The Social Media Debate
In this chapter, we test the efficacy with which right-wing Twitter influencers are able to drive news media agendas via “hashtag activism.” Building on media theory and recent social media studies and drawing on the successful right-wing #AOCLied hashtag campaign of February 2021 as a “proof of concept,” we track the tweets of 19 right-wing influencers in near-real time for 9 weeks (mid-March to mid-May 2021), identifying all hashtags coined, amplified, or mentioned. We find that only 8.8% (3 of 34) of hashtags coined or amplified by right-wing influencers were plausibly intended as a deliberate campaign to game Twitter’s trending algorithm. While these hashtags did garner some news media attention, they were primarily covered by far-right media outlets and never for more than a few days. We conclude with a discussion of what this means for hashtag activism, the role that Twitter plays in editorializing its trending lists and deplatforming users, and future research into other mechanisms of amplification.
Lim, Gabrielle, Alexei Abrahams, and Joan Donovan. "Make It Trend! Setting Right-Wing Media Agendas Using Twitter Hashtags." The Social Media Debate. Ed. Devan Rosen. Routledge, 2022.