'Slacktivism' works

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Study shows people who like and retweet political slogans help protesters spread their message

A US study has found that online activists can double the reach of a real life protest

Caroline Mortimer The Independent
8 December 2015

People who protest by casually “liking” or retweeting political content online do have an impact, a new study has suggested.

Dubbed "slacktivists", people who express support for causes online but rarely mobilise in real-life are often dismissed as superficial and ineffectual.

But analysis of more than a million tweets by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and New York University (NYU) has found these people on the periphery do play a critical role in spreading the reach of protest movements.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, focused on a few specific protests: the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey, the Indignados movement against austerity in Spain and the Occupy movements.

Using location data embedded in the tweets to determine who was at the protest and who was observing online, the researchers looked at how the size of the online activists' social networks increased the likelihood of other people joining the physical protest.

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