To better understand how social media affected the EuroMaidan protests in Ukraine, we provide a comprehensive study of the gathering and use social science to explain how social media affects political protests.
MacDuffee Metzger, Megan, and Joshua A. Tucker. “Social Media and EuroMaidan: A Review Essay.” Slavic Review 76, no. 1 (2017): 169–91. https://doi.org/10.1017/slr.2017.16
May 02, 2017
Area of Study
As more than a billion people had done previously, on November 21, 2013, Ukrainian journalist and activist Mustafa Nayem wrote a Facebook post; this post, however, would have a much larger impact on subsequent political developments than most that had preceded it. Frustrated with President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision not to sign a long-promised association agreement with the European Union, Nayem asked others who shared his frustration to comment on his post. Even more importantly, Nayem wrote that if the post received at least 1,000 comments from people willing to join him, they should all go to Independence Square to protest. And indeed they did: starting with just a few thousand people, the protests would swell to be the largest since Ukraine’s independence, particularly after police used force against protesters at the end of November 2013. Eventually, these protests led to the resignation of the government, the exile of the former president, and indirectly to the secession of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in the eastern part of the country.
On November 21, 2013, Ukrainian journalist and activist Mustafa Nayem posted a call to action urging people to join him at Independence Square to protest. Starting with just a few thousand people, the protest eventually became the largest since Ukraine’s independence, leading to the resignation of the government, exile of the former president, and the indirect secession of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in the eastern part of the country. While Nayem’s Facebook post was of course not the sole cause of all that happened in the Ukraine, it does represent the first time we can pinpoint social media as a pivotal moment of protest organization.
We wrote this review for three main purposes. First, we aim to provide a comprehensive summary of what is known about social media usage during the EuroMaidan protests. Second, we seek to ground our assessment in social science theoretical work related to political protest. Finally, we hope to combine existing theory from the social sciences and recent evidence from Ukraine to propose a research agenda that will improve our understanding of the role of social media in the EuroMaidan protests, the role of social media in protest movements generally, and how to utilize digitally archived, and therefore available, social media usage data.
There are several takeaways from the existing research on the role of social media during EuroMaidan: 1. Social media can be consequential in mobilizing and organizing protests. 2. Digital networks have the ability to do a great deal to circumvent a repressive media environment. 3. The networks that emerged out of these protests appear to be more durable than expected. The final takeaway is that — assumptions aside — we still know surprisingly little about social media-infused movements, and there is much work left to be done.