Proceedings of The International Academic Conference on Research in Social Sciences
Who are the opinion leaders online? A case study of the immigration debate on Twitter in Sweden
In Sweden, immigration critical alternative voices have managed to establish themselves as new players in the representation of the truth in a way that challenges mainstream voices. The selected issue in this study was “Ensamkommande flyktingbarn”. It means “unaccompanied refugee children”. If refugees are below 18 years old and coming alone they are considered “unaccompanied refugee children”. Many claim they are below 18 years old which is hard to prove against since they have no documentation or papers. Twitter has become a very important social media for political debates and discussions especially for those “alternative voices”. This study attempted to ask the following questions: Regarding the debate, who created the ‘alternative truth’ on Twitter? How did they present the ‘alternative truth’ on Twitter? Data was collected on 27th September and 16th October 2017 separately. The research finds out that opinion leaders in the debate from September to October in 2017 were the voices of ordinary people. Even though those opinion leaders may have used media links to support their arguments, the most popular domain/used link was “twitter”. There are two implications of this result: (1) Twitter replaced traditional media outlets and became the most influential “anti-immigration” voice itself; (2) People use twitter to become their own alternative media and ordinary people can be very influential in this topic.
Keywords: immigration critical voices; opinion leaders; populism; social network analysis; twitter.