How Twitter users can work together to defuse social tensions

A report co-authored by Dr Paul Reilly (pictured) from the Department of Media and Communication has found that social media sites such as Twitter can be useful in keeping the peace and defusing tensions during times of social unrest.

The study investigated the extent to which the social media activity surrounding contentious parades and protests has affected community relations in Northern Ireland, examining how Loyalist and Republican communities use sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in relation to public demonstrations.

The report, entitled ‘Social Media, Parades and Protest’, set out to explore the potential role of social media in providing accurate, real-time information to residents affected by controversial parades and protests. In doing so, it has identified ways in which stakeholders such as local residents’ groups can use these sites to reduce intercommunal tensions and improve community relations in contested areas such as North Belfast.

The report is based upon a small research project carried out by the researchers between March and September 2014. It involved a series of semi-structured interviews with relevant stakeholders, as well as a critical thematic analysis of Twitter activity during the Orange Order parades across Northern Ireland on 12 July 2014.

The research, funded by the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, was conducted with Belfast-based independent researcher Dr Orna Young and the report will be launched at the Council’s Live Issues conference, ‘Uniting Our Practice,’ to be held at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast on 31 March 2015.