Black Lives Matter and the use of Social Media (Social media and political activism)

Criminal Justice

Black Lives Matter and the use of Social Media (Social media and political activism)


 Racial inequality has been a persistent issue in criminal justice in the USA (Choudhury et al, 2016).  The injustices committed to the Blacks through fatal police encounters have been an issue of concern.  The 2013 acquittal of shooting a black teenager sparked the creation of a movement to fight for the rights of the Black people dubbed,” Black lives matter movement.” The activism for the rights of the Black people has been prevalent in the social media networks through the use of the Hashtag #Blacklivesmatter.  Over time, Choudhury et al (2016), posits that the Black lives matter movement has grown beyond ending racial police injustices to cover all the kinds of inequalities committed against the Blacks.  The research paper shall cover the use of social media as a political activism tool in the Black lives matter movement in the USA.  The topic connects to the course material in the second part which highlights the use of the New media in institutions such as law and politics.  The Black lives matter movement is an elaboration of the use of new media in issues relating to politics and law.  The topic of social media usage has been widely studied by not on specific issues such as the Black lives matter movement. The topic of study has not been extensively studied. The major points in the paper are organizing and framing – social media usage in the BLM movement.

Providing and Amplifying Reach

            Social media has provided a means of reaching a wider audience as compared to the traditional media. Social Media usage especially Twitter has created an infrastructure for reaching a wider audience in the BLM  in US (Choudhury et al, 2016).  Social Media usage has brought on board people from the smallest areas in USA.  The hash tag and the network around BLM has enabled all the communities to participate in the activism. Choudhury et al , (2016) states that the BLM  movement started online through the use of hash tags, and has  resulted in the creation of 31 chapters in different countries as well as rallies, boycotts and protests held in the US and internationally.

            The protests that emerged as a result of the BLM movement were distinctly different from the previous activism for the rights of the black people in the US. Choudhury et al, (2016) states that the BLM protests were highly decentralized but coordinated from one single action point, social media networks.  Despite the existence of the Civil Rights Movements in the 1960s, the social media platform provided an avenue for individuals to vent out their concerns as well as to steer conversations regarding racial inequality.

            Social Media, Twitter platform has enabled positivism in addressing the inequalities emanating from fatal police encounters. Choudhury et al,(2016) states that the individuals who have had similar experiences of racial inequality injustices  in the past  come together under the #BLM.  The people desire to connect collectively transcends the psychological distance that arises due to time. Emotions on the racial injustices are reduced as people continually connect and express the emotions.  The constant connections on the social media platforms help in the digital activism which translates to the physical activism in the various locations.

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             Social Media platforms hash tags and algorithms have become the main arsenals for the propagation of the activism of the BLM (Woods & McVey, 2016). The hash tag movement has prospered in a decentralized movement and fostered activism in both the online and offline platforms.  The Social Media platforms have created an avenue for the activists to get the attention of the media and the law enforcers in dealing with racial inequality issues.

Providing Networking Capabilities

             Social Media Networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit have provided the much needed public spaces where individuals can meet and connect. Mundt, Ross and Burnett, (2018), state that the social media platforms provided resources for the BLM movement in form of offering the support networks.  Conversations existing in the online platforms leads to the creation of new ways of conducting social movements as well as new ideas on how the activism should be conducted (Mundt, Ross and Burnett, 2018).  The connections lead to the increased activities in different physical locations. The activists that were engaged in the social media platforms form strong connections due to the continuous engagements.

            Mundt, Ross and Burnett, (2018), states that the social media networks help in the mobilization of resources needed for the activism.  There are minimal requirements for one to join social spaces such as Facebook page or Twitter. Therefore, many individuals sharing the same idea of ending police brutality on the Blacks can easily join the movement.  BLM groups grow easily due to Social Media elements such as like and comment as well as join that enables new followers to join the movements. The Social media networks help the BLM groups in mobilization of their supporters to attend specific events and communication of the same information to potential attendees.  The openness in the information on the social media platform enabled the BLM group to mobilize resources in form of funding for conducting the protests and other activism related activities.

Providing Inclusivity

             BLM social movement is a different version of activism from the traditional civil rights activism.  The past civil rights movement was gendered mostly the propagators being the men ((Maraj, Prasad and Roundtree, 2018). The men were perceived as the ideal leaders in the American society with the women having minimal chances of proper participation in the political activism.  BLM fosters inclusivity through provision of a chance for women to share their experiences in the conversations on activism. Alicia Garza, a co-founder of the BLM movement affirms the inclusion of Black women in the movement (Maraj, Prasad and Roundtree, 2018). She states that all Black lives matter across the gender spectrum.  The inclusivity of women in the activism against racial- based violence changes the manner in which society addresses the issue. The inclusivity helps presentation of women as victims of the state sanctioned racialized violence.

            BLM movement leverages on the use of the Social Media platform in advancement of the welfare of the Black girls and Black women. The use of the digital spaces relates to the analog spaces that amplify the manner in which the society envisions the Black woman and the Black girl ((Maraj, Prasad and Roundtree, 2018). The amplification of the image of the Black woman contains scenes from the gendered, racialized, and sexualized violence.  The inclusivity aspect is a continuation of the past issues of advancing the welfare of the women of color. However, the new aspect of women being in the fore front of such struggles brings in unique aspects to the BLM activism.

            Richardson (2019) describes the involvement of the black women in the social Media activism as a critical component in display of the 21st century woman representation. During the civil rights movement, Black women participation in the protests was often through decorum as evidenced in their dressing. The 21st century women were free in their dress code as evidenced through the plaiting of color braids. The social Media platforms, such as Twitter enable the women to be on the forefront of activism through posting of information that is first hand during protests (Richardson, 2019).  The direct information posted in the Social Media platforms was important in deconstructing fallacies often created in the media concerning the Black women.

            Building Sequence towards Action – Narrative Agency

             Social media activism has narrative forms (Yang, 2016).  Narratives often have a beginning, a middle part, and an ending.  The sequential basis of narratives is present in the Social Media activism. Often, the online activism translates into physical protests on the ground.  The digital activism has translated into unique ways in which the narrative is created and eventual decision is made concerning the protest created.  Hash tags have been used as a means of addressing the issue of contention and rallying support from the different kind of the online supporters (Yang, 2016). A word or sentence is stated through the use of hash tags and different followers on the online platform can repeat the same words in creation of awareness of the existing issue such as demanding better treatment of the black citizens.

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             Hash tag activism can span to long duration of times as different people get involved in the social media activism. Yang (2018) illustrates that the communication using the hash tags continue to be in the form of people reading the message, understanding the intention of the hash tags and sometimes re-tweeting the information in the movement. #Black lives matter has emerged a unifying hash tag for various stories all addressed towards the racial injustices against the blacks.  Digital activism has emerged as an avenue for communities to express themselves amidst the struggles such as police brutality. Lack of representation in the main stream media has fostered the interplay of the digital activism as communities try to address the underlying issues through creating awareness to the concerned parties such as the state and the law enforcers.

Expressing their Reality

             Social Media platforms have created an avenue where the people can frame their own issues.  The Social Media activism has grown to be a platform that not only addresses the underlying racial injustices but looks into the other aspects of the societal issues (Cumberbatch, & Trujillo-Pagán, 2016). The conservative society has found an avenue for expressing their concerns.  The Social Media Platform discursive changes have created a platform where the communities have a way of challenging, reframing, and reinscribe presentations in the main stream media (Cumberbatch, P., & Trujillo-Pagán, 2016).

            Black lives matter has been developed as a unique platform for addressing the racial injustices in the judicial system concerning the Black people.  Cumberbatch, P., & Trujillo-Pagán, (2016) describes the hash tag activism to be a platform in which the physical platforms have been developed and executed.  The social media platform has been used as an avenue where people write back to a situation they have experienced. Additionally, the use of images, have been envisioned as the voice of the online activism. Cumberbatch, P., & Trujillo-Pagán (2016) twitter users’ challenges the manner in which mainstream media uses images. Text and images are used in the creation of political actors within specific actors.

            BLM is envisioned as a new form of political activism as the different actors continue to perpetuate the civil rights movement quest for the civil rights for the black people.   BLM movement has leveraged on the Twitter capabilities of communicating information in a faster manner as compared to the existence of the physical platforms for human rights activism. Twitter is a platform that is easy for use as the various users have an ease in joining it and using it for the desired purpose such as activism.

             Framing in the BLM is envisioned through the use of various other hash tags alongside the #Black lives matter.  Ince, Rojas, & Davis (2017) describes the social media hash tags to revolve around the social media activism relating to either approval or disapproval of the movement, refer to police violence or expressing counter movement sentiments.  The use of the different kind of the hash tags helps in framing the information on the social media platform concerning the type of decision needed such as ending police brutality on blacks.

Overcome the barrier set by Mainstream Media

             The mainstream media has often set the standard upon which issues in the public platform are considered as true.  Happer and Philo (2013) states that the role of the Social Media in the construction of public belief for social change arises from the basic purpose of social media activism that is informing the public of emerging issues.  Mass media has brought a new perspective in the information circulation.  Happer and Philo, (2013) describes the social media communication as constituting of an array of disjointed pieces of information circulating in the public spaces.

             Some people have perceived the direct experiences as more truthful as compared to the media reports. Thus, the direct experience became a negotiating factor in the establishment of the media reports (Happer and Philo, 2013).  The social change arises due to the different kind of experiences that people have concerning a specific issue. Social Media has the ability of reaching a wider audience and thus comprising of an element of formation of public belief.  The BLM movement and the use of hash tags determine the manner in which opinions on the treatment of the Blacks in the criminal justice system is handled.

            Protect their Framing and Countering Alternative ‘delegitimizing’ Views

             Social Media use for advocacy for the rights of Black people has had its own share of challenges. Gallagher et al (2018) describes the rise of # All lives matter to counter the advancements in the # Black Lives Matter movement.  The framing of police brutality on Blacks so as to foster change has been through the development of the conversations on the online platform through the BLM.  Counter alternatives as Gallagher et al (2018) describes the rise of all lives matter as a means of communicating that the lives of all people in the society whether black or White matter.  However, the  #All lives matter movement meant to address the injustices on law enforcement officers while the #Black lives matter was based on the lives of all black people who were the victims of police brutality.

             Social Media networks, such as Twitter, has provided an avenue where the  issues facing minorities such as Police injustices towards the Blacks are addressed. Despite the prevalence of atrocities towards minorities since the past century, some extremist have been constructing conversations casting doubt on the existence of injustices.  Black lives matter has emerged as an online movement that advocates for the social justice and change in treatment of the black racial ethnic minorities (Graham, 2020). The movement has fostered the creation of both online and offline platforms in addressing the prevalent social issues and police brutality on the Blacks.  The majority of the Black lives matter advocates are Democrats who fight for the rights of African-Americans as well as other disadvantaged groups such as the women.


             The paper has discussed the way in which the social media platform has been used by the BLM movement in political activism.  The two main areas focused on the activities of the BLM movement in perpetuating its agenda has been the use of social media platform in framing the course of BLM as well as the use of social media platform in organizing protests.

 Future research has been based on the manner in which the political activism is done in BLM in comparison to other extremist groups.  Additionally, research should be done on how specific social media context is used in the online activism.


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