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Blogs and Bullets III: Twitter Evolutions: Understanding the Changing Role of Social Media in War and Protest

Blogs and Bullets III


In this report from the USIP PeaceTech Initiative, a team of scholars from George Washington University and American University analyze the role of social media in Syria's civil war. The report focuses primarily on group dynamics, activist organizations' use of online media, and the relationship between new and traditional media. It draws on a public conference held in Washington, D.C., in September 2012 with Syrian activists, Western journalists, and policy analysts, as well as on a private workshop held in April 2013 at Stanford University with academic researchers and leading research scientists from top technology firms. It presents novel empirical research on Twitter conversations about Syria that demonstrates important new findings about differences across Arabic and English users, and about the emergence of distinct, insular clusters of discourse. This report is part of the ongoing Blogs and Bullets project led by USIP's PeaceTech Initiative, in partnership with George Washington University's Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication. It builds on two other reports, published in 2010 and 2012: "Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics" and "Blogs and Bullets II: New Media and Conflict After the Arab Spring."

Blogs and Bullets III Syria is free for download.

Back to other B&B reports.


  • Sean Aday, associate professor of media and public affairs, GW
  • Marc Lynch, director of the Institute for Middle East Studies, professor of political science and international affairs, GW
  • Deen Freelon, assistant professor of communication, American University

Twitter Evolutions: Understanding the Changing Role of Social Media in War and Protest

February 24, 2014

In the early days of the Arab Spring, many hailed digital media as revolutionary tools for democracy and peacebuilding. Three years later as the region still struggles with authoritarian retrenchment and civil war, social media continue to play an important, if far more complex, role in ongoing events. Meanwhile, protest movements in parts of Europe - especially Turkey and Ukraine - are providing intriguing and complicated examples of digitally-active protest movements and recalcitrant governments.

The event featured two panels. The first panel discussed the recently-released Blogs & Bullets III report, which examined mainstream media coverage, YouTube videos, and more than 40 million tweets over a two-year period to show the changing use and impact of media in the Syrian crisis.

The second panel explored the relationship between social media and the political crises in Egypt, Turkey, and Ukraine.

This event was part of the ongoing partnership between USIP's PeaceTech initiative and the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication.

Panel 1: Syria's Socialls Mediated Civil War
Moderator: PJ Crowley
Panelists: Marc Lynch, George Washington University; Sean Aday, director, Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication; and Deen Freelon, assistant professor of communication studies, American University

Panel 2: New Media and Contentious Politics in Egypt, Ukraine, and Turkey
Moderator: PJ Crowley
Panelists: Adel Iskander, adjunct instructor of communication, culture, and technology at Georgetown University; Joshua Tucker, professor of politics, New York University; and Zeynep Tufekci, assistant professor, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.

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