This briefing contains social media findings from the Situational Threat and Response Signal (STARS) project (the full report is available here: www.crestresearch.ac.uk/resources/stars-framework-full-report/). It investigates the role of social media in disseminating public facing counter-terrorism strategic communication messages. There is a growing literature using social media data to track and trace the harms that arise in the aftermath of terror attacks. For example, in the form of hate crimes and escalated community tensions. The STARS project addresses an area in which there is less work, exploring what happens outside of crisis situations in terms of more positive preventative messaging.
We used the Brandwatch tool to collect Twitter data for posts between May 19th 2021 and May 26th 2022 (in line with the STARS project timetable) relating to five key UK counter-terrorism communication campaign hashtags:
The resulting data were analysed:
- temporally, to examine posting volume increases and decreases over time and some of the causes and consequences associated with these patterns, especially relating to the resulting sentiments generated;
- in terms of who the principal authors are relating to each campaign, and their reach and engagement.
The following headline findings were identified:
- The top social media authors engaging with the five hashtag based campaigns were police and official government accounts. The over-riding pattern was of counter-terrorism officials talking to each other and promoting each other’s posts.
- Sentiment analysis of the posts and responses suggest campaigns triggered a lot of public fear and anxiety (comparative to other emotions). A legitimate question might be whether this is appropriate and productive, albeit that awareness raising depends on some degree of increased public concern.
- That said, there were shifts over time in public fear and anxiety levels, suggesting that these can be influenced by appropriate messaging.
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IMAGE CREDITS: Copyright ©2023 R. Stevens / CREST (CC BY-SA 4.0)