Tweeting for peace? Twitter and the Ardoyne parade dispute in Belfast, July 2014
This paper explores how social media can facilitate peace building by focusing on how citizens used Twitter during a contentious march in the Ardoyne district of North Belfast in July 2014. Fears of a repeat of sectarian clashes seen a year earlier were not realized, and the study was designed to empirically investigate whether critics and supporters of the Orange Order used the microblogging site to help reduce the sectarian tensions that surrounded the contentious parade. In particular, it focused on how users responded to rumors and disinformation spread on the micro-blogging site, which had the potential to incite violence in the contested interface area. The nature of the debate amongst those ‘tweeters’ who commented on the contentious Ardoyne parade was also investigated, with a focus on how they framed the attitudes and behavior of the ‘other’ community during these events. Results indicate that the majority of tweeters praised both sides for keeping the parade and related protests peaceful. However, Twitter did not appear to be a shared space capable of fostering cross-community consensus on how to resolve the parade dispute. The study suggests that Twitter’s most significant contribution to peace building in Northern Ireland might lie in its empowerment of citizens to correct rumors and disinformation, which have the potential to exacerbate sectarian tensions and generate intercommunal violence.
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