Race relations key element on social media for US blacks, study says

Some analysts give social media networks such as Twitter credit for popularising social justice movements such as #BlackLivesMatter. — Reuters pic
Some analysts give social media networks such as Twitter credit for popularising social justice movements such as #BlackLivesMatter. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Aug 15 — Social media has become a key forum for discussing US race relations — but far more so for blacks than whites, a study showed today.

The Pew Research Centre report found black social media users in the United States are roughly twice as likely as whites — 68 to 35 per cent — to say that race relations are a part of their social networking conversations.

The report comes amid a growing social movement using #BlackLivesMatter and related hashtags following the deaths of African-Americans in police custody.

Among black social media users, 28 per cent said most or some of what they post is about race or race relations but just eight per cent of whites said the same, Pew found.

Meanwhile two-thirds of whites who use social media said that none of things they post or share pertain to race, the researchers said.

Some analysts give networks such as Twitter credit for popularising social justice movements.

At the time of the social network’s 10th anniversary this year, it noted that #Ferguson was the top social hashtag, emerging after the police shooting of an unarmed black youth in the Missouri town.

That was followed by #LoveWins, a reaction to a US court ruling in favour of same-sex marriage, and #BlackLivesMatter in third place.

“Social media also can serve as an important venue where groups with common interests come together to share ideas and information,” the study authors wrote.

“And at times, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites can help users bring greater attention to issues through their collective voice.”

The researchers said the tone of social media conversations changed after the shootings this year of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which fuelled a rise in the hashtags #AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter.

“There was a dramatic rise in the share of tweets criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement using that hashtag in our July analysis and a drop in the share of tweets that supported the movement,” the researchers said.

“The rise in critical tweets was especially notable after the killing of police officers in Dallas.”

The survey was based on interviews from February 29 to May 8 among a national sample of 3,769 adults, with a margin of error for the full group estimated at 2.3 percentage points. — AFP