#BlackLivesMatter and #AliveWhileBlack: A study of topical orientation of hashtags and message content

Chamil Rathnayake, Jenifer Winter, Wayne Buente

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This study examines content differences between Twitter hashtags that indicate different topical orientations related to issues of racial discrimination, police violence, and structural inequalities. Two datasets representing #BlackLivesMatter and #AliveWhileBlack were examined to explore how message content varies based on topical orientation. A random sample of 600 tweets from each hashtag were classified based on content categories identified in previous scholarly work on collective coping and social movements. Two topic models were developed to further examine content differences between the two hashtags in a larger corpus of tweets. Results show that differences in hashtags can indicate significant differences in the nature of messages embedded in tweets. A χ2 test revealed that distribution of tweets was differed between the two hashtags in six out of eight categories. Topic model analysis indicated that topics in the hashtag with activist/social movement orientation mainly related to issues/incidents that gained significant media attention.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2018
EventThe 68th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association: Voices - Hilton Prague Hotel, Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 24 May 201828 May 2018


ConferenceThe 68th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association
Abbreviated titleICA2018
Country/TerritoryCzech Republic
Internet address


  • collective coping
  • twitter
  • hashtags
  • Black lives matter


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