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The Role of Influentials in Protest Information Diffusion on Social Media

Fri, August 30, 10:00 to 11:30am, Hilton, Embassy

Abstract

It is well known that information sharing through digital media is often an important driver of political mobilization in the digital era, but our understanding of the factors that cause people to share information about collective action online is far from complete, as is our understanding of the way these factors vary by national context and culture. One such factor that the literature suggests should be important is information sharing by “influentials”. Does whether or not an influential social media user shares information about collective action events have an effect on an individual’s likelihood of re-posting this information? How does the effect of influential posting vary by political context and culture? Drawing on an original cross-national survey experiment conducted in Japan and South Korea in September of 2018, I show that the effect of influential posting on the likelihood of reposting information about collective action varies greatly between the two countries, with Korean subjects displaying a far higher propensity to repost influentials’ collective action posts than their Japanese counterparts. I argue that this difference can be explained by context-dependent variation in the moderating effect of social network heterogeneity and pre-existing norms regarding political behavior. I conclude with a discussion of the implications for collective action theory.

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