Going rogue: Reconceptualizing government employees’ contentious politics on Twitter

  • Fatima Espinoza Vasquez University of Kentucky
  • Nicholas Proferes Arizona State University
  • Troy B. Cooper University of Kentucky
  • Shannon M. Oltmann University of Kentucky
Keywords: Twitter; social movement; Trump administration; contentious politics model; rogue; politics; online protest

Abstract

In 2016, following the election of President Donald Trump, dozens of Twitter accounts emerged, purporting to represent a network of resistance within the U.S. government. These alt- and rogue- Twitter accounts, known as Rogue Twitter, shared tweets aiming to rebuke the administrations new information restrictions on federal agencies.

Using established social movement theories, we investigated if Rogue Twitter is an online social movement. We qualitatively analyzed 43,569 original tweets from 102 Rogue accounts. We evaluated the tweets on three dimensions: Their attempts to challenge state institutions (macro-level), their organizing and mobilizing strategies (meso-level), and their shared understandings (micro-level).

We found that the Rogue Twitter Movement exemplifies how online social movements engage in coordinated contentious activity via an online platform. Members of this network collectively framed as their main grievance the State’s control of information. Accordingly, their mobilization repertoire focused on calling the attention of the State and the public by openly criticizing the new information control policies. They strategically released controlled scientific information and demonstrated dissent by satirizing Trump. Moreover, they supported off-line political activity by promoting protests like the Science March. This study shows how incorporating multidisciplinary approaches yields nuanced understandings of protest in Internet platforms like Twitter.

Author Biographies

Fatima Espinoza Vasquez, University of Kentucky

Assistant professor at the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky

Nicholas Proferes, Arizona State University

Assistant professor at the New College School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Arizona State University

Troy B. Cooper, University of Kentucky

Assistant professor at the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky

Shannon M. Oltmann, University of Kentucky

Associate professor in the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky

Published
2021-05-18
How to Cite
Espinoza Vasquez, F., Proferes, N., Cooper, T. B., & Oltmann, S. M. (2021). Going rogue: Reconceptualizing government employees’ contentious politics on Twitter. First Monday, 26(7). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v26i7.11631