The Last Will Be the First. A Study of European Issue Publics on Twitter


This article analyzes topics of European relevance on Twitter. It does so by examining #schengen and #ttip Twitter hashtags as a case study. The purpose of this article is to detect which accounts are most important in terms of the number of ties received, and whether they are elite or non-elite actors. This is done by calculating the in-degree and out-degree scores of nodes involved in the networks generated by the usage of the two hashtags. The research reveals that it is easier for civil society and citizens to enjoy an important level of attention similar to that of the media, institutions and politicians on topics of European relevance. The outcomes of this research are important when it comes to understanding how a digital platform such as Twitter contributes to bottom-up conversations about relevant European topics. What we learn here about the structure and configuration of these networks helps us obtaining a more fine-grained understanding of new forms of communication and interaction used by citizens, and their implications for the emergence of a European Public Sphere.

Keywords: Twitter; network analysis; issue publics; Schengen; TTIP; Europe


Anduiza Perea E. (2012), Digital Media and Political Engagement Worldwide: A Comparative Study, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Ausserhofer J., A. Maireder (2013), “National Politics on Twitter: Structures and Topics of a Networked Public Sphere”, Information, Communication & Society, 16 (3): 291–314.

Badawy, A., E. Ferrara, and K. Lerman (2018), “Analyzing the Digital Traces of Political Manipulation: The 2016 Russian Interference Twitter Campaign”, Proceedings of The Web Conference, New York: ACM.

Barisione, M., A. Ceron (2017), “A Digital Movement of Opinion? Contesting Austerity Through Social Media”, in M. Barisione and A. Michailidou (eds.), Social Media and European Politics, London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 77-104.

Barisione, M., A. Michailidou, and M. Airoldi (2017), “Understanding a Digital Movement of Opinion: The Case of #RefugeesWelcome”, Information, Communication & Society, 1–20.

Benkler Y. (2006), The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, New Haven: Yale University Press.

Benkler Y., H. Roberts, R. Faris, A. Solow-Niederman, and B. Etling (2015), “Social Mobilization and the Networked Public Sphere: Mapping the SOPA-PIPA Debate”, Political Communication, 32 (4): 594–624.

Bennett L. (2012), “Grounding the European Public Sphere”, KFG Working Paper, 43.

Bennett L., S. Lang, and A. Seberberg (2015), “European Issue Publics Online: The Case of Climate Change and Fair Trade”, in T. Risse (ed.), European Public Spheres. Politics Is Back, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 108-137.

Bennett, L., A. Segerberg (2013), The Logic of Connective Action: Digital Media and the Personalization of Contentious Politics, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Borra E., B. Rieder (2014), “Programmed Method: Developing a Toolset for Capturing and Analyzing Tweets”, Journal of Information Management, 66 (3): 262–78.

Bossetta M. (2018), “The Digital Architectures of Social Media: Comparing Political Campaigning on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat in the 2016 U.S. Election”, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 95(2): 471-496.

boyd D. (2011), “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications”, in Z. Papacharisi (ed.), Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites, London: Routledge, pp. 39–58.

Bruns A., and J. Burgess (2011), “#Ausvotes: How Twitter Covered the 2010 Australian Federal Election”, Communication, Politics & Culture, 44 (2): 37.

Bruns A., and J. Burgess (2015), “Twitter Hashtags from Ad Hoc to Calculated Publics”, in N. Ramblukana (ed.), Hashtag Publics, New York: Peter Lang, pp. 13-28.

Bruns A., J. Burgess, and T. Highfield (2014), “A Big Data Approach to Mapping the Australian Twittersphere”, in P. Arthur and K. Bode (eds.), Advancing Digital Humanities: Research, Methods, Theories, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 113-129.

Bruns A., G. Enli (2018), “The Norwegian Twittersphere”, Nordicom, 39:1-20.

Bruns A., T. Highfield (2016), “Is Habermas on Twitter?”, in A. Bruns, G. Enli, E. Skogerbø, A. Larsson, and C. Christensen (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics, London: Routledge, pp. 56-73.

Caiani M., P. Graziano (2018), “Europeanisation and Social Movements: The Case of the Stop TTIP Campaign”, European Journal of Political Research, 1-20.

Chadwick A. (2013), The Hybrid Media System: Politics and Power, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Davis C., O. Varol, E. Ferrara, A. Flammini, and F. Menczer (2016), “Botornot: A System to Evaluate Social Bots”, Proceedings of the 25th International Conference Companion on World Wide Web, 273–274.

Dubois E., G. Blank (2018), “The Echo Chamber Is Overstated: The Moderating Effect of Political Interest and Diverse Media”, Information, Communication & Society 21 (5): 729–745.

Dunbar R., V. Arnaboldi, M. Conti, and A. Passarella (2015), ‘The Structure of Online Social Networks Mirrors Those in the Offline World’, Social Networks, 43: 39-47.

Dutceac A., M. Bossetta, and H. Trenz (2016), “Engaging with European Politics through Twitter and Facebook: Participation beyond the National?”, in M. Barisione and A. Michailidou (eds.), Social Media and European Politics. Rethinking Power and Legitimacy in the Digital Era, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 53-76.

Dutceac Segesten A., M. Bossetta (2016), “A Typology of Political Participation Online: How Citizens Used Twitter to Mobilize during the 2015 British General Elections”, Information, Communication & Society, 20(11): 1625–1643.

Earl J., and K. Kimport (2011), Digitally Enabled Social Change: Activism in the Internet Age, New York: MIT Press.

European Commission (2013), Standard Eurobarometer 79: Public Opinion in the European Union. Retrieved July 30, 2018 (

European Commission (2016), Schengen Area. Text. Migration and Home Affairs. Retrieved July 30, 2018 (

European Commission (2017a), TTIP - The EU-US Trade Deal. Retrieved July 30, 2018 (

European Commission (2017b), Standard Eurobarometer 88: Public Opinion in the European Union. Retrieved July 30, 2018 (

Ford M. (2016), Is the TTIP Doomed? Retrieved 15 July 2018 (

Gerhards J., M. S. Schafer (2010), “Is the Internet a Better Public Sphere? Comparing Old and New Media in the USA and Germany”, New Media & Society 12(1): 143–160.

Gil De Zuñiga H., E. Puig-I-Abril, and H. Rojas (2009), “Weblogs, Traditional Sources Online and Political Participation: An Assessment of How the Internet Is Changing the Political Environment”, New Media & Society 11(4): 553–574.

Gilbert, S. (2017), The Movement of #MeToo. Retrieved 15 July 2018. (

Golder S., M. Macy (2015), “Introduction”, in Y. Mejova, I. Weber and M. Macy (eds.), Twitter: A Digital Socioscope, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-20.

González-Bailón S. (2014), “Online Social Networks and Bottom-up Politics”, in M. Graham and W. H. Dutton (eds.), Society & the Internet. How Networks of Information and Communication Are Changing Our Lives, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 209-222.

Grandjean, M, A. Mauro (2016), “A Social Network Analysis of Twitter: Mapping the Digital Humanities Community”, Cogent Arts & Humanities 3(1): 1171-458.

Gruzd A., B. Wellman, and Y. Takhteyev (2011), “Imagining Twitter as an Imagined Community”, American Behavioral Scientist 55 (10): 1294–1318.

Guida V. (2016), TTIP Leak: Scandalous or Business as Usual? Retrieved 15 July 2018 (

Hänska, M., S. Bauchowitz (2016), How Leave Won Twitter: An Analysis of 7.5m Brexit-Related Tweets. Retrieved 15 July 2018 (

Hänska M., and S. Bauchowitz (2018), “#ThisIsACoup: The Emergence of an Anti-Austerity Hashtag across Europe’s Twittersphere”, in L. Basu, S. Schifferes and S. Knowles (eds.), The Media and Austerity: Comparative Perspectives, London: Routledge, pp. 248-260.

Howard, P., B. Kollanyi, and S. Woolley (2016), “Bots and Automation over Twitter during the US Election”, Computational Propaganda Project: Working Paper Series.

Kaitatzi-Whitlock S. (2007), “The Missing European Public Sphere and the Absence of Imagined European Citizenship: Democratic Deficit as a Function of a Common European Media Deficit”, European Societies, 9(5): 685–704.

Kelly K., V. Barash, K. Alexanyan, B. Etling, R. Faris, U. Gasser, and J. Palfrey (2012), “Mapping Russian Twitter”, Berkman Center Research Publication, 12(2): 2–16.

Koopmans R., P. Statham (eds.) (2010), The Making of a European Public Sphere: Media Discourse and Political Contention, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Larsson A., and H. Moe (2012), ‘Studying Political Microblogging: Twitter Users in the 2010 Swedish Election Campaign’, New Media & Society, 14(5): 729–747.

Lotan G., E. Graeff, M.Ananny, D. Gaffney, I. Pearce, and D. boyd (2011), “The Revolutions Were Tweeted: Information Flows during the 2011 Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions”, International Journal of Communication, 11(5): 1375-1405.

Maireder A., and S. Schlögl (2014), “24 Hours of #Outcry: The Networked Publics of a Socio-Political Debate”, European Journal of Communication, 29(6): 687-702.

Maireder A., S. Shlögl, F. Schütz, and M. Karwautz (2014), “The European Political Twittersphere: Network of the Top Users Discussing the 2014 European Elections”, GFK Working Paper.

Martinez P. (2017), Study Reveals Whopping 48M Twitter Accounts Are Actually Bots. CBS News. Retrieved 15 July 2018 (

Mejova Y., M. Macy, and I. Weber (2015), Twitter: A Digital Socioscope. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Michael K. (2017), Bots without Borders: How Anonymous Accounts Hijack Political Debate. Retrieved 15 July 2018. (

Moon B. (2017), “Identifying Bots in the Australian Twittersphere”, Proceedings of The Web Conference, New York: ACM.

Morganti L., and L. Bekemans (eds.) (2012), The European Public Sphere: From Critical Thinking to Responsible Action, Brussels: Peter Lang.

Papacharissi Z. (2009), “The Virtual Sphere 2.0: The Internet, the Public Sphere, and Beyond”, in A. Chadwick and P. Howard (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics, New York: Routledge, pp. 230–245.

Pavan E. (2017), “The Integrative Power of Online Collective Action Networks beyond Protest. Exploring Social Media Use in the Process of Institutionalization”, Social Movement Studies, 16(4): 433–446.

Prell C. (2012), Social Network Analysis: History, Theory & Methodology, London: SAGE.

Risse T. (2015), European Public Spheres: Politics Is Back, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sicakkan H. (2016), “An Agonistic Pluralism Approach to the European Public Sphere”, in H. Sicakkan (ed.), Integration, Diversity and the Making of a European Public Sphere, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 1-27.

Splichal S. (2006), “In Search of a Strong European Public Sphere: Some Critical Observations on Conceptualizations of Publicness and the (European) Public Sphere”, Media, Culture & Society, 28(5): 695–714.

Theocharis Y., W. Lowe, Jan. van Deth, and G. García-Albacete (2015), “Using Twitter to Mobilize Protest Action: Online Mobilization Patterns and Action Repertoires in the Occupy Wall Street, Indignados, and Aganaktismenoi Movements”, Information, Communication & Society 18(2): 202–220.

Trenz H., and A. Michailidou (2014), “The Mediatization of Politics. From the National to the Transnational”, Partecipazione e Conflitto, 7(3): 469–489.

Tucker J., Y. Theocharis, M. Roberts, and P. Barberá (2017), “From

Liberation to Turmoil: Social Media and Democracy”, Journal of Democracy, 28(4): 46–59.

Tumasjan A., T. Oliver Sprenger, P. Sandner, and I. Welpe (2010), “Predicting Elections with Twitter: What 140 Characters Reveal about Political Sentiment, Proceedings of the Fourth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, 178–185.

Weller K., A. Bruns, J. Burgess, C. Puschmann, and M. Mahrt (eds.) (2013), Twitter and Society, New York: Peter Lang.

Whitehead T. (2015), Paris Charlie Hebdo Attack: Je Suis Charlie Hashtag One of Most Popular in Twitter History. Retrieved 15 July 2018


Wojcik S., S. Messing, A. Smith, L. Rainie, and P. Hitlin (2018), Bots in the Twittersphere. Retrieved 15 July 2018 (

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.