Quality & Quantity

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 1113–1131 | Cite as

Uncovering stakeholders in public–private relations on social media: a case study of the 2015 Volkswagen scandal

  • Kyujin JungEmail author
  • Kenneth Chilton
  • Jesus N. Valero


While researchers have focused on the nature of interpersonal communication on social media, few have investigated the patterns and structures of interactions among stakeholders engaged in an unexpected event. On September 18, 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation of the U.S. Clean Air Act to Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., citing Volkswagen’s inappropriate software that circumvented the United States’ emission standards. This research is systemically designed to examine the evolutionary structures of interpersonal issue networks on social media by focusing on the 2015 Volkswagen scandal on social media. The interpersonal network emerged and evolved to build a discourse on issues by stakeholders after the event. By using longitudinal data collected from the Volkswagen USA’s Facebook page between September 17 and 20, 2015, this research tests four hypothesized network structures, which are reciprocity, transitivity, popularity, and activity, which assess the evolution of interpersonal issue networks. The results of exponential random graph models, analyzing 4131 stakeholders, show that interpersonal issue networks on social media have evolved overtime into a set of reciprocal relations and stakeholders transmitting critical information to bystanders. The findings imply that stakeholders who have Volkswagen’s cars and stocks play a critical role in placating the scandal by mutually interacting with diverse bystanders on social media.


Volkswagen Public–private relation Stakeholder Social media 



This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2007-362-A00019).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Global Institute for Japanese StudiesKorea UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  2. 2.Department of Public AdministrationTennessee State UniversityNashvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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