The Yemen War Online: Propagation of Censored Content on Twitter
February 28, 2018
This study, conducted by the Internet Monitor project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, analyzes the sharing of information on Twitter among different political groups related to the ongoing conflict in Yemen. The study finds that the networks on Twitter are organized around and segregate along political lines. The networks cite web content, including censored websites, that reflects and informs their collective framing of the politically sensitive issues. Each of the factions relies almost entirely on their own sources of information.
The study also tests for the availability of this open web content shared on Twitter in the countries most engaged in the public debate over the conflict and find that national filtering policies also seek to shape the narrative by blocking views and perspectives that diverge from government positions on the conflict. While selective exposure to web content is often associated with polarization, the paper shows that social media—in this case Twitter—is used to propagate censored content from the open web, making it more visible to users behind open-web filtering regimes. The evidence shows that government attempts to corral social media users into government-friendly media bubbles does not work, although government filters make it more difficult to access some content. Instead, social media users coalesce into self-defined media spheres aligned around social and political affinities.