Digital contention in a divided society

Social media, parades and protests in Northern Ireland

Author: Paul Reilly

This book explores how social media are used by citizens to frame contentious parades and protests in ‘post-conflict’ Northern Ireland. It provides the first in-depth analysis of how Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were used by citizens to contest the 2013 union flag protests and the Ardoyne parade dispute (2014 and 2015). An essential read for researchers interested in digital mis- and disinformation, it will examine how citizens engaged with false information circulating on these platforms that had the potential to inflame sectarian tensions during these contentious episodes. It also considers the implications of this online activity for efforts to build peace in deeply divided societies such as Northern Ireland.

The book uses a qualitative thematic approach to analyse Facebook, Twitter and YouTube content generated during the flag protests and Ardoyne parade dispute between 2012 and 2016. It also draws on semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders including bloggers, political commentators and communication officers from the main political parties, as well as the results of a qualitative content analysis of newspaper coverage of these contentious public demonstrations.

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