International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Development and Social Change (IDSC)


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Nigel Brissett, Ed.D.

Second Reader

Ramón Borges-Méndez, Ph.D.


The 2016 election that catapulted Donald J. Trump to the U.S. presidency has raised questions for how Facebook may have enabled the emergence and coalescence of a social movement among traditionally improbable voters. The research in this paper engages with contemporary social movement theory, assessing its adequacy for explaining the role of Facebook as a primary method for facilitating a social movement among the civically-alienated, who are the most unlikely of all Americans to join an organized collective for change. From a methodological perspective, the exploration takes up the case as a strategy of inquiry to explore social movement theory in the context of algorithmically-mediated social networking environments. It is concluded that the presence of a proprietary algorithmic mediator deployed by Facebook creates deliberate effects among its users which cannot be explained with social movement theory. These effects cannot be easily studied without unethical cognitive manipulations or information distortion.



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