by Jatzari Abonce, SMACC Analyst
In our last blog, we shared data on top keywords surrounding the topic of the COVID-19 pandemic on Twitter. As we continue with our research, we dive into another major topic that continues to spark conversations on important social justice issues on Twitter.
We focused on a specific demographic, Bloomington-Normal, Illinois as our basis for analysis. During 2020, we collected tweets publicly posted from within a 20-mile radius around the campus of Illinois State University.
The Black Lives Matter protests, once again, shed light on the dark realities of systemic racism, inequality, discrimination and police reform. People spoke on these social injustices on Twitter and for the purpose of our searches, we focused on specific metrics: keywords, most used hashtags, and most active accounts, along with other analytic insights on Twitter, to understand the experiences and hear the voices about this ongoing fight for social justice from the people of Bloomington Normal.
Our first insight relates to the spread. Spread relates to the audience in which these keywords were able to reach through original tweets and how the act of retweeting of those original tweets were able to spread to an even larger audience.
In the past year (2020), Bloomington Normal tweets on the topics regarding social justice issues, reached around 1.1million followers. Of the people who retweeted those original tweets, residents of Bloomington Normal reached a maximum potential of 7.6 million people.
Next, we have the bigrams count. Bigrams are a series of keywords used together frequently.
During the 2020 year, the top 10 keywords that were found to be used concurrently are as follows:
○ George & Floyd
○ police & brutality
○ Social & justice
○ criminal & justice
○ Black & lives
○ lives & matter
○ peaceful & protest
○ police & brutality
○ McClean & county
○ tear & gas
As we take a look at the list, we can understand the relationship between the pairing of these specific words and their frequency in usage in Tweets. The death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, ignited worldwide protests for justice for George Floyd, and people demanded accountability for the police officers involved, which resulted in attention being brought back to the reality of police brutality. With the top keywords we found, we can see that the conversations taking place on Twitter related heavily about George Floyd, Black Lives, and peaceful protests as well as a demand for justice with ‘social justice’ and ‘criminal justice’. But data also shows that with these protests came conversations on how people were treated while protesting, explaining the keywords of ‘tear gas’ and ‘police brutality’. Finally, McClean County appears in the search which can reflect residents of the area Tweeting about the injustices and protests happening around the area, as well as their demands of change on any policies relating to McClean County law enforcement.
Within Tweets, people will use #hashtags to identify content on a specific topic.
These #hashtags consisted of a variety of ways that people searched Tweets relating to George Floyd and anything related to the events that happened with this tragedy, such as protests and police brutality. In the midst of these protests, Twitter exploded with national attention to injustices, like Floyd’s death, as well as conversations regarding calls to action like policy changes and accountability. Hashtags around the Bloomington Normal area like #BlackLivesMatter and BLM resulted on top of the list. These specific hashtags are important because #BLM is part of an organization and movement that fights against violence inflicted in black communities. Along with using those hashtags, two other specific hashtags were used to create awareness and conversations on two Black individuals who lost their lives to police violence, #breonnataylor and #georgefloyd. These top hashtags along with #blono might have been used together to search for content related to black communities and any protests that happened around the Bloomington Normal area.
Most Active Accounts
We also looked into the most active accounts. These are accounts that have produced top content within the past year. The results showed top accounts from local news stations like: wmbdnews, wgltnews, and 25newsweek.
With this information we can infer that these news stations were in charge of providing content and information about the national protests through their Twitter accounts as one of their social media outlets. Although the news stations had the most traction, the university’s newspaper, the Vidette, also made the list of accounts that were involved in Tweeting about these issues.
Most Mentioned Accounts
Finally, we have the most mentioned accounts. These accounts are found throughout multiple tweets. These insights help us understand who other people are trying to reach with their tweets based on these specific accounts.
As we analyze the most mentioned accounts, Donald Trump is at the top of the list. As president at the time, Donald Trump has been known for using Twitter as a main medium of communicating with the public. So it is no surprise that Trump’s account was mentioned the most. This probably has to do with how Trump and the Trump administration responded to the protests.
The University’s official Twitter account, @illinoisstateu also made the list. These mentions of this account might be due to the fact that people in the area are trying to reach out to ISU through Twitter regarding any protests happening and updates related to the university and the actions they were taking to support. Lastly, @blmblono was also on the list. This account is dedicated to share local stories and hold McClean County elected officials accountable, all while fighting against systemic injustices in Blono.
This analysis is a gist of the ongoing fight for social justice and how the communities of the Bloomington-Normal area responded in the year of 2020. Our research on trending topics and keywords of the past year continues and we encourage any comments on what other topics you’d like to see.