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What it Takes to Get Passed On: Message Content, Style, and Structure as Predictors of Retransmission in the Boston Marathon Bombing Response


What it Takes to Get Passed On: Message Content, Style, and Structure as Predictors of Retransmission in the Boston Marathon Bombing Response

Abstract: 

Message retransmission is a central aspect of information diffusion. In a disaster context, the passing on of official warning messages by members of the public also serves as a behavioral indicator of message salience, suggesting that particular messages are (or are not) perceived by the public to be both noteworthy and valuable enough to share with others. This study provides the first examination of terse message retransmission of official warning messages in response to a domestic terrorist attack, the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. Using messages posted from public officials’ Twitter accounts that were active during the period of the Boston Marathon bombing and manhunt, we examine the features of messages that are associated with their retransmission. We focus on message content, style, and structure, as well as the networked relationships of message senders to answer the question: what characteristics of a terse message sent under conditions of imminent threat predict its retransmission among members of the public? We employ a negative binomial model to examine how message characteristics affect message retransmission. We find that, rather than any single effect dominating the process, retransmission of official Tweets during the Boston bombing response was jointly influenced by various message content, style, and sender characteristics. These findings suggest the need for more work that investigates impact of multiple factors on the allocation of attention and on message retransmission during hazard events.

Publication Information

Full Citation: 

Sutton, Jeannette, C. Ben Gibson, Emma S. Spiro, Cedar League, Sean Fitzhugh, and Carter T. Butts. 2015. "What it Takes to Get Passed On: Message Content, Style, and Structure as Predictors of Retransmission in the Boston Marathon Bombing Response." PLoS ONE 10 (August). http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0134452

START Author(s): 
Jeannette Sutton
Publication URL: 
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