Black Lives Matter: Racial Perspectives on Social Media

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 3
Words: 887
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: College


Black Lives Matter is the movement for social changes and the rights of African Americans in the United States. With the advance of social networking sites (SNSs) and other social media resources, Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has grown into a social campaign against police officers’ violence and racial discrimination. This literature review focuses on racial standpoints on social media related to the BLM movement and the role of the #AllLivesMatter hashtag in this campaign.

Social Media as a Voice for African Americans

Many studies were conducted within the last five years about the positive impact of social networking on the BLM organization and anti-racist campaigns. For example, Grimes (2017) argues that SNSs provide platforms where African Americans have a collective and individual voice and can create and promote their racial identity. Facebook is the largest platform used by this racial minority group. This SNS helps them strengthen and mold their Black identity and propagates Black Nationalism and technological separation (Grimes, 2017). African Americans use the hashtags #uknowufromqueens and #uknowurblackwhen to initiate a conversation for and by members of black communities (Grimes, 2017). SNSs unite black-skinned users and help them resist racism and injustice.

Moreover, social media is a great tool for spreading and documenting cases of violence. Bolsover (2020) examined five groups of hashtags used for the BLM movement: expression of solidarity; statement of the movement goals; reports and records of police violence cases; discussions of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, which occurred after the shooting of Michael Brown; and counter-protest messages that block the ideology of BLM movement. Such hashtags as #riots2020, # JusticeForGeorgeFloyd and others were successfully used to initiate political discourse (Bolsover, 2020). The role of Twitter should not be underestimated. Thousands of tweets were produced between December 2015 and October 2016 to express sadness, despair, and outrage as responses to police violence (Tillery Jr., 2019). In such a way, African Americans use SNSs to attract the audience’s attention to their problems and find supporters of their movement.

Social Media Promotes Racism

At the same time, social media and SNSs reinforce racism and hatred toward people of color. Facebook became the platform for racist speeches, utilizing the weaponization of memes and fake identities to incite hatred (Matamoros-Fernandez & Farkas, 2021). YouTube is the platform for racist influencers, Twitter coordinates harassment, and Reddit is a space for toxic subcultures (Matamoros-Fernandez & Farkas, 2021). Since SNSs are open to all, many users change their identities or do not reveal their real attitude toward BLM movements and police violence. The research by Dixon and Dundes (2020) showed that white males who supported BLM were likely to criticize these protests after George Floyd’s murder. Instead, they supported police officers, claiming that Black protesters acted like vandals (Dixon & Dundes, 2020).

In other articles, the negative effects of SNSs on BLM were also discussed. For instance, Bordonaro and Willits (2018) discovered that social media used the headlines that described black-skinned men as things and blamed their deaths on their behavior. The hashtag #iftheygunnedmedown was used by the news to indicate a person killed by police (Bordonaro & Willits, 2018). Thus, although social media helped BLM build coalitions and find supporters, its accessibility attracted white followers and aroused racism and hate speeches.

#BlackLivesMatter Against #AllLivesMatter

#AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter are used to criticize the BLM movement and support police officers who acted violently against African Americans. Although #AllLivesMatter discussed the deaths of black-skinned citizens, including Eric Garner and the Charleston Church shooting, it also supported police officers during BLM protests (Gallagher et al., 2018). #AllLivesMatter gave rise to color-blind racism and Neoliberalism, affirming that all people were the same (Carney, 2016). Many people may think that #AllLivesMatter propagates equality and protection of all people, but this movement reinforces racism and creates a negative image of African Americans on SNSs.

Risks and Challenges of Social Media

The systemic review demonstrated that social media have both positive and negative effects on the BLM movement and racial issues. Moreover, they can be associated with some risks and challenges. For instance, African Americans cannot use SNSs to build and maintain movements for social changes because their organizations have no physical location (Mundt et al., 2018). If online groups are too big, administrators will not be able to monitor all participants, which means that white followers can easily access these groups and spread negative information there. In addition, the research showed that increased media consumption did not produce more agreement or disagreement with the BLM movement and its ideas (Kilgo & Mourão, 2019). Thus, further research is needed to examine the influence of social media on the BLM movement in detail.


The systematic review of scholarly articles showed that racial perspectives on social media vary. On the one hand, SNSs serve as the platforms to create coalitions and promote BLM ideas, report, record, and react to police violence, and create a Black identity online. On the other hand, social media is a weapon for privileged whites who express their hatred and harass minorities of color. The main challenge of SNSs is that they have no on-the-ground components to organize meetings and build coalitions offline. Since the impact of social networking on the BLM movement and racial minorities is controversial, further research is needed to explore the perspectives of African Americans on this subject.


Bolsover, G. (2020). Black Lives Matter discourse on US social media during COVID: Polarized positions enacted in a new event. SSRN, 1-10. Web.

Bordonaro, F., & Willits, D. (2018). #Black Lives Matter? Analyzing the effects of police-caused black deaths on media coverage and public interest in the movement. Journal of Criminal Justice and Law: Official Journal of the Law and Public Policy Section of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, 2(2), 102-121. Web.

Carney, N. (2016). All lives matter, but so does race: Black Lives Matter and the evolving role of social media. Humanity & Society, 40(2), 1-20. Web.

Dixon, P. J., & Dundes, L. (2020). Exceptional injustice: Facebook as a reflection of race- and gender-based narratives following the death of George Floyd. Social Sciences, 9(12), 231. Web.

Gallagher, R. J., Reagan, A. J., Danforth, C. M., & Dodds, P. S. (2018). Divergent discourse between protests and counter-protests: #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter. PLoS ONE, 13(4). Web.

Grimes, L. (2017). The value of Black lives: The effect of the digital age on African American identity and political participation. The Journal of Traditions & Beliefs, 5(8), 1-8. Web.

Kilgo, D., & Mourão, R. R. (2019). Media effects and marginalized ideas: Relationships among media consumption and support for Black Lives Matter. International Journal of Communication, 13, 4287-4305. Web.

Matamoros-Fernandez, A., & Farkas, J. (2021). Racism, hate speech, and social media: A systematic review and critique. Television & New Media, 22(2), 205-224. Web.

Mundt, M., Ross, K., & Burnett, C. M. (2018). Scaling social movements through social media: The case of Black Lives Matter. Social Media + Society, 1-14. Web.

Tillery Jr., A. B. (2019). What kind of movement is Black Lives Matter? The view from Twitter. Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, 4(2), 297-323. Web.