#Feb17 trended in Libya before and on February 17, 2011 because it was used to communicate the beginning of the protests in Libya during the Arab Spring in 2011. Protests actually began on February 15th, but there was a major demonstration on February 17th called the “Day of Rage” (and it was the starting point of daily protests in Libya). Studies of the use of #feb17 in the first 24 hours of protests have revealed interesting data about who popularized the hashtag and the statements they made while using it. There were 1,897 tweets with the hashtag #feb17 (filtering out pure retweets) in the first 24 hours of the protests, which were centered around 14 twitter users. These users can be divided into two groups: activists and news corporations.
The activist cluster can be further subdivided into activist organizations and individuals. These users primarily tweeted to feed information about the revolts to an international audience, as well as respond to questions directed to them. More than 75% of these activists were based in North Africa.
The news corporation cluster can be subdivided into the accounts of the corporations themselves and those of individual journalists. These accounts became hubs for the #feb17 hashtag because they were often tweeted to and about by other Twitter users, rather than generating new content and responding like the activist users. 80% of the news corporation accounts were based in the U.K. or the U.S.
It is also important to examine the statements that were being tweeted regarding #feb17. Researchers divided the tweets into three categories:
- “Calling out” tweets were appeals to the media to cover the events in Libya. The most commonly used concept in #feb7 tweets was the term “Al Jazeera” in combination with words such as “corruption”, “lies”, “oppression”, and “truth”. This indicates that many Twitter users were addressing their tweets to Al Jazeera to appeal to them to cover the protests in Libya. “Calling out” tweets accounted for 29% of the tweets using the #feb17 hashtag.
- “Citizen journalism” tweets included street-level reports of the protests as well as tweets organizing protests. “Citizen journalism” tweets accounted for 37% of the tweets using the #feb17 hashtag.
- “Hacktivism” tweets promoted utilizing social media to document and publicize the protests. “Hacktivism” tweets accounted for 32% of the tweets using the #feb17 hashtag.
The data on the use of the #feb17 hashtag reveals the importance of Western media outlets to publicize a cause. Additionally the data shows that Twitter did not play a critical role in the organization of the protests, but rather it aided in bringing international attention to the events in Libya (as in the case of #IranElection).