Black Lives Matter: Ferguson and Beyond

The shooting of a young African-American man, Michael Brown, happened just over a year ago on August 11, 2014 and Ferguson residents commemorated the one-year anniversary last week with vigils, rallies, and protests. American cities such as New York, Baltimore, Arlington continue to be besieged by racially-motivated violence which have been followed by protests this year demanding justice for Black communities. Those who are active on social media may recognize the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag that was started by activists following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in 2013 for the killing of Trayvon Martin. The hashtag gained momentum in Autumn 2014, peaking end of November when the police officer who shot Brown was not indicted.

Nexalogy #BlackLivesMatter Lexical Map

The hashtag remains as a call to action due to the many questionable shootings of African-Americans by the police:  Freddie Gray from Baltimore was thought to have died in the hands of the police in April 2015 and Christian Taylor was killed by a rookie police officer on August 7.

Izmail Glosson Aug 9 #BlackLivesMatter Twitter Status

Michelle Watts, Ph.D. Aug 9 #BlackLivesMatter Twitter Status

The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag originally began as a call for police reform, and has since evolved to encompass the many forms of oppression that shape and constrain Black communities in America, and beyond. As the Black Lives Matter website states, “This is not a moment, but a movement”. As we will see, the conversation on social media continues.

#BlackLivesMatter during one year commemoration

We take a look at the issues which coalesced around the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag during the one year anniversary of Michael Brown last week. Our analysis will provide us a clearer idea of the major social trends that currently intersect with this movement.

A vigil and rallies were organized by activist groups on August 9 in Ferguson to remember Michael Brown, but the event turned violent on Sunday with the shooting and hospitalization of Tyrone Harris Jr, an 18 year who was believed to be armed. Twenty-two people were arrested and Ferguson was under emergency until Friday.

On August 10 and 11, the conversation under the #BlackLivesMatters hashtag (42,600 posts)  mentioned #Ferguson (5,516 posts), obviously, but also encompassed national events taking place outside Ferguson, likely in commemoration of the one anniversary.

10 hashtags after BlackLivesMatter and Ferguson

Hashtags related to Bernie Sanders dominate the conversation as his rally was disrupted by two Black Lives Matters activists who took his microphone and demanded that Sanders do more for racial equality. Hillary Clinton incited controversy this summer with her statement that “all lives matter” which some saw as undermining the struggles faced by Black communities. This debate continues on Twitter, with interpretations such as the one below going viral:

His Life Matters

Conversations around Mike Brown and Tyrone Harris

According to the hashtag rankings, the shooting and hospitalization of Tyrone Harris Jr. (523x) was not as prominent as one might expect considering that it took place in Ferguson. Mike Brown continued to be invoked more frequently (688x), likely because he was unarmed when facing the police, and died.

The pie charts below show that social media posts around Tyrone Harris describe the shooting event and refer to his previous arrests and bail.  In contrast, the shooting of Mike Brown is associated with words such as “powerful”, and “truth” resonates more with the injustices felt by African-Americans. The unfortunate circumstances of Mike Brown’s death showcased the need for the #BlackLivesMatter movement and he will likely continue to be invoked as long as this movement is alive.

Tyrone Harris:

Tyrone H Black Lives Matter

Michael Brown:

Mike B without caption Black Lives Matter

 (yrs = “years”)

The anniversary of Michael Brown follows a tumultuous year of police shootings and coincides with the beginning of the American presidential campaign. The Black Lives Matter movement now traverses local (for example, Ferguson) and national spaces, and certainly digital social media platforms too where “on the ground” reporting has been provided by a variety of participants.


Nexalogy analyzes the National Leaders Debate taking place tonight

Maclean’s will be hosting the National Leaders Debate featuring the leaders of Canada’s major party leaders tonight at 8PM ET.

This event is notable as it is the only English-language debate featuring the leaders of the Conservative, New Democratic, Liberal and Green parties. The Conservatives have stated Stephen Harper will not take part in the network consortium debates in October, and Thomas Mulclair (NDP) has responded that he will not participate in any debate without Harper. Although Canada’s major parties will be taking part in the Globe and Mail and Munk debates, the Green Party has not been invited to participate. The date of tonight’s debate was decided in June, before the start date of the election campaign was known, so the timing is quite serendipitous.

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All the questions for tonight’s debate will come from Maclean’s, and will not be shared with any the parties before the debate. Maclean’s has been inviting the audience to post questions they have for the party leaders on social media here.


Electoral contexts and new media

Nexalogy analyzes #macdebate

What has been the role of media in elections? How might televised debates influence campaign outcomes? In an interview with Maclean’s, Brian Mulroney credited his victory as Prime Minister to his performance in debates and thinks it continues to have an important influence, saying that Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley “made it to the premier’s position because of television debates. So I think that the      television debates in the next election may turn out to be the most important since 1984.”   (See Nexalogy’s analysis of the Alberta election here.)

Citizens and political parties are very active on digital  “new media” arenas such as blogs, online journalism, and social media, and this can shape the content of more established platforms, such as televised debates.

Nexalogy has began to analyze the concerns being voiced by the public on social media for tonight’s National Leader Debate (#macdebate) and have captured  “climate” as a prevailing theme.

Nexalogy's lexical map of #macdebate


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Distribution of hashtags which co­-occur with #macdebate between different topics suggests that climate is far and away the most important topic:

#climatechange  184

#vote4climate     161

#actonclimate      26

#environment        4

#vote4clim              3


Gilles Duceppe (Bloc Québécois) is not participating in the debate tonight, and this may explain why Nexalogy has found that French ­language tweets associated with #macdebate number in the dozens rather than the hundreds, as opposed to English discussion which is already over 2000 tweets.


     English: 2873

French: 26


Analyzing the exchange between social media and televised debates

It will be interesting to see if debate moderator Paul Wells takes his cue from Facebook comments and steers the conversation more on climate, and green energy, or if he chooses to focus on different themes entirely. Social media data seems to suggest that this election will run primarily on environment and climate issues.

Nexalogy will be monitoring trends in the social media conversation for BuzzFeed. Specifically, we are keeping an eye on the relative importance of issues changes before, during, and after the debate, and how conversation around each leader and party progresses as a result of the debate.

Tonight’s debate will be broadcasted on City, OMNI 1 and OMNI 2, and CPAC and will be live streamed online on Rogers radio and television station websites,, Facebook and YouTube. The debate will be translated into Italian, Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi on OMNI and will air in English and French on CPAC.

We will post a link to the article tomorrow, stay tuned!

Want to analyze your own hashtag? Install the NexaSearch app on Hootsuite to do so for free.

[Update] Link to BuzzFeed article.


C2 Montréal 2015

C2 Montréal exceeded all expectations this year in  traffic and participation. The speakers were without a doubt a big draw, if the flurries of online conversation were anything to go by. The map of interactions on Twitter (below) is peppered with the speakers’ handles in red. Andre Agassi was the most referenced invitee, with 510 mentions. He is also the individual with the most Klout, with an impressive score of 86. In fact, he is only third in our C2 conversation after giants McGill University and Cirque du Soleil.

Interaction map - speakers

Surprise guest Kent Nagano, music director at the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, further rounded out the event’s prestigious roster by appearing in amusing conversation with Alec Baldwin.

Baldwin’s chat with Nagano on music and conducting was part of the larger discussion on the importance of the arts and philanthropy.

Innovation was unsurprisingly a top theme in the conversation, since creativity and innovation are what draw C2′s thousands of attendees hungry for inspiration.

Lexical map - Innovation

Another topic apparently very dear to the hearts of C2 Montréal attendees this year was food. This is due to important reasons like speakers Caithrin Rintoul, Marije Vogelzang, and Kimbal Musk discussing food systems and technology, the power of food, and food safety.

It is possibly also a little bit due to the great spread (never let it be said C2 doesn’t feed people well):

So what hashtags trended at the event apart from #c2mtl?

  1. Social Mission (#socent): attendees demonstrated a marked interest and concern for social entrepreneurship and impact investing.

  2. Millennial Entrepreneurship Conference (#m2day): the conference’s hashtag co-occurred a fair bit with other hashtags concerning social entrepreneurship. Giving back seems to be an important goal for millennials.
  3. The Nest Project (#hellostranger): The Nest ritual gave complete strangers an opportunity to become fast friends, fast. An initiative undertaken with the Cirque du Soleil, it made a big splash.

  4. Movember (#movember): attendees flocked to hear Adam Garone discuss the origins of the movement – and the impact of mental illness on men.

  5. #food. There it is again.

Popular shared images included a solar-powered plane and a shot from Caithrin’s presentation. Another popular share was the social media dashboard keeping tabs on the Twitter conversation around the event. Ahem.



*C2 Montréal used NxAPI to build a real time dashboard that tracked the conference discussion and was projected on three screens on-site. Want to incorporate social media into your apps but don’t want to re-invent the wheel? Try NxAPI today.