A Protest's Web: The Cross-Syndication Practices of G20 Toronto Summit Online Protest Platforms

Team Members

Anne Helmond, Catalina Iorga, Alejandro Ortega.

Introduction

This project aims to comparatively explore the linking modes of one website and two social media platforms used by protesters of the G20 Toronto Summit; the starting point is provided by one of the largest protest groups on Facebook, RESIST TORONTO G20 SUMMIT 2010 (over 6,800 members) and its affiliated Web spaces: the G8/G20 Toronto Community Mobilization website and the @g20mobilize (more than 1,400 followers) Twitter account listed on aforementioned website.

Thus, we ask: 'What is the platform dependency of the RESIST TORONTO G20 SUMMIT 2010 Facebook group, the G8/G20 Toronto Community Mobilization website and the @g20mobilize Twitter account, respectively?' In other words, what other Web spaces do the selected social media platforms - Facebook in particular - and website rely on? What are the cross-syndication practices of the Facebook group, its associated site and Twitter account?

Methods and Preliminary Findings

1. RESIST TORONTO G20 SUMMIT 2010 Linking Practices

Method

Collect all outlinks from the RESIST TORONTO G20 SUMMIT 2010 Facebook group:

  1. Go to the separate Links page of the group.
  2. Manually compile a list of all subpages of the Links page by copying and pasting respective URLs into a separate file.
  3. Submit the Links subpages URL list to the Link Ripper.
  4. Insert the Link Ripper output in the Harvester in order to alphabetize the obtained URLs and remove textual descriptions.
  5. Manually clean the Harvester output by excluding an 'exclude' list of previously compiled Facebook interface links (the 'About', 'Advertising' or 'Developers' links on the bottom of the page, to name just a few).
  6. Extract the host websites of the abomentioned outlink set by inserting the list into the Harvester and checking the 'Only return hosts' box.
  7. Count the URLs in the final list.
  8. Visualize the results in a tag cloud created with the Tag Cloud Generator.

Tag Cloud

Preliminary Findings and Further Questions

An overview of the harvested outlinks shows that the RESIST TORONTO G20 SUMMIT 2010 Facebook group heavily relies on YouTube; 29% of the links shared by the Facebook group's members route predominantly to video content, but also channels and users of the video sharing platform.

Another interesting aspect is a certain degree of internal depedency demonstrated through linking to other groups, pages, events or photos within Facebook; this subset of links accounts for 10% of the entire set. In terms of Facebook as a space for activism, a potential question would be: what are the issues present in the Facebook-hosted content that the RESIST TORONTO G20 SUMMIT 2010 links to? More specifically, to what extent do issues brought forth in this particular group overlap with those presented in the linked groups, pages or events? Or, in more generally speaking, does Facebook offer the possibility to create a coherent alternative place for political activism?

Given the resistance online group's strong reliance on YouTube content, another question that arises is where else on the Web are these videos referenced? That is to say, what actors make use of this particular audio-visual material and in what issue configurations does it reoccur? Furthermore, what are the cross-linking policies of the actors that engage with these videos? Do they link to each other or to issue-specific social media platforms (like the Facebook group or Twitter account analyzed in this work)? Do they refer to mainstream news media or stay within the alternative framework suggested by the results of the Facebook link examination (for instance, links to progressive news outlet rabble.ca constitute almost 10% of entire URL set)?

2. @g20mobilize Linking Practices

Method

Collect all outlinks from the @g20mobilize Twitter account:

  1. Go to the @g20mobilize page hosted by Twitter.
  2. Manually select the text column containing all tweets since the first tweet (May 12th, 2010) to the time of data collection (5th of July, 2010).
  3. Insert the output into the Harvester so as to compile an alphabetical list of the URLs and eliminate additional text.
  4. Submit the obtained list to the Expand Tiny URLs tool in order to enlarge Twitter-specific short links to full URLs.
  5. Extract the host websites of the abomentioned outlink set by inserting the list into the Harvester and checking the 'Only return hosts' box.
  6. Count the URLs in the final list.
  7. Visualize the results in a tag cloud created with the Tag Cloud Generator.

Tag Cloud

Preliminary Findings and Further Questions

The most prominent space referenced by @g20mobilize tweet links is the associated G8/G20 Toronto Community Mobilization site with approximately 25% of the 47 links. A second level of internal dependency becomes visible: while the Facebook group maintains a basic level of reliance on other Facebook-hosted material - a phenomenon that can be explained through the opportunity to post content that each group member has -, the Twitter account aligns itself with the official website, potentially alluding to a more centralized, coherent approach due to administration of the account by one person, for example.

Another type of signifcant allegiance is to the idea of 'alternative reporting' proposed by the G20 Alt Media Center, a website that encourages protesters to tag social media platform posts - on YouTube, Flickr or Twitter - with '#g20report'. This is reflected not only by the fact that 16% of the URL set directs to the Toronto Media Coop, the official news provider on the G20 Alt Media Center frontpage, but also by the ubiquity the abovementioned '#g20report' tag, which is present in 62% of tweets.

However, it should be taken into account that only 12% of Twitter posts actually link to other pages. In addition to this, nearly half - 44%, to be specific - of the tweets were posted during the 26th and 27th of June, respectively, the official G20 Toronto Summit conference dates. Considering these two aspects - the scarcity of links and the event-focused approach -, it could be hypothesised that the @g20mobilize account is a temporally-anchored platform, aimed at taking the pulse of the 'here' and 'now'. A question that follows from this assumption is: what are the issues and actors mentioned in the @g20mobilize's version of the protests? Is the Twitter account used as a means of information, a support rallying tool, or both?

3. G8/G20 Toronto Community Mobilization Linking Practices

Method

Collect all outlinks from the G8/G20 Toronto Community Mobilization website:

  1. Go to the G8/G20 Toronto Community Mobilization website.
  2. Manually compile a list of the all the pages of the G8/G20 Toronto Community Mobilization website by copying and pasting respective URLs into a separate file.
  3. Submit all pages URL list to the Link Ripper.
  4. Insert the Link Ripper output in the Harvester in order to alphabetize the obtained URLs and remove textual descriptions.
  5. Manually clean the Harvester output by excluding compiled interface links (e.g. the 'Calendar' and 'Opensource technology advertising' links on the left and bottom of the page).
  6. Extract the host websites of the abomentioned outlink set by inserting the list into the Harvester and checking the 'Only return hosts' box.
  7. Count the URLs in the final list.
  8. Visualize the results in a tag cloud created with the Tag Cloud Generator.

Tag Cloud

Preliminary Findings and Further Questions

Of particular interest is that, similarly to @g20mobilize, the website does not refer to Facebook - though there is a constant right-hand link in the website's template - and YouTube to the same extent shown by the RESIST TORONTO G20 SUMMIT 2010 Facebook group refers to YouTube and Facebook itself. In other words, there seems to be a certain degree of linking dissonance in the G20 Toronto Summit cross-syndication practices; while the Facebook group, as a social media platform, heavily relies on other social media platforms, both the @g20mobilize account and the G8/G20 Toronto Community Mobilization site mostly refer to official partners such as the latter Web space and Toronto Media Coop, respectively.

The Toronto Media Coop, an indicator of 'alternative reporting' as explained above, appears to be a slightly more prominent space, but not significantly due to the relatively low number of mentions, which accounts for only 4.54% of the total number of links. Nevertheless, the even outlink distribution portrayed by the tag cloud points to another question: what is the relationship between the mainstream media (such as the local Toronto CTV or the Toronto Star) and alternative entities (Toronto Media Coop and The 2010 People’s Summit, a civil society alternative “counter Summit”)? Does 'alternative reporting' make use of established news resources? Does mainstream journalism acknowledge alternative online spaces?

A Protest's Web: Linking Practices Compared

Method

1. Input all three final link sets into the Triangulate tool.

2. Extract the common links.

3. Visualize the results by manually creating a matrix that vertically features the three platforms and horizontally displays the set of linking commonalities. In order to compare the amount of links in an equitable fashion, the bubbles are scaled proportionally; for example, out of Facebook's total of 627 links, 182 link to YouTube, yielding 29% of the set. Normalization of the dataset.

Visualization

bubblecloud_allthree.png

Preliminary Findings

RESIST TORONTO G20 SUMMIT 2010, @g20mobilize, G8/G20 Toronto Community Mobilization have six common Web spaces in their outlink sets: two social media/ content-sharing platforms (Facebook and YouTube), the websites of two mainstream, Toronto-based newspapers (the Toronto Star, and the Globe and Mail), and last but not least, the alternative, collaborative online news source Media Coop. This heterogeneous mix of mainstream coverage, alternative reporting, but also exclusively online news sources, Web instatiations of print and television entities, and sharing platforms deserves further investigation. A question to be followed upon is: what are the linking modes of the six most prominent spaces in the cross-syndication of G20 Toronto Summit protest content?

Issues and Limitations

One essential issue in need of further examination is the difference between the different time frames of posted content on the two social media platforms. The RESIST TORONTO G20 SUMMIT 2010 Facebook group's first link was shared on the 20th of December, 2009 (with the latest link being posted on the same day - 9th of July, 2010 - the description of this project being completed, while the first @g20mobilize piece of content was tweeted on the 12th of May (the last tweet dates to the 2nd of July).

One interesting hypothesis surface as a result of these distinct time spans; it could be argued that the Facebook group positions itself as a long-term debating space, preconfiguring the issues of the protests, but also shaping their aftermath, while the Twitter account appears to be, as previously mentioned, an event-tied platform that mostly deals with the 'here and now' aspects (marches, meetings, police, arrests) of the protest. An analysis of the issues present in the content shared on the two platforms would shed more light on how each space relates to the 26-27th of June Toronto demonstrations.

Further Research

YouTube Syndication

YouTube Syndication

@g20mobilize Actor Network

@g20mobilize network

Feedback

Larger issues

  • Hypothesis: The further away from 2.0 technologies/social media the less you refer to them.
  • What are the implications of 2.0 technologies? > decline of substance
  • The self-referentiality of Facebook has media effects: using Facebook constrains to a single platform

Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size DateSorted ascending Who Comment
tagcloud_facebook-01.pngpng tagcloud_facebook-01.png manage 144 K 09 Jul 2010 - 08:34 AnneHelmond  
tagcloud_website.pngpng tagcloud_website.png manage 135 K 09 Jul 2010 - 08:34 AnneHelmond  
tagcloud_twitter.pngpng tagcloud_twitter.png manage 81 K 09 Jul 2010 - 11:42 AnneHelmond  
g20mobilizetwitternetwork.pngpng g20mobilizetwitternetwork.png manage 218 K 09 Jul 2010 - 11:48 AnneHelmond  
g20mobilizetwitternetwork.pdfpdf g20mobilizetwitternetwork.pdf manage 476 K 09 Jul 2010 - 11:51 AnneHelmond  
tagcloud_twitter.pdfpdf tagcloud_twitter.pdf manage 174 K 09 Jul 2010 - 11:52 AnneHelmond  
tagcloud_facebook.pdfpdf tagcloud_facebook.pdf manage 574 K 09 Jul 2010 - 11:53 AnneHelmond  
tagcloud_website.pdfpdf tagcloud_website.pdf manage 395 K 09 Jul 2010 - 11:53 AnneHelmond  
Outlinks_identification_G20_Toronto_Community_Mobilization_Linking_Practices.xlsxls Outlinks_identification_G20_Toronto_Community_Mobilization_Linking_Practices.xls manage 104 K 09 Jul 2010 - 11:55 AlejandroOrtegaLozano Tagcloud Data: G20 Toronto Community Mobilization Linking Practices
youtube_syndication.pdfpdf youtube_syndication.pdf manage 484 K 09 Jul 2010 - 11:55 AnneHelmond  
g20cross.ppt.zipzip g20cross.ppt.zip manage 1 MB 09 Jul 2010 - 11:56 AnneHelmond  
outlinks_g20website.odsods outlinks_g20website.ods manage 11 K 09 Jul 2010 - 11:56 AnneHelmond  
Inlinks_identifiaction_YouTube_Syndication.xlsxls Inlinks_identifiaction_YouTube_Syndication.xls manage 3 MB 09 Jul 2010 - 12:16 AlejandroOrtegaLozano Tagcloud Data: G20 YouTube Syndication
mediaecology-171505.jpgjpg mediaecology-171505.jpg manage 1 MB 09 Jul 2010 - 14:23 AnneHelmond  
g20cross2.pptppt g20cross2.ppt manage 1 MB 09 Sep 2010 - 10:23 AnneHelmond  
bubblecloud_triangulate.pdfpdf bubblecloud_triangulate.pdf manage 1 MB 09 Sep 2010 - 11:22 AnneHelmond  
bubblecloud_allthree.pngpng bubblecloud_allthree.png manage 1 MB 09 Sep 2010 - 11:24 AnneHelmond  
youtube_syndication.pngpng youtube_syndication.png manage 83 K 09 Sep 2010 - 12:52 AnneHelmond  
Topic revision: r36 - 09 Sep 2010, AnneHelmond
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