Drawing the Lines of Contention: Networked Frame Contests Within #BlackLivesMatter Discourse


This research examines Twitter discourse related to #BlackLivesMatter and police-related shooting events in 2016 through a mixed-method, interpretative approach. We construct a “shared audience graph”, revealing structural and ideological disparities between two groups of participants (one on the political left, the other on the political right). We utilize an integrated networked gatekeeping and framing lens to examine how #BlackLivesMatter frames were produced—and how they were contested—by separate communities of supporters and critics. Among other empirical findings, this work demonstrates hashtags being used in diverse ways—e.g. to mark participation, assert individual identity, promote group identity, and support or challenge a frame. Considered from a networked gatekeeping perspective, we illustrate how hashtags can serve as channeling mechanisms, shaping trajectories of information flow. This analysis also reveals a right-leaning community of BlackLivesMatter critics to have a more well-defined group of crowdsourced elite who largely define their side’s counter-frame.