Twitter and the MDGs

To test the hypothesis whether social media in the form of blog posts and twitter have any influence on the discourses of international development, Tobias Denskus and Daniel E. Esser collected tweets and blogposts related to the Millennium Development Goals during a period in 2010. By analysing tweets and blog posts around the UN High-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals held in 2010 the authors gained insights in how social media is used in relation to high level conferences. Their conclusion, as presented in an article in the Third World Quarterly[1], is that the social media sphere failed to bring forward alternative agendas
and priorities, and rather reinforced the current ideas around international development. Their analysis of tweets also showed that a majority of tweeters were closely related to organisations part of the MDG work, such as Save the Children or Amnesty International. Denskus and Esser used the service for their analysis and performed searches on the hashtag (#) MDG for every hour during the High-level conference. Three years after said conference, on September 25th 2013, the President of the UN General Assembly held a follow-up meeting to take stock of the situation with the MDG:s. Using a similar method to Denskus and Esser, I intended to test whether tweets during this meeting were of a similar nature to what they found. I performed search on tweets containing #MDG during September 25th 2013 from 9am to 8pm using The search resulted in the maximum number of pages on the search engine, 10, which leaves the possibility that the number of tweets could have been much more. Analysing a selection of these tweets I found that there were a large number of retweets, i.e tweeters rebroadcasting what someone else has already said. Due to this, the same tweet appears several times. Like in Denskus and Esser’s analysis, many representatives from stakeholder organisations (such as civil society or UN organisations) were active. Some media from the developing world tweeted during this event, such as @WorldGhana (”Journalist, Publicist, Blogger & Social Media Marketer”), but in general organisations, media and activists from the societies in focus for the MDG:s are missing. So similar to Denskus and Esser’s conclusion, mine is that twitter mainly was used as a tool to broadcast (or rebroadcast) third party content, rather than representing original thought or bring forward new ideas. A year from now, in September 2015, a High-level summit on the Millennium Development Goals and the set of new goals will be held at the UN. Will tweeting influence the discourse then, will it be an arena for bringing forward alternative priorities and facilitate actual discussion, or have people left Twitter altogether by then?   [1] Tobias Denskus and Daniel E Esser (2013): Social media and global development rituals: a content analysis of blogs and tweets on the 2010 mdg summit, Third World Quarterly, 34:3, 405-422.

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  1. Sophia Engqvist

    Twitter have been used in another way as well regarding the MGD’s, or rather the Post 2015 agenda. The Global Pulse has used twitter data in order to understand which post 2015 relevant topics are talked about on social media around the world in a big data analysis. By using big data analysis you can find out what people talk about on issues related to the MGD’s, regardless of their knowledge of the MGD or the involvement in the Post 2015 agenda. Still, in these kind of analysis you always have to ask yourself whose data is collected – but I think it is an interesting way to find out what’s on peoples mind. If you are interested you can find information on this topic here: