The Revolutions Were Tweeted: Information Flows During the 2011 Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions

Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing, Internet and Media and Content

Article Snapshot


Mike Ananny, danah boyd, Devin Gaffney, Erhardt Graeff , Gilad Lotan and Ian Pearce


International Journal of Communication, Vol. 5, pp.1375-1405, 2011


Knowing the roles of writers on Twitter, such as news media or individuals, helps us understand how information spreads.

Policy Relevance

Various online actors such as news organizations, bloggers, companies, activists, and individuals co-produce news content on Twitter in real time. Knowing how information is disseminated from each type of actor can help us to understand how news spreads, especially in events where up-to-the-minute reports are important such as riots, protests, and natural disasters.

Main Points

This article examines how information spreads from various actors’ Tweets during the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia by following the information flows (tracing each step in how the story is shared) of similar stories.

  • Hashtags (using ‘#’ before a string of text) are used on Twitter as shorthand for specific news events, and the events can be cataloged by following the hashtags.
  • Examining how often various types of actors (news organizations, bloggers, companies, activists, and individuals) post content, and how often their posts are re-posted by other actors helps us to understand how news spreads.
  • Mainstream news media relate to, rely upon, and distinguish themselves from individuals posting on Twitter during fast-breaking events.
  • Individuals can influence and co-construct the news traditionally produced by mainstream broadcasters using social media such as Twitter.
  • Roughly 70% of the actors Tweeting about the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions were individuals.
  • Organized Twitter accounts such as mainstream media’s and web news organizations’ stories were shared more frequently than individual’s stories.
  • People directly connected to an incident want to know about dangerous conditions and the safety of friends and loved ones.
  • Mainstream media want to learn about events on the ground in order to provide up-to-date coverage.
  • General interest readers want to know about events as they happen.

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