Original research article| Volume 96, ISSUE 6, P388-394, December 2017

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Tweeting PP: an analysis of the 2015–2016 Planned Parenthood controversy on Twitter



      We analyzed Twitter tweets and Twitter-provided user data to give geographical, temporal and content insight into the use of social media in the Planned Parenthood video controversy.


      We randomly sampled the full Twitter repository (also known as the Firehose) (n=30,000) for tweets containing the phrase “planned parenthood” as well as group-defining hashtags “#defundpp” and “#standwithpp.” We used demographic content provided by the user and word analysis to generate charts, maps and timeline visualizations. Chi-square and t tests were used to compare differences in content, statistical references and dissemination strategies.


      From July 14, 2015, to January 30, 2016, 1,364,131 and 795,791 tweets contained “#defundpp” and “#standwithpp,” respectively. Geographically, #defundpp and #standwithpp were disproportionally distributed to the US South and West, respectively. Word analysis found that early tweets predominantly used “sensational” words and that the proportion of “political” and “call to action” words increased over time. Scatterplots revealed that #standwithpp tweets were clustered and episodic compared to #defundpp. #standwithpp users were more likely to be female [odds ratio (OR) 2.2, confidence interval (CI) 2.0–2.4] and have fewer followers (median 544 vs. 1578, p<.0001). #standwithpp and #defundpp did not differ significantly in their usage of data in tweets. #defundpp users were more likely to link to websites (OR 1.8, CI 1.7–1.9) and to other online dialogs (mean 3.3 vs. 2.0 p<.0001).


      Social media analysis can be used to characterize and understand the content, tempo and location of abortion-related messages in today's public spheres. Further research may inform proabortion efforts in terms of how information can be more effectively conveyed to the public.


      This study has implications for how the medical community interfaces with the public with regards to abortion. It highlights how social media are actively exploited instruments for information and message dissemination. Researchers, providers and advocates should be monitoring social media and addressing the public through these modern channels.


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