The researchers decided to use the tense situation in Puerto Rico, or street protests after the disclosure of government corruption scandals, to investigate the actual role of social media in the organization of these public gatherings.
Until now, there was not much research of this type, so as soon as the social movements began, which led to the dismissal of the governor of Puerto Rico – Ricardo “Ricky” Rosselló, Alexis R. Santos-Lozada from the University of Pennsylvania contacted his colleague , Danilo Perezem-Riva from the University of Puerto Rico to collect relevant data from social media, and more specifically Twitter. As the latter claims: – When the protests began, we began to observe some repetitive patterns in social media activity. So I began to collect available data and create preliminary conclusions that intrigued Dr. Santos and prompted him to conduct full scientific research in this area. We observed that Puerto Rican people on the island and around the world got involved in this social movement, mainly under the hashtags #RickyRenuncia (Ricky go away), but also a small counterattack #RickySeQueda (Ricky stay). Our goal was to illustrate the great importance and impact of social media on political social movements, and to characterize both movements.
Researchers were able to observe that the #RickyRenuncia hashtag was used about 1 million times during the research period, while #RickySeQueda barely reached 6000 entries, and more than 40% of all entries came from outside the island. Researchers also looked at entries from suspicious pro-government accounts and how they were coordinated, which convinced them that they were dealing with the continuing manipulation of public opinion, which appears to be managed by official government representatives.
– Social media gives all citizens an effective platform for organization, but as it turned out, not all movements are equal. The decentralized ones, such as #RickyRenuncia, are definitely more successful, while the centrally managed ones seem to be completely inefficient tech guides best. Either way, social media is becoming more and more crucial for politics, and it is extremely important to study them to create the tools necessary to identify suspicious activities that manipulate social behavior.