The Chapel Hill Shooting: Mapping The Social Media Response

Feb 19, 2015

University of Georgia students and faculty standing in solidarity with the victims of the Chapel Hill shooting.
Credit @athens4everyone / Twitter

In the days since the triple homicide of Chapel Hill residents Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha, two hashtags have surged through social media feeds: #chapelhillshooting and #muslimlivesmatter.

The BBC's Mukul Devichand has been following the trending hashtags and tells WUNC's Phoebe Judge that many of the people using them live outside of the United States: "Looking at the heat map...#chapelhillshooting in English was used most in Indonesia, a majority Muslim country." In terms of what people are talking about when they use the hashtags, Devichand says "much of it is discussion, sharing articles about the incident, and talking about the grief and horror that people feel about the tragic loss of life." The hashtags are frequently used in the ongoing debate "about whether or not it [the shooting] was a hate crime."

In the last 24 hours, more than 12,000 tweets used the hashtag #chapelhillshooting, and there were many instances on Facebook. - Mukul Devichand

"People are saying, hang on, is it right that Muslims are singled out as terrorists when they commit a crime and when somebody else commits a crime against Muslims, then it is not seen as a hate crime?" Devichand explains. While other events around the world have taken the world's attention away from Chapel Hill, and the use of the hashtags has declined, Devichand says they are still trending.

Use of the hashtag #muslimlivesmatter has declined more rapidly than #chapelhillshootings because some Twitter users felt it detracted from the power of the hashtag #blacklivesmatter, which was created after the shooting incident in Ferguson, Missouri.