Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma González now has more than a million Twitter followers, more than both the National Rifle Association and its spokesperson Dana Loesch, as González and her fellow students continue to use the platform to drive attention to their cause.
It’s now been nearly two weeks since the attack in Parkland, Florida, and — in a break from the usual grim routine of mass shooting coverage — it continues to dominate the news. One big reason for that has been savvy social media use by González, who first tweeted from her account on Feb. 18, and her fellow students, several of whom have also amassed large Twitter followings. As of Tuesday morning, David Hogg had 352,000 followers, Cameron Kasky 240,000 and Sarah Chadwick 237,000. All of those accounts appear to be rapidly gaining users by the thousands, as all four students push their campaign for stronger gun laws.
The students’ movement has helped keep the issue of school shootings and guns in the headlines since the shooting on Feb. 14, in which 17 people were killed. Now, the key question facing them is whether, as time marches on and the cameras leave Parkland, they will still be able to command the nation’s attention.
Not on their own, according to Daniel Kreiss, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s school of journalism who has studied politics and new media. “What we know is that periods of sustained mass media attention are more likely to result in policy changes,” he said in an email. “What I suspect is that the Parkland students’ Twitter followings will be influential if they can leverage them for journalistic, mass media attention.”