Spreading Like Wildfire: The Securitization of the Amazon Rainforest Fires on Twitter

Natalia Umansky


As a tool of political communication and information diffusion, social media has transformed the process of securitization, allowing (in)security messages to spread and scale up rapidly. Focusing on the case of the Amazon rainforest fires in 2019, this article seeks to answer two questions: How does securitization spread in online networks? And who are the actors that contribute to the diffusion of security messages? To explore this puzzle, the study develops a dictionary of query terms and performs a full-archive search to collect tweets posted between June and October 2019 and reconstruct the communication network of more than 3 million users. Drawing from theories of online activism and research on information diffusion in networks, the study uses both the structure of the Twitter network and the dynamics of activity in message exchange to identify four types of users and explore their roles in the spread of the message. The findings shed new light on the ways in which social media facilitates the definition of security problems and provide empirical evidence of the prominent position of influence taken by lay actors in the process of securitization.


securitization, political communication, social media, network analysis

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