The influence of repressive legislation on the structure of a social media network
Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen - Zoology Building, Tillydrone Avenue, AB24 2TZ, Aberdeen, UK
Received: 10 April 2013
Accepted: 3 December 2013
Social media have been widely used to organise citizen movements. In 2012, 75% of university and college students in Québec, Canada, participated in mass protests against an announced increase in tuition fees. These protests were primarily organised using social media. To reduce public disruption, the government passed a special legislation designed to impede protest organisation. Here, we show that the legislation changed the behaviour of Twitter users but not the overall structure of the microblogging site social network. After the passage of the legislation, the rate of increase in tweets posted per day dropped. In addition, tweet exchanges became more clustered once the legislation was in place. However, the social network kept its scale-free hierarchical structure. This natural experiment shows the power of social media in political mobilization, as well as behavioural flexibility in information flow over a large number of individuals.
PACS: 89.65.Ef – Social organizations; anthropology / 87.18.-h – Biological complexity / 89.20.Hh – World Wide Web, Internet
© EPLA, 2013