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Shepherding and Censorship: Discourse Management in the Tea Party Patriots Facebook Group

Publication Type:

Conference Proceedings


45th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, eGovernment Track, Wailea Maui, Hawaii (2012)


Political groups on social networking sites enable a
new type of collaborative, political discourse among
citizens. In this study, we show how political discourse
in social media is distinct from prior studies of
political groups on the Internet. Specifically, we use
network analysis in combination with communication
theory to examine conversational social networks that
emerge from direct addressals between participants in
10 discussions on the Tea Party Patriots Facebook
page associated with the shooting of US Representative
Gabrielle Giffords. Our findings identify singling out
of other participants as a key tactic for clarifying and
questioning inaccurate information; apply social
network analysis to identify different behaviors
between networks and describe the elimination of
dissent from the Tea Party Patriots Facebook page
over time. Important questions of how users
experience political discourse online, including the
impact of the traceless removal of discourse by group
administrators are framed in the conclusion.