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The Role Social Media Has in the Black Lives Matter Movement

Executive Director, Natalie DeSouza

In the past few days, many voices on social media and news media alike have helped continue the fight of the Black Lives Matter movement. The hashtag of the movement began in 2013 after the fatal shooting of a black teenager, Trayvonn Martin, by the hands of George Zimmerman.

Unlike movements in the past where outlets to express the frustration of racial injustice worldwide was limited, the power of social media was now accessible to anyone with a Twitter or Instagram account. Today, the #BlackLivesMatter is an emblem of modern racial injustices on social media.

According to a PEW research study in 2018, the hashtag was used nearly 30 million times on Twitter, this equates to about 17,000 posts a day. 

In recent weeks and days, the frustration of people of color rose with the tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Arbery was killed by two white men while running in a neighborhood, and Floyd was killed while he was in custody by a white police officer. Videos of both incidents were captured and distributed across social media and news outlets. These videos depicted the horrors the Black Lives Matter Movement has been trying to fight and stop media-wise since 2013, but culturally, the fight of racial injustice dates back hundreds of years.

In an article from USA Today, they describe the social media hashtag as “emblematic of a wider trend – the blossoming role social media plays in all kinds of activist movements.”

The Pew study found that 69 percent of Americans believe social media is useful in bringing issues to politicians’ attention.

In 2020, the number of times the hashtag has been used has undoubtedly soared, and has garnered attention across the United States. A protest that became violent in Minneapolis, Minnesota (where Floyd was killed) was covered across the video platform: TikTok under the hashtag. This ignited news outlets to cover and started inspiring protests in over 30 cities across the country. They still continue on with new protests everyday.

Horror stories and heartfelt stories alike have been recounted across all social media outlets under the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. A hashtag that started in 2013 continues to evolve even in 2020 to fight a culture war revolution similar but yet so different than that of the Civil Rights Movement in the mid 1900s.

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