SMAD Team Published on #MeToo Movement in Social Science Computer Review

Researchers in the Social Media and Democracy (SMAD) group published their paper, “#MeToo, Networked Acknowledgment, and Connective Action: How Empowerment Through Empathy Launched a Social Movement,” in Social Science Computer Review. The study, led by doctoral candidate Jiyoun Suk, focuses on how sharing #MeToo experiences on Twitter created “a network of acknowledgment” that drove “calls for action” across a range of spaces.

Employing natural language processing and network analysis, the SMAD team analyzed 5-months of Twitter posts following the Weinstein accusations. The research finds that the story sharing and affirmation of “networked acknowledgment” tweets waned over time but “activism” tweets remained relatively robust and even grew over the first few months.

Ordinary users were among the most widely retweeted “networked acknowledgment” accounts. Their prominence demonstrates the grassroots nature of a movement centered on sharing personal narratives and expressing solidarity. For the “activism” discourse, celebrities and media accounts made up a majority of the most retweeted accounts, suggesting elite-driven mobilizing efforts, some directed against politicians facing sexual assault allegations.

Results reveal how major accusations and media events drove these discourses. Time series analysis found (1) these factors didn’t shape “networked acknowledgment” but (2) accusations against politicians did drive “activism.” More important, “networked acknowledgment” discourse drove “activism” discourse, testifying to the potential of personal story sharing to support organizing efforts. The personal became political, with calls to action spurred by the network of support. The team is expanding the project to look at the global spread of #MeToo and the prior hashtag activism that laid the groundwork for it.