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Contribution Details

Type Journal Article
Scope Discipline-based scholarship
Title Analyzing protest mobilization on Telegram: The case of 2019 Anti-Extradition Bill movement in Hong Kong
Organization Unit
  • Aleksandra Urman
  • Justin Chun-ting Ho
  • Stefan Katz
Item Subtype Original Work
Refereed Yes
Status Published in final form
  • English
Journal Title PLoS ONE
Publisher Public Library of Science (PLoS)
Geographical Reach international
ISSN 1932-6203
Volume 16
Number 10
Page Range e0256675
Date 2021
Abstract Text Online messaging app Telegram has increased in popularity in recent years surpassing Twitter and Snapchat by the number of active monthly users in late 2020. The messenger has also been crucial to protest movements in several countries in 2019-2020, including Belarus, Russia and Hong Kong. Yet, to date only few studies examined online activities on Telegram and none have analyzed the platform with regard to the protest mobilization. In the present study, we address the existing gap by examining Telegram-based activities related to the 2019 protests in Hong Kong. With this paper we aim to provide an example of methodological tools that can be used to study protest mobilization and coordination on Telegram. We also contribute to the research on computational text analysis in Cantonese—one of the low-resource Asian languages,—as well as to the scholarship on Hong Kong protests and research on social media-based protest mobilization in general. For that, we rely on the data collected through Telegram’s API and a combination of network analysis and computational text analysis. We find that the Telegram-based network was cohesive ensuring efficient spread of protest-related information. Content spread through Telegram predominantly concerned discussions of future actions and protest-related on-site information (i.e., police presence in certain areas). We find that the Telegram network was dominated by different actors each month of the observation suggesting the absence of one single leader. Further, traditional protest leaders—those prominent during the 2014 Umbrella Movement,—such as media and civic organisations were less prominent in the network than local communities. Finally, we observe a cooldown in the level of Telegram activity after the enactment of the harsh National Security Law in July 2020. Further investigation is necessary to assess the persistence of this effect in a long-term perspective.
Free access at DOI
Digital Object Identifier 10.1371/journal.pone.0256675
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Keywords Multidisciplinary