What do Gilets Jaunes talk about on Facebook?

Pedro Ramaciotti Morales, Jean-Philippe Cointet, Caterina Froio, Omer Faruk Metin

Contact: pedro.ramaciotti@gmail.com

The Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) movement started taking the streets in France in October 2018. Not affiliated to any formal political organization, they are particularly active and vocal on Facebook. While many studies look into social networks to explain how the movement emerged and unfolded, we still lack a global understanding of the interplay between social media, communication processes and collective action. How did social media shape movement’s discourse? What is the evolution of topics of interest addressed by this community? This paper explores the evolution of contents published on the Facebook groups. We combine information about offline protest events with unique content collected from the most active 900 Facebook public groups of the Gilets Jaunes movement between October 2018 and December 2019. We analyze the content extracted from nearly 10 million posts using NLP algorithms to identify topics. We then measure the topical diversity of posts both at the individual group and at the global level, along with its evolution. Results indicate that the movement is not uniform but actually motivated by a variety of grievances that may differ depending on the geographical scale at which group form and their political leaning.

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