In Journal of medical Internet research
BACKGROUND : The #MeToo movement sparked an international debate on the sexual harassment, abuse, and assault and has taken many directions since its inception in October of 2017. Much of the early conversation took place on public social media sites such as Twitter, where the hashtag movement began.
OBJECTIVE : The aim of this study is to document, characterize, and quantify early public discourse and conversation of the #MeToo movement from Twitter data in the United States. We focus on posts with public first-person revelations of sexual assault/abuse and early life experiences of such events.
METHODS : We purchased full tweets and associated metadata from the Twitter Premium application programming interface between October 14 and 21, 2017 (ie, the first week of the movement). We examined the content of novel English language tweets with the phrase "MeToo" from within the United States (N=11,935). We used machine learning methods, least absolute shrinkage and selection operator regression, and support vector machine models to summarize and classify the content of individual tweets with revelations of sexual assault and abuse and early life experiences of sexual assault and abuse.
RESULTS : We found that the most predictive words created a vivid archetype of the revelations of sexual assault and abuse. We then estimated that in the first week of the movement, 11% of novel English language tweets with the words "MeToo" revealed details about the poster's experience of sexual assault or abuse and 5.8% revealed early life experiences of such events. We examined the demographic composition of posters of sexual assault and abuse and found that white women aged 25-50 years were overrepresented in terms of their representation on Twitter. Furthermore, we found that the mass sharing of personal experiences of sexual assault and abuse had a large reach, where 6 to 34 million Twitter users may have seen such first-person revelations from someone they followed in the first week of the movement.
CONCLUSIONS : These data illustrate that revelations shared went beyond acknowledgement of having experienced sexual harassment and often included vivid and traumatic descriptions of early life experiences of assault and abuse. These findings and methods underscore the value of content analysis, supported by novel machine learning methods, to improve our understanding of how widespread the revelations were, which likely amplified the spread and saliency of the #MeToo movement.
Modrek Sepideh, Chakalov Bozhidar
infodemiology, infoveillance, machine learning, sexual abuse, sexual assault, social media