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1 #EUROMAIDAN: EXPLORING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TWITTER

#Euromaidan Exploring the Significance of Twitter in Ukraine’s Social Movement Lena Helen Smith Biola University

Author Note Lena Helen Smith, Department of Journalism and Integrated Media, Biola University Lena Helen Smith is an undergraduate journalism and integrated media student at Biola University. This research was conducted through the journalism research course under the direction of Dr. Carolyn Kim. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lena Helen Smith at lena.h.smith@biola.edu


2 Abstract This paper explores the significance of Twitter in the inception and mobilization of Ukraine’s Euromaidan social movement. Content analysis of top tweets associated with the #Euromaidan hash tag are studied to explore five content characteristics: content source, language, external content linkage, photo and video posting, protest-specific information, and call to action or community organization messaging. The research findings depict the nuanced connections between citizen journalism and information dissemination through social media platforms. Keywords: social media, Twitter, social movement, Euromaidan, Ukraine, citizen journalism


3 #EUROMAIDAN: EXPLORING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TWITTER #Euromaidan: Exploring the Significance of Twitter in Ukraine’s Social Movement Can 140 characters change a nation? In recent years, the use of Twitter has transcended the role of personal social platform. Participants in protests, social movements and revolutions around the world are taking to Twitter to inform, mobilize and persuade the public regarding their respective causes. The rise, fall and reconstruction of governments are now identified and tracked by globally recognized hash tags. Twitter has become an increasingly accepted and recognized tool in social movements. As public interest and attention turns to Twitter with each protest or social movement, how is the platform’s use influenced by participants’ specific context? This study will explore the use of Twitter in the first 30 days of Ukraine’s “Euromaidan” movement. Content analysis of popular tweets among protest participants, observers, news outlets and advocacy groups will provide insight into how information is disseminated and promoted across the world through Twitter. Literature Review The Rise of Citizen Journalism The defining characteristic of social media use in social movements is the ability of citizens at the ground level of protests and revolutions to broadcast events and disseminate information. This practice is referred to as citizen or participatory journalism and can be defined as “a range of web-based practices whereby ‘ordinary users’ engage in journalistic practices” (Goode 2009). While there is no set definition for the practice, citizen journalism includes both content creation and interaction or participation in mainstream media conversation (Goode 2009).


4 Citizen journalism is not exclusive to the Internet or to citizens who self-identify as journalists. For example, eyewitness video of a car accident that is broadcast on the news, a self-published blog post on a current issue or even a substantive comment contribution to an article published by a major media outlet are examples of citizen journalism. Citizen or participatory journalism plays a unique role in the media landscape because it is the bridge between traditional media and online or offline civic engagement or public interest (Veenstra, Iyer, Park and Alajmi 2014). Social Media and Social Networking Sites Social media provides the platform for citizen journalists to share news and information. But what is social media and how is it different from traditional or “old” media? Kaplan and Haenlein have defined social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content” (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010). Web 2.0 was first recognized in 2004 as software developers and end users transitioned from content and applications produced by individuals to collaborative and participatory content production. User generated content is the collective social media contribution created by participants (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010). Social media is produced within the context of social network sites, which are defined as “web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semipublic profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (Boyd and Ellison 2008).


5 #EUROMAIDAN: EXPLORING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TWITTER Social media use has exploded worldwide in recent years. Nearly one in four people around the world use social media — and the number of users increased by 18% in 2013 alone (Ahmad 2013). Facebook is the largest platform in the world, boasting approximately 1.15 billion global monthly active users (Ballve 2013). These numbers will continue to grow, especially in developing nations. Researchers estimate that social media users in Africa and the Middle East will increase 191% between 2011 and 2017 (Ahmad 2013). The global increase in social media users is due in large part to increased Internet access and mobile phone usage. Approximately six out of seven people have access to the Internet worldwide and, according to the United Nations, more people have mobile phones than toilets (Wang 2013). Social Media and Social Movements The increase in global connectivity and continued development of social media platforms is used for more than cyber friendships and personal expression. Citizens are harnessing the power and function of social media to incite political and social change (Frangonikolopoulos and Chapsos 2012). A social movement can be defined as “networks of people brought together by a common goal or interest” (Lim 2012). More specifically, a network of people brought together by a common goal or interest also act upon their convictions to incite change. Previous research suggests that social movements and protests rely on social media to coalesce the fabric of the opposition in three ways: social media enables the public to disseminate information to participants or spectators immediately, helps participants coordinate events and demonstrations in the public sphere, and can motivate participants to engage in offline political activities (Veenstra, Iyer, Park and Alajmi


6 2014). A 2012 study exploring how social media is used to mobilize participants in offline demonstrations in Norway found that social media provided an alternative platform for communication and mobilization to reach different segments of the public and recruit participants in a way that mainstream media outlets and civil society groups cannot (Enjolras, Steen-Johnsen and Wollebaek 2013). The significance of social media transcends mere dissemination of information. Research suggests that the collaborative efforts of citizens regarding a protest or social movement are significant in two ways. First, social media interaction serves as an “accelerating agent” and cultivates shared meaning and mutual interest surrounding the issue at hand. Second, the collective voice of citizens on social media serves as the voice of the people, particularly in social movements against oppressive government authorities or in societies gripped by harsh censorship laws (Frangonikolopoulos and Chapsos 2012). Moreover, the very framework of social media and citizen journalism reflects a “bottomup” catalyst for change in social movements, which in practice is the antithesis of the “bottom-down” authority expressed by many governments and regimes (Frangonikolopoulos and Chapsos 2012). Scholars disagree on the practical significance of social media in recent social movements. Social media is not exclusively responsible for recent social change and political revolutions, but its use is integral to the framework of recent social movements, most notably the Arab Spring (Lim 2012). Some scholars affirm that social media should be considered within the context of the society’s “social ecology,” which includes interaction in media and non-media contexts (Tufekci and Wilson 2012). In addition to social media and social networking sites, other forms of media are integral to social


7 #EUROMAIDAN: EXPLORING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TWITTER movements and participant mobilization. Satellite television, increased usage of social media platforms and increased access to mobile devices are fundamental components of social movements (Tufekci and Wilson 2012). Social Media and the Agenda-Setting Theory Prior research indicates that the use of social media in social movements is an expression of the agenda setting theory, which was developed by McCombs and Shaw in 1972. The theory holds that “because of newspapers, television, and other news media, people are aware or not aware, pay attention to or neglect, play up or downgrade specific features of the public scene” (Shaw 1979). By providing the platform for citizens to contribute to media conversation, citizen journalism enables the public to participate in agenda-setting (Goode 2009). Their contribution to the media conversation dictates and determines what people will talk about. Social media sets an agenda for social movements in two ways: (1) it supports participants as they create a conversation and organize events; and (2) it informs mainstream media of developments. Social media create and spread a rapid flow of information to the public (Boyd and Ellison 2008). Created content generates an online buzz and, as a result, mainstream media pick up protests and demonstrations. The Rise of Twitter Social movements have harnessed the power of various social media platforms in recent years, but the design and function of Twitter is particularly suitable to disseminate information and mobilize citizens. Previous research suggests that the “open architecture” of Twitter — including the ease of public access and ability to link or tag other users — is conducive to social movement mobilization (Veenstra, Iyer, Park and Alajmi 2014). The


8 social platform allows users to post 140-character comments online. Twitter was founded in 2006 (Gokey 2014a) and is now ranked ninth among social networking sites with approximately 240 million global monthly active users (Ballve 2013). The social media platform has since been recognized, utilized and embraced by mainstream media outlets as a viable source of information (Gorkey 2014b). Twitter’s hashtag function, which enables users to code tweets by a keyword or topic, enables participants to contribute specific information to the collective catalog of the social movement (Bruns, Highfield and Burgess 2013). Twitter in Egypt’s Arab Spring Scholars describe the use of social media as a catalyst and tool for the Arab Spring social movement in Egypt, not simply as the cause of the revolution, but as the means by which the “ordinary people in the Arab ‘street’... invest in and use social media to change politics ‘from below’” over time (Fragonikolopoulos and Chapsos 2012). Citizens were compelled to fight against longstanding disappointment with government corruption and oppression, inequality, unemployment and the rising cost of living in the region (Lim 2012). Egypt’s revolution did not develop overnight. The public’s discontent with the oppressive government regime is evident in previous protests and social movements as early as 1999 (Fragonikolopoulos and Chapsos 2012). On January 25, 2011, mass protests erupted in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Participants called for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. The social movement continued to escalate and journalists estimated that hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in protest of the Mubarak regime. Clashes erupted between pro-Mubarak and anti-


9 #EUROMAIDAN: EXPLORING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TWITTER Mubarak groups. Eighteen days after the protests began, Mubarak resigned from office (BBC Egypt Timeline 2011). Social media became the vehicle for the movement’s message and played an integral role in the revolution, as an increase in the number of social media users illustrates. In 2009, Facebook was introduced to the world in Arabic (Tufekci and Wilson 2012). Approximately 2 million users were added to Facebook in Egypt alone between January and April of 2011 — a 29% growth rate (Aman and Jayroe 2013). It is estimated that the number of tweets relating to Egypt’s revolution ballooned from 2,300 tweets a day to 230,000 tweets a day in the week before Mubarak’s resignation (Howard et al. 2012). Social media and the growing public sphere in Egypt both contributed to and drew from offline political activity in Tahrir Square and beyond (Tufekci and Wilson 2012). Ukraine’s Euromaidan But how does the use of Twitter in Egypt during the Arab Spring compare to the use of Twitter in the former Soviet Union — a decidedly different culture undergoing similar social change? Ukraine’s Euromaidan erupted in November 2013. As a relatively young social movement, little authoritative study has been completed. However, media coverage of participants’ use of social media throughout the protests illustrate the widely recognized value of social media platforms in understanding social movements from the ground level. In November 2013, political unrest shook Ukraine. It was first considered a flareup in the ongoing tension between Ukraine, Russia and the West. But the protests that followed, led primarily by university students, looked starkly different from previous protests. Participants were “more hard headed and clear-sighted about their future” than


10 past generations of protesters. Demonstrations changed dramatically on November 30, when Berkut special forces attacked protesters. The hashtag #Euromaidan, as well as the Ukrainian and Russian equivalent, created a central point of reference for communication through Twitter. Evidence of the attacks were captured on video and quickly went viral (Diuk 2014). Social media was identified as a “pivotal organizational tool” for protest participation and information sharing, both in Kiev and around the world (Barbera and Metzger 2014). Methodology This qualitative study is comprised of content analysis that explores the posting trends of tweets associated with the #Euromaidan hash tag on Twitter. Content analysis is particularly appropriate to understand the value of Twitter as a means of communication throughout Ukraine’s revolution. Analysis of several tweet characteristics can illustrate trends among the public, geographical location or affiliation, identity, and the message or reason for which users are posting on the social platform. This study analyzes Twitter’s top tweets associated with the #Euromaidan hash tag in the first 30 days of the social movement. Twitter’s top #Euromaidan tweets are identified and selected through the social media platform’s algorithm, which identifies tweets that users found helpful or engaging (FAQs 2014). While the use of top tweets as the study’s sample does not fully capture the vast number of posts and impressions associated with #Euromaidan, top tweets are the most effective sample to analyze because they objectively represent the movement’s most popular impressions on the social media platform. This study identified and pulled popular tweets for each of the first


11 #EUROMAIDAN: EXPLORING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TWITTER 30 days of the revolution. Using Twitter’s advanced search tools, data was collected for analysis in 15 two-day increments. Each tweet in the sample was coded and analyzed according to the following characteristics: •

Sources o

Individual: a single person posting from a personal account

o

Group & Organization: an organization, group or company (includes nonprofits, think tanks, advocacy organizations, protest-specific organizations, etc.)

o

Media & Publication: news organizations, media outlets and publishers

Language: English, Ukrainian, Russian, other

Links: tweets include links to external publications, web pages and/or media

Photos & Videos: photos and/or videos are posted or linked in tweet

Protest-Specific Information: tweets include information in which individual, group or media outlets acknowledge their participation in or attendance of a demonstration and provide specific first-hand, on-the-ground information concerning events

Call to Action & Community Mobilization: content of the tweet explicitly calls for the reader or audience to perform some action (includes attending demonstrations, signing petitions, providing assistance, etc.)

Several factors shape the start and development of a social movement, but it can be difficult to identify the exact moment or incident with which a revolution begins. For


12 the purposes of this study, November 21, 2013 is the designated starting point of the protests. According to media reports, small protests started on November 21, 2013 in response to President Yanukovych's cabinet decision to abandon an agreement for closer trade ties with EU in favor of closer cooperation with Russia (Ukraine Crisis Timeline 2014). Top tweets from November 21, 2013 to December 20, 2013 were analyzed according to the designated categories. Analysis A total of 1,448 top tweets were identified by the Euromaidan hash tag and analyzed in the study. The vast majority of tweets included in the data set were published in English. A total of 1,365 tweets were published in English. Other languages represented in the data include Russian and Ukrainian (50), French (7), Polish (7), German (4), Spanish (3) and others (8). The number of tweets each day appears to closely coordinate with protest-specific events and media coverage. A total of 313 top tweets were identified for the December 11-12 sample section — the highest number in the data set. In contrast, the November 29-30 sample section included 14 top tweets, which was the lowest number in the data set. The highest volume of top tweets in the data set is concentrated in the sample sections between December 9 and 16. The vast majority of top tweets — 1,169 — were in published by individuals. A slight majority of top tweets posted by individuals included links to articles and external media sources. A total of 620 tweets included links while 549 tweets did not include links. The number of tweets with photos and videos reflected a similar distribution. A total of 507 tweets included photos or video while a slight majority — 662 tweets — did not. The vast majority of tweets posted by individuals did not include protest-specific


13 #EUROMAIDAN: EXPLORING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TWITTER information. When analyzed according to the protest-specific guidelines established in the study’s methodology, 1,082 tweets did not provide protest-specific information, 84 tweets did provide protest-specific information and 3 tweets were unclear or ambiguous. The disparity between tweets that included a call to action and those that did not was even more extreme. A total of 1,131 tweets did not include a call to action, while 34 tweets did and 4 tweets were ambiguous or unclear. A total of 178 top tweets from groups and organizations were identified and analyzed. The majority of tweets from groups and organizations included links. A total of 129 tweets included links to external articles and media sources while 49 tweets did not. Tweets with photos and videos reflected a similar distribution. A total of 120 tweets did not include photos or videos while only 58 did. The disparity between the number of tweets that included protest-specific information and those that did not was more significant in group and organization tweets than individual tweets. Only 8 tweets included protest-specific information while 169 tweets did not and 1 tweet was unclear or ambiguous. Similarly, the vast majority of group and organization tweets did not include a call to action. Only 7 tweets included a call to action while 170 tweets did not and 1 tweet was unclear or ambiguous. Tweets by media outlets and publications comprised the smallest number of the data set. A total of 101 top tweets by media and publications were identified and analyzed. The majority of tweets included links to articles and external media sources. A total of 76 tweets included links while 26 did not. The number of tweets that included photos and videos is significantly different from the number of tweets that include links. Only 25 tweets include photos and videos while 76 tweets do not. The vast majority of


14 media and publication tweets do not provide protest-specific information as it is defined by the study’s methodology. Only 3 tweets provide protest-specific information while 98 tweets do not. Of the 101 tweets published by media and publication entities, none of them include a call to action or community mobilization. Discussion The research findings suggest a complex and nuanced relationship between the use of Twitter and participation in Ukraine’s Euromaidan social movement. The vast majority of top tweets include photos and videos or links to articles and external media sources, which suggests that the majority of Twitter users are using the platform to pass on information or data to other Twitter users. The number of links included in top tweets in particular illustrates the dexterity of Twitter with regard to disseminating interesting or useful information from external sources. These findings may be particularly useful to organizations and publications interested in spreading an article or piece of information regarding a social or political movement quickly. The research results suggest that users readily share information concerning news or current events with ease. The research findings also suggest that the primary source of Twitter in Euromaidan is not to publish or disseminate original data or information. Rather, individuals are relying on publications and on-the-ground sources to provide pertinent information that they can share with followers. The study’s analysis of tweet messaging suggests that even when links or external media are shared, personal commentary or anecdotal information is included in the tweet’s text. Content analysis of the messages conveyed in each top tweet that included the Euromaidan hash tag suggests that Twitter was not a primary source for community


15 #EUROMAIDAN: EXPLORING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TWITTER mobilization or protest-specific information in the first 30 days of the protest. The vast majority of tweets did not include specific information or directions for action. These initial findings suggest that Twitter may not be the ideal community mobilization resource that previous research has suggested. Similarly, the disparity between this study’s findings and the findings studies regarding other social movements may indicate region-specific differences in the use of Twitter. The way in which Ukrainians use Twitter may be inherently different than the manner in which Egyptians use Twitter as a result of a number of cultural, societal and historical differences. The distribution of tweet sources reflects an interesting dynamic between individuals and organizations on Twitter. Individuals published the vast majority of top tweets in the study, which reflects high incidence of citizen journalism and personal contribution to information regarding Euromaidan. Overall, tweets from individuals included a larger proportion of links, videos, protest-specific information and calls to action. The findings suggest that individuals are more apt to become personally engaged in their tweets, calling for community mobilization and providing more specific, on-theground information in each contribution they make to the conversation. The findings also suggest that organizations, media outlets and publications focus more on providing high volumes of information rather than personal, ground level perspective. The ease with which individuals appear to produce and share information confirms the significance of the agenda-setting theory in the use of social media for social movements. The research findings suggest that Twitter provides an ideal platform for individuals to contribute original content and pass along content they found insightful to followers. In fact, the findings indicate that individuals are integral channels through


16 which publications and organizations can disseminate their content, as individuals are more likely to share photos, videos and links to articles or external media sources. While the study’s findings do not explicitly reflect a close connection between the use of Twitter and on-the-ground protest or community mobilization, it is possible that the scope of the study did not adequately capture the communication channels of active protest participants. The Euromaidan hash tag was globally recognized in various languages, which suggests that the conversation surrounding Ukraine’s political upheaval is a matter of international significance. However, the popularity of the hash tag and ease with which individuals and groups can use the hash tag suggests that it is not unique to community mobilizes or primary protest participants. While the research considers the implications of social media use for protest participants and individuals in the community in which the social movement is taking place, the study’s findings more adequately reflect the overall global pulse of the Euromaidan social media conversation. Limitations. Linguistic and geographic barriers limited the scope of the research findings. The study only considered tweets including the Euromaidan hash tag. A Russian and Ukrainian hash tag was also created and used in the same fashion as #Euromaidan. However, language barriers hindered the study’s ability to adequately identify and analyze the content of tweets in languages other than English. Similarly, geographic barriers inhibited the research from adequately considering the direct effects of social media and community organization. A lack of first-hand, on-the-ground knowledge creates significant distance between the study and the social movement’s participants. Moreover, the study only takes into consideration the top tweets identified through Twitter’s algorithm for the first 30 days of protests. As a result, the 1,448 tweets


17 #EUROMAIDAN: EXPLORING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TWITTER analyzed represent a small portion of the total number of tweets associated with the Euromaidan hash tag. Increased access to Twitter’s data and a greater capacity for analysis would have increased the accuracy and scope of the research findings. Further Research. The study’s findings contribute to the foundation for future research on Ukraine and the Euromaidan social movement. Further study of other media tools and resources contributing to community organization for protests will provide the academic community with a more robust understanding of how media and social platforms interface to create effective channels of communication. A more in depth comparison of the use of social media in Ukraine and other regions that have experienced social movements or revolutions would provide a more defined understanding of how cultural and societal elements influence social media use. Conclusion While 140 characters may not change a nation, they certainly influence the conversation surrounding those who are leading the charge in the world’s social movements and revolutions. Twitter is an integral aspect of the global spread of information and ideas among individuals, organizations, groups and media outlets alike. Technological advancements and an increasingly globalized society have enabled millions of social media users — and citizen journalists — to follow and contribute to the conversation surrounding Ukraine’s Euromaidan. The top tweets associated with the social movement’s Euromaidan hash tag reveal the influential yet nuanced effect Twitter has on the dissemination of information and community organization. Just as no revolution is the same, the communication strategies and values of participants and spectators varies accordingly. While the conversation may


18 evolve with each social movement, Twitter will continue to play a significant role in spreading information regarding protests and social movements — 140 characters at a time.


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23 #EUROMAIDAN: EXPLORING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TWITTER Appendix A The following resource provides a thorough explanation of the study’s content analysis findings.

Table A1 Total Tweets by Day November 21-22 November 23-24 November 25-26 November 27-28 November 29-30 December 1-2 December 3-4 December 5-6 December 7-8 December 9-10 December 11-12 December 13-14 December 15-16 December 17-18 December 19-20 Total

28 67 49 65 14 74 183 46 61 176 313 122 104 78 68 1148

Table A2 Total Tweets by Language English English and Russian/Ukrainian Russian/Ukrainian French Spanish Polish German

1365 4 50 7 3 7 4


24 Other

8

Table A3 Total Tweets by Source Individual Group & Organization Media & Publication Total

1169 178 101 1448

Table A4 Individual Tweets Links Yes No Photos & Videos Yes No Protest Specific Information Yes No Ambiguous/Unclear Call to Action & Community Mobilization Yes No Ambiguous/Unclear

620 549 507 662 84 1082 3 34 1131 4

Table A6 Group & Organization Tweets Links Yes No

129 49


25 #EUROMAIDAN: EXPLORING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TWITTER Photos & Videos Yes No Protest Specific Information Yes No Ambiguous/Unclear Call to Action & Community Mobilization Yes No Ambiguous/Unclear

58 120 8 169 1 7 170 1

Table A7 Media & Publication Tweets Links Yes No Photos & Videos Yes No Protest Specific Information Yes No Ambiguous/Unclear Call to Action & Community Mobilization Yes No Ambiguous/Unclear

75 26 25 76 3 98 0 0 101 0

#Euromaidan: Exploring the Significance of Twitter in Ukraine’s Social Movement