Black Lives Matter Movement on Social Media Platforms

The Black Lives Matter campaign is still as recognized today as it was when it first came out. It was started by a single hashtag on social media, which went viral overnight discussing about the African-American communities being treated unfairly. The “signal-booster,” however, was the increasing number of wrongful deaths of African-Americans throughout the country, usually in the hands of police brutality. I chose to focus specifically on how the movement keeps growing on Twitter and Facebook, as those are the two biggest social media platform right now.

Source: Wikimedia

To unify people from all over the world fighting for the same cause would have been impossible without the use of social media. Even then, sometimes it’s hard to build a community online. Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi first started “#BlackLivesMatter” on Twitter in the summer of 2013. With the start of a few tweets using the hashtag, a movement was born.

Cullors tweeted that, “#BlackLivesMatter was never just about the hashtag.” She continued, “It was always an organizing project/platform.” Garza told Cosmopolitan that it is “a re-humanization project.”

I chose these three women because I think it’s amazing how they can create a hashtag and turn it into a worldwide movement. I chose to look at their Twitter personally because I think that’s where it really started.

Garza’s Twitter is all about #BlackLivesMatter. Lately, she retweets a lot more of people who contributes to the movement rather than herself. The accounts she retweets from are sometimes news platforms, Black Lives Matter groups across the country, as well as fellow activists and Twitter users. She also published articles, such as the one in the Feminist Wire, and interviews to draw more attention to the cause.

Cullors and Tometi tweets and retweets about a lot more things. In addition to fighting for the cause, they also brought light to other events. For instance, they brought attention to the Flint water crisis. Cullors tweeted, “Who is organizing in Flint? How can @Blklivesmatter support the community? #flintwater” as a show of support.

While Twitter is a great platform to unite people from different parts of the world, according to Pew Research Center, only 23% of adults use Twitter as of September 2014. They stated that 71% of adults use Facebook. Both platforms play a big part in our daily lives and they have most of the same features when it comes to sharing news online. One of the differences between them is that Facebook allows users to say what they want to say in more than 140 characters.

Source: Wikimedia

A police officer has been placed on administrative leave after he allegedly posted a message on his social media asking motorists to run over “idiots” in regard to the civilians participating in a march on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in St. Paul, Minn.

“Run them over. Keep traffic flowing and don’t slow down for any of these idiots who try and block the street. […] Now, these idiots could try and sue you in civil court, but remember that it will be jury trial and so most likely it will come out in your favor.”

The Star Tribune reported that Andrew Henderson, a community activist, first spotted the comment on Facebook and reported it to St. Paul Police Department. The news quickly attracted people on social media where users commented and shared the news in their community.

Part of why I chose this story is because I don’t think this story gets enough coverage as all the other social injustice stories we’ve heard circulating the hashtag. Back in 2015, we heard the story of the protest in Ferguson, Mo. We heard about how the policemen treated the civilians demanding justice, fighting for the same cause as the people in St. Paul are with the rally. However, the report made by Henderson might just be what stopped the protest into another chaotic event. Personally, that shows an example and importance of how journalism goes both ways, between reporters and readers.

According to Keyhole, between Thursday to Saturday alone, there are over six hundred posts that included the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, with a reach of more than five million. Keyhole found 71 posts in the span of three days from when it was first reported, to Saturday. The reach was a little under 120 thousand, a small amount compared to the five million for the hashtag alone. The most influential user that shared the news on Twitter is Bill Madden, an activist with over 30 thousand followers.

Keyhole showed that the top site is of course, Facebook. When searched using a search engine, the Washington Post, CBS News and various more have covered the story. Based on what was published, it is also evident that it has been covered on local television news in Minnesota.

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