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Black Lives Matter Research Released

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A student-led demonstration at AU, December 2014. Signs included those promoting the Black Lives Matter campaign.

The Center for Media & Social Impact has released an in-depth report co-authored by American University Assistant Professor Deen Freelon on the Black Lives Matter movement and its use of social media. 

The report, Beyond the Hashtags, took over a year to plan, write and research. It is based on an analysis of over 40 million tweets, 100,000 hyperlinks, and 40 participant interviews. 

Findings include:

  • Protesters and their supporters were generally able to circulate their own narratives without relying on mainstream news outlets.
  • There are six major communities that consistently discussed police brutality on Twitter in 2014 and 2015: Black Lives Matter, Anonymous/Bipartisan Report, Black Entertainers, Conservatives, Mainstream News, and Young Black Twitter.
  • The vast majority of the communities we observed supported justice for the victims and decisively denounced police brutality.
  • Black youth discussed police brutality frequently, but in ways that differed substantially from how activists discussed it.

Freelon, a professor at AU's School of Communication who recently received tenure, co-authored the report with Charlton D. McIlwain, an associate professor of media, culture and communication and associate dean for faculty development and diversity at New York University and Meredith D. Clark, an assistant professor of digital and print news at the University of North Texas. The report was funded by a grant from the Spencer Foundation. Full report