Terminology used across the Black Live Matter, Always project.

All definitions below are specific to and defined for our project.

  • Actionable versus unactionable

    • Actionable hashtags: hashtags that either boost (tweeting about) in-person direct action (ex. Joining in a protest) or boost online direct action (ex. Donating money, hosting a fundraiser, boosting a related activist organization)

      • Example hashtags: #protest, #BuyBlack, #StreamForBLM, #petitionstosign.

    • Unactionable hashtags: hashtags that do not explicitly boost in-person direct action and/or online direct action

      • Examples hashtags: #BlackLivesMatter, #dearwhitepeople, #NoJusticeNoPeace.​​

    • Note: While these hashtags are defined by our project as “unactionable”, this does not mean that these hashtags are not spaces for productive, transformative, and antiracist conversation. The definitions of “actionable” and “unactionable” align narrowly with how we have decided to organize and categorize the data collected for this project.


  • Online Engagement: user interest in the topic. Can be observed through the frequency (how often) and intensity (how much) of user’s interactions with search trends and topic (hashtag) trends


  • Protest life-cycle: the period in which mass demonstrations are viewed to be at the “center of mainstream consciousness”. The specific parameters to define a protest life-cycle may differ from situation to situation.

    • For this project, we defined the BLM movement Summer 2020 protest life cycle as the one-month period (from May 25, 2020 to June 25, 2020) following the murder of George Floyd.

    • Growing: the period of increasing engagement

    • Peak: the point in which engagement is at its highest

    • Aging: the period following the peak, in which engagement is decreasing and/or slowing growth (stabilizing)


  • Sentiment: the emotional state in which people are generally discussing issues around BLM (how people are talking about the topic)

    • Using Natural Language Processing, the qualitative content within the collected tweets were analyzed and categorized as either having more “positive” or “negative” sentiments.

    • Note: positive is NOT defined as necessarily supportive​ attitudes towards BLM, nor does negative mean unsupportive attitudes towards BLM. "Positive" and "negative" sentiments are narrowly defined according to the parameters as stated below:

      • Positive: refers to optimistic, hopeful, and/or positive language being used to discuss BLM.

      • Negative: refers to pessimistic, aggressive, and/or negative (or crude) language used about BLM.

      • Neutral: language that tends to be more informational, shorter, and/or lack highly connotative language.


  • Slacktivism: a term coined to describe surface-level, “easy-to-do” activism (commonly in reference to online activism) that lacks grounding in real action and sustained change. Related to performative activism

    • Examples: hashtag activism (promoting a trending hashtag), “liking” and sharing internet posts, signing unsubstantiated internet petitions

    • Performative activism: actions that are (quite literally) performed on a surface-level to garner social capital, rather than as a reflection of one’s interest or devotion towards a cause

  • Social media “activities”: any type of trend that requires a user to take an action (either directly on their social media, or recorded and posted on their social media), possibly as part of a social campaign or other type of viral campaign

    • Example: #blackouttuesday was activity that required users to post a black square to their social media account in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement (and more generally with racial justice and anti-police enforcement causes)