Screenshots, Symbols, and Personal Thoughts
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.