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Exploring frames of environmental crises on Twitter and Weibo: Crisis communication about Hurricane Maria and haze

Xianlin Jin, PhD


There is limited knowledge about how crises are framed on different social media platforms specifically in a non-Western cultural context. This study compares how extreme environmental crises—Hurricane Maria and haze—were framed on Twitter and Weibo. Through word-cloud, co-occurrence, and thematic analyses with Hurricane Maria-related tweets, this study identified two major frames of this crisis: a disaster frame and a political frame. Similarly, by analyzing haze-related posts on Sina Weibo, two major frames emerged: an environmental frame and a health frame. Both crises were largely framed as environmental issues rather than health risks or crises. Such framing helps shape the existence of Hurricane Maria and haze as legitimate facts. The findings also reveal that cultural variances, eg, power distance, collectivist-individualist culture, and uncertainty avoidance, impact crisis framing. This study indicates the importance of designing culture-fit messages and incorporating social media strategies in crisis communication while developing emergency management plans and adds knowledge to the limited literature on social-mediated crisis communication in different cultural contexts. Such knowledge will provide theoretical and practical implications for crisis scholars, emergency management practitioners, and policymakers.


framing, social-mediated crisis communication, comparative approach, Hurricane Maria, haze

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