, as cited in Szetela, 2019 p. 1362). This segregation of other races conveys a message that contradicts the Black Lives Matter stand for inequality, further opening up the possibility for counter movements to be argued and disseminated by those who don’t agree with or were offended by the founder’s remarks. Regardless of the context of tweets and hashtags linked to #BlackLivesMatter such as the aforementioned, Yang (2016) observes the new narratives produced and the shared underlying theme that unite these various stories about racial justice. Therefore, although misrepresentations can arise when hashtags co-occur with or adapt the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, Jackson et al. (2020) note the decrease in visibility for such tweets due the popularity and regularity of those that strengthen the Black Lives Matter message.

Collective identity and hashtag culture

Collective identity formation is essential to unifying activists of social movements, in order to express shared concerns and assemble online communities to engage in collective action.Twitter has created a public online space where activists can utilise hashtags to communicate and encourage audience participation towards a particular topic, through the re-tweeting of posts or the creation of additional content under the same universal hashtag (Yang, 2016). Those engaging with the hashtag may have no connection or shared attributes but unite through their values and opinions. These hashtags sort content and connect users to a global audience through a shared sense of belonging, to organise those with common views in the hopes of initiating collective action (Sharma, 2013). This type of mobilization was seen in the earlier case of Michael Brown, where a local community took to Twitter to stand united and be heard in their fight for change. Black Lives Matter was propelled into society when witnesses uploaded photos of officer Darren Wilson standing over Brown’s dead body onto Twitter, which quickly began trending with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter (Jackson et al., 2020). This led to an investigation of the Ferguson Police Department where a long history of corruption was revealed. After Wilson failed to be indicted for Brown’s murder tensions exploded, members of the community took to the street in peaceful protest but were met with police in full riot gear firing tear gas and smoke bombs into crowds (Jackson et al., 2020). As the weeks went on photos and videos of the protests were shared on Twitter through the hashtags #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter, gaining mainstream attention through media coverage after the hashtags were seen paraded on protestor signage and clothing (Ince et al., 2017). This example of collective action taken by the community of Ferguson to achieve a common goal, changed the discourse about police brutality and racial profiling from a local problem into a national crisis. Therefore, we can assert that hashtags on Twitter which have a distinct call to action work as a useful tool for advocacy groups, in connecting users with a shared viewpoint and objectives for the purpose of driving social change.


The ubiquity of mobile phones has enabled social media platforms to instantaneously connect audiences with events in real time, therefore becoming an efficient tool for social advocacy groups such as Black Lives Matter to gather support and momentum. On Twitter the circulation of hashtags through tweets and re-tweets builds an online community of users interested in a common topic, with repetition and speed increasing visibility and causing certain topics to trend. The impact of viral hashtags is evident in the example of Black Lives Matter, which has been amplified on Twitter by hashtags that co-occur with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. However, the broad collection of related hashtags and subjective nature of Twitter posts have the ability to decontextualize and reduce the meaning and objectives of the movement, as shown in the various adaptations and appropriations of #BlackLivesMatter. It is important to note that this paper is in reference to Black Lives Matter from an online perspective and is limited in that it doesn’t specifically address the organisation’s demands or impact of the movement in an offline environment. Further research should examine the different reasons Twitter users accept or reject social movements, in order to determine the most effective online strategy for particular advocacy groups. For the movement to reach its full potential Black Lives Matter founders should be mindful of segregating other racial groups. Instead, activists should be encouraged to support diversity with shared agenda so that politics may be prioritised, as the race-specific vision of social democracy painted by the movement’s founders is an unrealistic strategy for change. Throughout this paper I’ve provided examples that support the use of hashtag activism on Twitter as an effective method for constructing collective identity, to unify like-minded individual’s intent on the achievement of a common objective.


Ince, J., Rojas, F., & Clayton, A. D. (2017). The social media response to Black Lives Matter: How Twitter users interact with Black Lives Matter through hashtag use. Ethnic and Racial Studies40(11), 1814-1830.

Jackson, S. J., Bailey, M., & Foucault, W. B. (2020). From #Ferguson to #FalconHeights: The networked case for black lives. #hashtagactivism: Networks of Race and Gender Justice. (pp. 123-152). MIT Press.

Sharma, S. (2013). Black Twitter?: Racial hashtags, networks and contagion. New Formations: A Journal of Culture/Theory/Politics 78, 46-64.

Szetela, Adam (2020) Black Lives Matter at five: limits and possibilities, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 43(8), 1358-1383.

Yang, G. (2016). Narrative agency in hashtag activism: The Case of #BlackLivesMatter. Media and Communication, 4(4), 13-17.

26 thoughts on “#BlackLivesMatter, collective identity formation on Twitter to call for social and political change.

  1. Hi Melissa,

    I really enjoyed reading your paper and thought it was crafted really well. I like how you’ve acknowledged the limitations of your paper only analysing the online impact that the #BlackLivesMatter tag had and not the real world effects. I was wondering if you managed to find any research in relation to the consequences of people posting the black, blank-screen post with the #BlackLivesMatter tag and how it impacted the reach of the hashtag. Was the trend helpful in raising awareness for the movement by increasing the tag’s usage or did it hinder the movement by supressing the evidence and stories of the people involved and those murdered?

  2. Hello Melissa,

    Great and very insightful topic!
    With the #BLM protests being held in different parts of the world in response to the death of George Floyd, social media platforms have also been showing their support to the cause, as you clearly mentioned in your paper. Thus, when pairing this globally accessible platform with the raw experiences of racism that are being witnessed in today’s world, it is easy to recognise the value that social media platforms holds as a news source especially Twitter. It is somehow interesting but mainly upsetting to imagine what would have happened to the memory of George Floyd if we did not have social media.

    In addition to this, the impacts of social media on the BLM movement has been huge as it was not only the approach that gave rise to justice for George Floyd’s murder, but also which gave a voice to those who have been ignored and those who faced racial injustice.

    While there is still a long way to go, the use of social media platform especially Twitter regarding to the context of your paper, has been essential in highlighting the changes that need to be made in law enforcement and criminal justice policies. The nature of social media has allowed for this important dialogue to take place, as well as enabling the public to insist for social and political change.

    Thank you for this paper, you can access mine here:

  3. Hello Melissa

    Freedom of expression on Twitter of content relevant to users makes it an appealing platform for users to communicate their thoughts and ideas. Like your paper highlights, Twitter plays a big role in activism, organization, and mobilization. Twitter has been adopted by protestors and activists for collective action for their movements where people campaign for change. Such collective actions on Twitter draws attention to pressing social and political issues with hashtag campaigns geared towards bringing about change. Hashtags on Twitter like #BlackLivesMatter facilitate visibility and support for issues being campaigned collaboratively.

    However, social media platforms like Twitter have been criticized for citing ‘slacktivism’ and ‘hacktivism’. A number of users support issues without getting really involved, they use social media to maintain their presence which is known as ‘slacktivism’ whereas some users resort to ‘hacktivism’ where they use social media platforms like Twitter to control and adjust issues for their own benefit, some examples being Wikileaks and Anonymous, the groups associated with hacktivist activities (Houghton & Chang, 2011; Milner, 2013 as cited in Highfield, 2016). Despite these critical views, the role of Twitter in promoting social and political issues to bring about change cannot be denied.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on my paper.

    Thank you

    Highland, T. (2016). Collective and connective action. In Social media and everyday politics (pp.
    102-121). Polity: Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA. Retrieved from

  4. Hi Melissa

    A well written paper and I really enjoyed some of your thoughts on this issue. I was particularly interested in this because I wrote about social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and how they have become a third space for citizens to have freedom of expression on political views. Drawing on the importance of online communities and how they build social relationships and a way for citizens to engage in political talk and be part of online communities that supports their beliefs and values. It examines the relationships between citizens and the complexities of online communities and how citizens are changing media practices.

    Twitter has become a place for political matters and with the use of hashtag, citizens can have their views of issues that they feel that is important to them and you also addressed the algorithm patterns that determines what we are seeing.
    However, what are the consequences on being part of a movement? What are the problems when citizens are commenting on these issues that create stereotypes and, in some cases, unethical behaviour? If you are part of movements that may be intended for other purposes and you become part of it, what are the effects of this happening with your own online identity.
    We are starting to understand that some of these platforms are creating content to engage with an audience and create user participation. Do you think Twitter should stop when things are getting to political?
    We saw the issue with Trump at Capitol Hill, and he was banned from twitter, do you think we will see more of this and more regulations to some of these platforms

    If you want to read my article. You will find some key points that may support more of your argument and also the technology affordances and how politicians are using this to engage with their followers.

    Good luck with the rest of the conference

  5. Very well written article Melissa.

    It was so heart-breaking to the see the murder of George Floyd by those policemen and anyone who sees that type of injustice must feel complete indignation.

    Twitter and other platforms played important roles in raising awareness, values and educating but whether or not they really unified people around the globe, I feel is still up for debate.

    Furthermore, the #BLM movement appeared to become very politicized with prominent politicians and public figures encouraging/inciting people to public protest with disregard for community health policy during the declared state of emergency. Furthermore many of these protests inevitably became violent, leading to at least 19 deaths.

    I appreciate that you remained neutral on that subject, but perhaps touching on it could have been relevant to your arguement in some way.

    Any, congratulations on a great paper!

  6. Hi Melissa,
    Indeed a very interesting topic you have written!
    I did write on a similar paper but for the Asians lives matter, it is true that social media platforms have helped to make racism visible globally, Twitter is an international platform in which people are connected and are more active.

  7. Hi Melissa,
    Thank you for a well informed paper, especially on such a complex topic.

    I was also tempted to write about BLM and the use of hashtags on twitter, but instead of I was looking through the lens of slacktivism.

    You mentioned the tag #blacklivesmatter and the message behind it becoming decentralised over time with its pairing with other tags, but do you think that users outside of the BLM community who used the tag only when it was trending hindered or helped the over all cause?
    Yes it widened the reach, but was there also a dilution of dialogue?

    Would love to hear your thoughts.


  8. Hi Melissa,

    I enjoyed reading your paper – thanks for sharing!

    I’m currently based in the US, so a lot of this essay really resonated with me. From a local perspective, it seemed as if Twitter was pivotal in garnering momentum for the movement – sharing videos of police officers’ behaviour, generating outrage and anger, making people realise why the issue was important, but Twitter didn’t play a strong role in organising or directing the movement.

    I also think it is particularly interesting to consider how different elements of activism developed on Twitter, with people doing what they could to support the movement. There were people livestreaming protests, academics creating reading lists for anti-racism, veterans sharing field first aid tips and that kind of broad behaviour, that wasn’t necessarily part of activism, but fed into the work of activists.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on how communities like this on Twitter could better be leveraging and organising information? I remember on Instagram when people started posting black squares, effectively pushing out all of the useful BLM content, it became apparent that it was difficult to control the flow in information on social media.

    1. Hi Maddison,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my paper, it’s great to be able to get a local perspective on the impact of Twitter for the Black Lives Matter movement. I think you’re right, although the platform got the hashtag and BLM circulating online this brought about awareness rather than organising or guiding the movement. It wasn’t until the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter started appearing on protesters clothing and signage that the movement actually gained media coverage and worldwide attention, subsequently giving BLM more power through a wider reach.

      Had I not focused my paper on BLM efforts on Twitter, I definitely think there was more to explore with what you mentioned about the different elements of activism and the other ways individuals showed support for BLM. As someone who is only really active on Instagram, although I have been aware of the BLM for some time and what the organisation stands for, there was many mixed messages floating around and I was unsure with what the movement was actually trying to achieve. I got really confused when those black squares started appearing on everyone’s Instagram grid and it seemed everyone was getting called out on social media for simply getting on board with the trend, without actually understanding the meaning behind the act.

      To answer your question about activist communities on Twitter better leveraging and organising information, I think it comes down to clear communication and providing supporters with enough knowledge to effectively reinforce the movement’s key message. For example, with Blackout Tuesday to avoid being counter-productive, the call to action should have been focused on amplifying black voices without silencing the movement. Seeking out discourse about racial injustices, showing up to BLM events and elevating voices in the black community, all require much more effort and energy than posting a black square on social media and are much more effective in showing allied support!

  9. Hi Melissa,
    I really enjoyed your paper! I found it particularly interesting how you discussed how Twitter users can change the meaning of their messages by combining different hashtags together. I think this is both beneficial and detrimental. On one hand, it provides a new means for people to express themselves and make connections between different movements. Using multiple hashtags also helps people direct their messages at particular audiences and improve their visibility. However, when people on Twitter use multiple hashtags alongside each other, it can also dilute the important content attached to the hashtag with less relevant material and change the original meaning of the hashtag.

    I agree that #blacklivesmatter was very successful at creating a sense of community and belonging and initiating collective action. Considering how many times the #blacklivesmatter hashtag was used, how do you think the hashtag managed to avoid being diluted by irrelevant material and stay effective at bringing people together?

    Thanks for sharing this article, it was great to read!

    Please check out my paper on Instagram and feminism if you have time! Here’s the link:

    1. Hi Rebekah,

      Thank you for your response. What you said about the use of multiple hashtags having the potential to dilute the original messages or intended meanings, is what I was trying to highlight in my argument. These types of hashtags which I referred to in my paper as co-occurring hashtags, can like you say result in strengthening a message or reducing it.

      In 2014, 18-year-old African American Michael Brown was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. After officer Wilson failed to be indicted for killing Michael Brown, the hashtag #Ferguson began circulating simultaneously with #BlackLivesMatter on Twitter. In this case the use of co-occurring hashtags worked effectively to mobilise local protests and highlight this particular incident, which ultimately propelled the BLM movement by gaining media attention. I think when used correctly multiple related hashtags on Twitter can help in organising interconnected tweets, which has also been seen in the recent cases of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Where along with hashtags of the victims’ names and #BlackLivesMatter, the hashtags #ICantBreathe and #SayHerName appear concurrently to highlight specific cases that align with BLM.

      In answer to your question about the frequent use of #BlackLivesMatter and how the hashtag has managed to remain significant, I believe the most persuasive activist hashtags have a distinguishable narrative form and complete sentence structures as opposed to single words. For example, #BringBackOurGirls, #OscarsSoWhite and #MuslimsAreNotTerrorist, which express a strong sense of conflict, action and refusal.

      Thanks for the link, look forward to reading your paper.

  10. Hi Melissa,
    I really enjoyed reading your paper and I like how the topic of blacklivesmatter has become a significant topic of discussion as it raises awareness of the injustices faced by African Americans in our society today. I did a similar paper on how online communities have become a powerful tool in establishing social change through the example of the #metoo movement in regards to sexual abuse.
    The relationship between social media and the offline community has become paralleled through movements online which is amazing. Twitter is such an interesting platform where people are able to express their political views or opinions on any topic of choice, with the option of using hashtags. Hashtags are a great tool, it is somewhat like a collection of databases where people with the same topic of interest are grouped together and this forms a little community where people can feel comforted. Along with the hashtag, Twitter also offers the anonymity function where it is acceptable for people to keep their identity disclosed which gives them the liberty to express themselves without the fear of judgment.
    The Black Lives Matter is just a stepping stone in the right direction in terms of raising awareness for the injustice faced by African Americans and although, this does not in any way eradicate the injustice or generate social change, it brings awareness which is the first step to achieving any change.

    Feel free to check out my paper on Twitter and the Me too movement 🙂

    1. Hi Saranya,

      Thanks for your response and for the link to your paper, I wonder what similarities in online community and movement building through hashtags we have both come across. It will be interesting to compare your findings about Twitter’s impact on activist movements in driving social change using a different case study.

      I think a few of us have wrote papers around Black Lives Matter which proves your point about the importance of the movement as a topic of discussion to highlight the racism and inequality still prevalent among the black community in America. You mentioned the anonymity function on Twitter and how this has been beneficial for users who have concerns around privacy and receiving backlash for expressing their opinions. However, I wonder if allowing users to remain anonymous does more harm than good? It would be interesting to know your opinion on this, as there are many examples of people using social media for cyber bullying or ‘trolling’ and this is easier to do through the guise of an anonymous or fake profile.

      I’m glad you were able to recognise the point I was trying to make about the significance of hashtags on Twitter to bring together users with shared values, for the purpose of building awareness and strengthening the online presence of BLM. Which as my paper addressed was a pivotal moment for the BLM movement in gaining worldwide exposure and media attention.

      1. Hi Melissa,
        I completely agree with your argument and I think that with these types of movements, there will be both negative and positive impacts on the community. This is a thought-provoking question and I’d have to counter-argue myself by saying I think anonymity does in fact cause more harm than good due to the fact people are able to say whatever they want without having accountability for what they’ve said which increases the likelihood of hate comments.

        I think sharing one’s identity in terms of speaking up about one’s sexual abuse story, will encourage other survivors to do the same, and this gives credibility and validity to stories posted online as there are people who for a lack of a better word ‘catfish’ other people, and, this makes it incredibly difficult to distinguish between the truth and the truth becomes distorted as a result.

        There is also power in identity and this made me think of the quote by Virginia Woolf, “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman”. This quote reinforces how in the past, women had no voice due to the hierarchal system and inequality between men and women. However, I think the #metoo movement and the anonymity tool have allowed women to feel comfortable enough to speak up for the injustice they’ve faced.

        Like every situation, there are two sides of the spectrum but your question was really thought-provoking.

        I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well!

        Paterson, L. (2019). A History of the Struggles of Women in Literature and Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’. Literary Cultures, 2(1).

  11. Hey Melissa,
    I wanted to know what you thought about Twitter’s algorithm and how important social messaging about trends are being missed by many users. For example, there may be many that miss out on much of the events that led up to the BLM movement becoming so strong since those events weren’t being shown to them by Twitter. I think this has created a lot of misunderstanding between BLM and those that retort with All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter etc.
    Would you have any ideas on how trending social movements can have more access to Twitter’s user base and how they would decide what movements were important enough?

    1. Hi Jorell,
      Thanks or taking the time to read my paper. In regard to your question about Twitter’s algorithm, I definitely believe because of the high visibility of tweets which are trending (and this is sometimes manipulated by users) there is a higher possibility that messages in regard to activism participation can be missed and/or misinterpreted. However, it is probably important to mention that Twitter’s algorithm has since changed how they show tweets on the timeline and now favours a more personalised user experience (you can also now turn off the default algorithm). Because the Black Lives Matter movement first gained momentum on Twitter in 2014, I have researched Twitter’s algorithm from then, but it is interesting to consider the social impact of the movement and how it has developed more recently.

      For example, Twitter now presents posts to users based on relevance determined by the topics and authors a user engages with. Therefore, are we able to assume that Black Lives Matter has created an online advocacy movement which has been more successful in mobilising like-minded users in contemporary society? As we have seen this occur with the huge increase in social media exposure for Black Lives Matter, leading to social and political change from the recent cases of the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

      In answer to your last question, I think the use of co-occurring hashtags can help trending social movements directly and more accurately reach users and vice versa, as Twitter users now have greater control over what is display on their timelines and can easily view the latest tweets from people/pages they follow.

  12. Hi Melissa,

    Just by reading the title of your paper, I already knew that it would be very interesting and informative. I am particularly amazed at how you managed to link social media and hashtags to the reality of society and its injustice focusing on the black lives matter movement. Indeed, Twitter is a very interesting social media platform to discuss as it enables its users to create online activism with the powerful tool of #hastags!
    However, you could have added even more scholarly articles so that to give even more weight to your arguments in your paper.
    Overall, I really enjoyed reading your paper. Well done. Good job.

    I am also writing on the black community online, but focusing more on black natural hair communities on YouTube and its effects on black women’s identity. If you are interested to read it, here is the link:

    1. Hi Rachel,

      Thank you for your feedback, after reading some great papers from other students I would agree that adding more references would have given me a wider perspective and helped support my argument a bit stronger.

      I think that Twitter’s appeal to advocacy movements is largely based on what you said about hashtags, as a powerful tool they create networks online and form collective identity among users. In other words, tweeting or re-tweeting a hashtag such as #BlackLivesMatter gives users a sense of belonging to a unified group and this has played a major role in the movement’s attraction.

      Thanks for the link to your paper, I’ll be sure to check it out!

  13. Hi Melissa,
    This is Wen. I really enjoyed reading your paper. The link between social media and the society in real life have been strongly identified by how hashtags have been influencial in gathering people as well as spreading the attitudes and energy on cyberspace, especially when it is explained with the case of Black Lives Matter. I believed that it has always been useful for us to have a better understanding of the relationship between civil rights and social media with the explaination of historical events. Not long ago, people from all around the world were going viral on protesting the “Social Media Blackout” in Myanmar, which has again, proven that as long as we have the internet, we are able to shout and fight for equity and rights. If you are interested in the “Social Media Balckout” in Myanmar, here is the link that you can have a read on the news!

    I talked about BLM in my paper too! It is about how social media as a tool to gather people in fighting for civil rights and equity, feel free to discuss with me, it would be nice to know your perpective:)

    Do you think that Instagram will be a platform that can have better impact than Twitter on social movement such as organising protest events?

    1. Hi Wen,

      I will be interested to read your insight on the BLM movement on social media and whether you also found a number of positives and negatives for using these types of platforms to mobilise users in support of their cause.

      In answer to your question about the possibility of Instagram being more effective than Twitter for organising protests, I would put it down to the type of event. For example, in rallying individuals for local protests I would say Facebook would be the most obvious choice, with the ease of inviting and sharing what’s happening in one’s community through the affordances of ‘Facebook events’. However, for national or worldwide protest events which can occur online like ‘Blackout Tuesday’, Instagram or Twitter would be equally as suitable to build awareness and call for collective action.

      I believe it takes multiple social media platforms with a clear and consistent message/objectives to make a significant impact. I think all social media has its strengths and limitations but knowing which platforms to target and what type of content to post on each is what defines a successful movement.

      Thanks for your response!

  14. Hi Melissa,
    This is an interesting and well researched paper. In today’s climate it is so important to be aware of the black lives matter movement and the information people receive. I found the below article about the use of social media in fighting against racism. it includes a fascinating insight into how technology has changed the way the civil rights movements get information and connect. like your paper, it states that while online platforms raise awareness there are still issues with using the medium.

    1. Hi Tiffany,

      Thank you for your response and for sharing that article, a great piece about the past and present activist scene and the influence of technology. The author highlighted the point I was trying to convey in my paper about the power of Twitter, giving minority groups a voice and creating a collective identity among users to call for social and political change. As you mentioned there is also the problematic side of social media and the openness of these platforms, where members of the black community are now being targeted and abused online. This made me question if there needs to be more changes made to social networking sites to prevent or remove harmful content.

      Do you think social media platforms are doing enough to censor messages of racism, harassment and in extreme cases threats, which are now being easily spread online?

      Would be interesting to hear what you think!

      1. Hi Melissa,
        Thank you for the reply. I don’t think platforms are doing enough to censor racism or the spread of white supremacists. I have included a link of how Facebook’s algorithms have helped spread racial hate groups. Even though they have said they have changed the algorithms, it seems to be too little, too late.

        I do hope that they do more. Platforms get upset about a woman showing her nipple, but seem to let abuse run free. Fingers crossed things change in the future.

  15. Hi Melissa,

    A great paper that was a very interesting read. I did a similar paper on how online networks have been such a powerful tool in generating social change using the George Floyd death as a prime example. Twitter is such an interesting platform due to the uniqueness of posting with the tweets and being a used by users to deliver a shorter and sharper message rather than Facebook which can be a lot more of a lengthy post. I found Twitter to be a huge driving point in mobilising people and generating communities out of George Floyds death with the #BlackOutTuesday hashtag which took over the world for that one day. Twitter is a great platform for snowballing a message which can hopefully be used for good!


    1. Hi William,

      Thanks for your response, I’ll be interested to read your paper and hear more about the recent impact of Black Lives Matter on social media and whether this surge in visibility has helped to solidify the movement or diluted its original meaning and objectives.

      I agree with what you mentioned about Facebook and Twitter having a different purpose, I think this is the main reason why although the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was first mentioned on Facebook in 2013 it only became known and started circulating once it was used on Twitter. According to my research the hashtag then became viral and sustained its momentum after officer Darren Wilson failed to be indicted for the shooting death of Michael Brown, as the public then began using #BlackLivesMatter in their tweets as a cry for racial injustice.

      Look forward to reading your paper shortly.

    2. Hi William,

      Thanks for your response, I’ll be interested to read your paper and hear more about the recent impact of Black Lives Matter on social media and whether this surge in visibility has helped to solidify the movement or diluted its original meaning and objectives.

      I agree with what you mentioned about Facebook and Twitter having a different purpose, I think this is the main reason why although the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was first mentioned on Facebook in 2013 it only became known and started circulating once it was used on Twitter. According to my research the hashtag then became viral and sustained its momentum after officer Darren Wilson failed to be indicted for the shooting death of Michael Brown, as the public then began using #BlackLivesMatter in their tweets as a cry for racial injustice.

      Look forward to reading your paper!

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