Moral framing and information virality in social movements: A case study of #HongKongPoliceBrutality

Rong Wang, Wenlin Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Guided by moral foundation theory and information virality theory, this study explored how moral framing, operationalized as the use of one of the five moral dimensions in tweets (i.e., care, fairness, loyalty, authority, and sanctity), is related to virality of social movement messages. It offered a case study of the 2019 Hong Kong protests by analyzing Twitter data collected using #HongKongPoliceBrutality. Results demonstrated that care framing promotes message virality, indicated by the likelihood of getting retweeted and favorited. However, the use of the fairness or authority frame decreased virality. Results indicated that the supporters of the movement were more likely to be triggered by non-political messages. The effect of moral framing on information virality was contingent upon the audience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-370
Number of pages21
JournalCommunication Monographs
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 National Communication Association.


  • Moral framing
  • information virality
  • moral foundation theory
  • police brutality
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


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