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Communication Power Struggle on Social Media: A Case Study of the 2011-12 Russian Protests.

Date & Time:
17:00:00 - 18:30:00,
Tuesday 3 November, 2015


In late 2011 and early 2012 Russia experienced a wave of mass protests surrounding the Duma and presidential elections. The protests, however, faded shortly after the second election. The fading of the protest movement was mirrored in the Social Medias. We study the Russian political discourse on Twitter during this period and the main actors involved in this discourse: the pro-government camp, the opposition and the general public. We analyse around 700.000 Russian Twitter messages from November 2011 to March 2012, putting them into context of political events during this period, and investigate the social networks of the most active Twitter users. Our analysis shows that the pro-government Twitter users employed a variety of communication strategies to shift the discourse and marginalize oppositional voices on Twitter. Although we cannot directly derive from our analysis an answer to the question, why did the massive protest movement fade, the Twittersphere can serve as a model to understand how authorities can disempower regime critics and manipulate public opinion. The relevance of the Twittersphere as a model for public opinion dynamics becomes apparent in the recent revelations about how the Russian government has employed Twitter bots and has paid professional Twitter users to manipulate public debate. Co-authors: Thomas Chadefaux, Trinity College Dublin Karsten Donnay, Graduate Institute Geneva Fabian Russmann, ETH Zurich Dirk Helbing, ETH Zurich.

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  • Name: Viktoria Spaiser
  • Affiliation: University of Leeds
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  • Bio: Viktoria Spaiser has a background in Sociology, Political Science and Computer Science. She is currently a University Academic Fellow in Political Science Informatics at the University of Leeds. Previously she has worked as a visiting researcher in the Computational Social Science Research Group at ETH Zurich and as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Futures Studies in Stockholm and at the Department of Mathematics, Uppsala University in Sweden.