Speaking Truth to Power: Twitter Reactions to the Panama Papers

  • Dean NeuEmail author
  • Gregory Saxton
  • Jeffery Everett
  • Abu Rahaman Shiraz
Original Paper


The current study examines the micro-linguistic details of Twitter responses to the whistleblower-initiated publication of the Panama Papers. The leaked documents contained the micro-details of tax avoidance, tax evasion, and wealth accumulation schemes used by business elites, politicians, and government bureaucrats. The public release of the documents on April 4, 2016 resulted in a groundswell of Twitter and other social media activity throughout the world, including 161,036 Spanish-language tweets in the subsequent 5-month period. The findings illustrate that the responses were polyvocal, consisting a collection of overlapping speech genres with varied thematic topics and linguistic styles, as well as differing degrees of calls for action and varying amounts of illocutionary force. The analysis also illustrates that, while the illocutionary force of tweets is somewhat associated with the adoption of a prosaic and vernacular ethical stance as well as with demands for action, these types of voicing behaviors were not present in the majority of the tweets. These results suggest that, while social media platforms are a popular site for collective forms of voicing activities, it is less certain that these collective stakeholder voices necessarily result in forceful accountability demands that spill out of the communication medium and thus serve as an impulse for positive social change.


Whistleblowing Stakeholders Social accountability 



This study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (Grant Number 435-2012-1635).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Dean Neu has received research Grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada. All declare that they have no conflict of interest pertaining to this research.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dean Neu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gregory Saxton
    • 1
  • Jeffery Everett
    • 1
  • Abu Rahaman Shiraz
    • 2
  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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