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A Comparison of the Spread of Extreme Protest Behaviours Through Two Activist Networks

22 March 2013


Rosemary Penny


This paper examines the phenomenon of extreme protest in the environmental and animal rights movements. While both campaigns have a wide range of people protesting for them with varying degrees of militancy, the most radical protestors from the two movements adopt different methods of fighting for their cause. Using a framework called Situational Action Theory that has been successfully applied to radicalisation, this project seeks to understand how extreme protest behaviours emerge and what factors contribute to their propagation across a social network.  It does this through the construction of agent-based models describing the two activist networks, using data obtained from the activists about the types of protest activity in which they engage, their social circles, and their moral attitudes. The differences in the results emerging from the models enable conclusions to be drawn regarding which elements in the construction caused these differences, and therefore which real-world factors contribute to differences in the spread of extreme protest behaviours through social networks.