Departmental Papers (ASC)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version


Publication Source

International Journal of Communication



Start Page


Last Page



A growing body of research suggests that Twitter has become a key resource for networked counterpublics to intervene in popular discourse about racism and policing in the United States. At the same time, claims that online communication necessarily results in polarized echo chambers are common. In response to these seemingly contrary impulses in communication research, we explore how the contested online network comprised of tweets about the April 2015 protests in Baltimore, Maryland, evolved as users constructed meaning and debated questions of protest and race. We find that even within this highly polarized debate, counterpublic frames found widespread support on Twitter. Progressive racial justice messages were advanced, in part, by brokers who worked across polarized subcommunities in the network to build mutual understanding and model effective strategies for reconciling disparate accounts of protest events.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Copyright © 2019 (Brooke Foucault Welles and Sarah J. Jackson). Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd). Available at


At the time of publication, author Sarah Jackson was affiliated with Northeastern University. Currently, she is a faculty member at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.


social media, online activism, networked counterpublics, framing, social network analysis, mixed methods, Baltimore

Included in

Communication Commons



Date Posted: 10 February 2020

This document has been peer reviewed.