Tweets Played an Important Role Following the Terrorist Attack on Drottninggatan

A study published in Nordicom Review shows that ordinary people played an important role in the crisis response following the terrorist attack on Drottninggatan in Stockholm. By organising on Twitter, ordinary people helped to increase the safety of the public and reduce the spread of rumours.

In April 2017, a truck drove at full speed through Drottninggatan in central Stockholm, killing five and injuring at least 15 people. The terrorist attack shook Sweden, and on Twitter tens of thousands of people opened up their homes to those in need of protection using the hashtag #openstockholm. 

In a new study published in the scientific journal Nordicom Review, Minttu Tikka, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, examines the role of ordinary people in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack.

Helped to increase security

The study shows that the communicative role that ordinary people have in crises and disasters has changed following the development of new digital technology. Instead of just witnessing events, citizens can now actively participate in crisis work by, for example, organising themselves on platforms like Twitter.

– The response of ordinary people following the terrorist attack on Drottninggatan illustrates the active role of citizens in crisis situations. By opening up their homes on Twitter they helped to increase the safety of the public, and ultimately to increase the resilience of the society as a whole, Minttu Tikka says.

Rationality as an overarching theme

The study, which is based on a content analysis of the Twitter flow around the hashtag #openstockholm, also shows that the majority of tweets (71 percent) that were published focused on rational aspects of the event: they offered help or shared instructions and other important information with the public.

– It seems that people’s immediate response to a crisis is to strive to rationalise the event, rather than, for example, expressing emotions. In the case of the terrorist attack on Drottninggatan, this contributed to managing, and thus to reducing, the spread of rumours in the chaos that followed, says Minttu Tikka.

The article Ritualisation of Crisis Communication: Crowd-enabled responses to the Stockholm terror attack on Twitter was written by Minttu Tikka and is published in Nordicom Review.

Read the article here