University of Oulu

Ehsan-Ul Haq, Tristan Braud, Yui-Pan Yau, Lik-Hang Lee, Franziska B. Keller, and Pan Hui. 2022. Screenshots, Symbols, and Personal Thoughts: The Role of Instagram for Social Activism. In Proceedings of the ACM Web Conference 2022 (WWW ’22), April 25–29, 2022, Virtual Event, Lyon, France. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 12 pages.

Screenshots, symbols, and personal thoughts : the role of Instagram for social activism

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Author: Haq, Ehsan-Ul1; Braud, Tristan1; Yau, Yui-Pan1;
Organizations: 1The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
2Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Republic of Korea
3University of Oulu, Finland
4University of Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.1 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Association for Computing Machinery, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-11-04


In this paper, we highlight the use of Instagram for social activism, taking 2019 Hong Kong protests as a case study. Instagram focuses on image content and provides users with few features to share or repost, limiting information propagation. Nevertheless, users who are politically active offline also share their activism on Instagram. We first evaluate the effect of protests on social media activity for protesters and non-protesters over two significant protests. Protesters’ exposure to protest-related posts is much higher than non-protesters, and their network activity follows the protest schedule. They are also much more active on posts related to the protest that they participate in than the other protest. We then analyze the images posted by the users. Users predominantly use symbols related to protests and share personal thoughts on its primary actors. Users primarily share content to raise their network’s awareness, and the content choice is directly affected by Instagram’s intrinsic interaction modalities.

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ISBN Print: 978-1-4503-9096-5
Pages: 3728 - 3739
DOI: 10.1145/3485447.3512268
Host publication: Proceedings of the ACM web conference 2022, April 25 - 29, 2022, virtual event, Lyon France
Host publication editor: Laforest, Frédérique
Troncy, Raphaël
Simperl, Elena
Agarwal, Deepak
Gionis, Aristides
Herman, Ivan
Médini, Lionel
Conference: ACM Web Conference
Type of Publication: A4 Article in conference proceedings
Field of Science: 113 Computer and information sciences
Copyright information: © Owner/Author 2022. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive Version of Record was published in Proceedings of the ACM Web Conference 2022 (WWW ’22), April 25–29, 2022, Virtual Event, Lyon, France,