Background: Originally started as an online forum, the Black Lives Matter organization has grown into a social movement through an extensive social media presence under the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. While the Black Lives Matter movement has evoked many academic and popular responses, there has been a distinct lack of focus on this movement by the public health discipline. The Black Lives Matter organization has outlined its mission and goals, which includes bringing awareness to the many ways black people face discrimination and oppression today.
Goal: The purpose of this study is to identify the prevalent themes in a sample of tweets containing #BlackLivesMatter to better understand how this online social movement relates to public health.
Objectives: 1. To determine the major themes present in a sample of tweets using #BlackLivesMatter 2. To identify health-related themes in the tweet sample 3. To match tweets with the mission and goals of the official Black Lives Matter organization
Approach: A random sample of 10,000 tweets collected from January 2017 through June 2017 containing #BlackLivesMatter were collected and analyzed. Tweets were coded by two human raters for thematic content based on codes developed from the Black Lives Matter organization's stated mission and goals.
Results: 52% of tweets were found to align with the Black Lives Matter organization's stated mission and goals with the most prevalent themes surrounding protest, death by police, and diversity. 48% of the tweets contained themes unrelated to the movement's mission and goals. The majority of tweets were in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement (57%), while 35% were opposed, and 18% were neutral in nature. 115 different health-related words were discovered in the tweet sample. Tweets also have high clout, suggesting confidence in the statements made, and showed a low emotional tone, indicating the anxiety, hostility, and sadness in the text of the messages.
Importance to public health: It is important for the field of public health to better understand social movements and their relation to health issues. With more social movements organizing through social media, it is important to utilize this form of data when examining health-related social movements.