How Social Media Became the Engine for Information on #Ferguson


On August 9th, Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo. According to eyewitness reports, Brown was unarmed and shot by a police officer. In the days and weeks since, the Ferguson community has erupted in protests — with social media becoming an engine for related news and information.

One of the eyewitnesses live-tweeted the shooting. When journalists went to Ferguson to cover the story and were arrested, it was their lack of tweets that alerted their editors that something was amiss.

Indeed, much like the Arab Spring and protests in Ukraine, social media can largely be attributed with exposing the events in Ferguson to people across the country and around the world. According to the Pew Research Center, the Ferguson story broke on Twitter before cable news. While mainstream news coverage exploded after the first journalists were arrested on August 15th, Twitter coverage peaked the day before.

“On its peak day so far, Thursday, August 14, there were more than 3.6 million tweets about the events in Ferguson,” according to the Pew report.

Despite the high volume of #Ferguson tweets, some people were left wondering why #Ferguson was dominating their newsfeed, but wasn’t included in the trending topics. According to TechCrunch, the discrepancy can be attributed to the personalization of trends.

“This is generally a good thing as it means when you log into Twitter, you’ll find things of interest to you, whether that’s what your Twitter friends are talking about right now, or things going on in your own city,” writes TechCrunch contributor Sara Perez.

Whether or not #Ferguson showed up in your trending topics is neither here nor there. The events have dominated social media newsfeeds for nearly two weeks, sparking debates about police brutality and racial tensions in the U.S.

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