Who Participates and How? Twitter as an Arena for Public Debate about the Data Retention Directive in Norway

Hallvard Moe


This article presents an analysis of public debate about a pressing political issue on a novel Web arena in a small linguistic community: the debate on Twitter about the implementation of the European Union’s Data Retention Directive in Norway. Who participates in this communication, and how can we characterize different forms of use? The analysis is based on data gathered from more than 12,000 tweets over a 16–week period. Findings reveal a heavily skewed distribution of activity among users, favoring a tiny core, which consists of five groups with different patterns of use. Discussing Twitter as an arena for public debate, I argue that, although its impact comes across as minuscule, Twitter does seem to facilitate direct engagement among adversaries. These adversaries do, however, still belong to groups that share characteristics with offline elites.

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