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The governance strategies for public emergencies on social media and their effects: a case study based on the microblog data


Since the 1980s, the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has greatly changed people’s modes of production and lifestyle, and it has also had a significant influence on traditional social structures. Microblogs – a type of social media application such as Twitter or Weibo – have served as an important platform for network governance in some local governments in China. This study makes an attempt to answer the following questions: What types of strategies should governments implement on social media platforms during public emergencies? What are the effects of these strategies? Based on the case of the Shifang Incident, which was a large-scale environmental protest that occurred in Shifang, China in 2012, we analyze all the messages posted during the incident on the official microblog of the Shifang government and examine the public feedback by using an online big data analysis tool. In line with the time sequence and the extent of the conflict, we divide the Shifang Incident into three phases: the fermentation period, the confrontation period, and the digestion period. In addition, we classify government strategies on social media into five categories: introducing, appealing, explaining, rumor-refuting, and decision-making. The analysis results show that different government strategies are applied to different phases of the incident and that the responses of the public also vary during different periods.

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    PKUVIS is also called WeiboEvents.

  2. 2.

    The China Media Project is a project of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at The University of Hong Kong. Working directly with editors, writers and producers from various media in China, the project documents and analyzes the process of media reform in China and the formal and informal factors that influence it.


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This work was partly supported by Tsinghua University Institute for Data Science, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71473143/71490721/71102010), the National Social Science Foundation of China (15ZDA039), the Beijing Social Science Foundation (15JGA008), and the Tsinghua University Initiative Scientific Research Program (20131089260).

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Correspondence to Nan Zhang.

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Responsible Editor: Marijn Janssen

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Meng, Q., Zhang, N., Zhao, X. et al. The governance strategies for public emergencies on social media and their effects: a case study based on the microblog data. Electron Markets 26, 15–29 (2016).

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  • Social media
  • Public emergency
  • Governance strategies
  • Mass incidents
  • Microblog
  • Big data

JEL Classification

  • Case Study
  • E-Government
  • Social Networking
  • Virtual Communities
  • Web 2.0