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Competitive framing, emotion and heterogeneity: framing effects on Twitter in the case of an alt-right rally

Porismita Borah (Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 29 March 2021

Issue publication date: 14 October 2021




The current study has three main purposes: (1) replicate results from prior framing effects studies on social media. To do so, the study examines the influence of news frames (free speech vs. public order) on participants' attitudes toward an alt-right rally (2) expand prior research by examining the emotional reaction of participants to these frames and (3) probe the moderating effects of face-to-face heterogenous talk and heterogenous social media feeds.


Drawing from theoretical concepts such as competitive framing, emotions and heterogeneity, the study uses a randomized online experiment. The study examines a conversation in a Twitter thread that includes both free speech and public order frames in the comments to the thread. The total number of participants was 275.


The results show that free speech versus public order frame did not impact attitudes of the participants toward the alt-right rally. Findings also show the significant main effects of free speech and public order frames and the interaction of exposure to heterogeneity on emotional reactions of outrage and anger toward the alt-right rally. These findings suggest that framing research needs to take social media features into consideration for a complete picture of framing effects on social media.


Using a classic framing effects experiment, the study includes variables relevant to social media discussions on Twitter and examined the moderating effects of heterogeneity on emotional reactions. In addition, one of the important methodological contributions of the current study are the framing manipulations for an externally valid experimental design.



Borah, P. (2021), "Competitive framing, emotion and heterogeneity: framing effects on Twitter in the case of an alt-right rally", Online Information Review, Vol. 45 No. 6, pp. 1131-1147.



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