Edward Snowden was an anonymous NSA employee until June 2013, when he released confidential information to the public during his exile to Hong Kong.
The very first majors Hashtags and tweets on Snowden appears on June 9, 2013, after the release of his exclusive interview with the Guardian US. Indeed, Twitter users from all over the world started to raise the debate on whether or not Snowden should be considered as a Hero. On the same day only, more than hundred of thousands of tweets with the Hashtags #snowden, #supportsnowden, #edwardsnowden were all over the social media. Even though Twitter was split about his action, Snowden was considered as a hero by many people that were expressing their gratitude throughout many tweets like:
These tweets reveal the spontaneous reactions of people, but it turned out that with time, more concerns were raised with the Snowden’s debate. People were concerned about where Snowden went for asylum. Some people found ironic the fact that Snowden ended up in Hongkong (China), a communist country (@NaraHodge) then in Russia later on. Some users thought about the fact that Snowden could have been a Russian spy (@IsaiahLCarter). These are some of the reasons that made some people claim that Snowden was a traitor. His supporters called him the most famous whistleblower while others consider him as a dangerous NSA leaker. In the beginning, most of the users that were concerned about the issue were not only people that have a particular interest in politics such as @SnarkAmendment,@JJWoodyNYC, and @Forian, but also simple US citizens that use the internet on a daily basis like @Scorpioest, or @jaraparilla. Some popular hashtags such as #obama, #privacy, #anonymous, #freeassange, #wikileaks, #NSA, were also correlated to #snowden in 2013 and are still pretty famous nowadays. By associating #snowden and #obama, it is easy to find out that Snowden supporters are expecting the President to give him the pardon so that he would be able to come back to the US (@TheNewDrudge, @CoburnPalmer). By combining #anonymous or # privacy with #snowden, users show support to Snowden by denouncing the violation of the fourth amendment by the government (@cathi, @alexanderhaff). A documentary called #citizenfour was released in 2014 and many supporters like @bradwalker117 were happy about the fact that this documentary was a great way to support Snowden:
Snowden is still pretty popular on Twitter even after three years of exile. In fact, the major theme related #snowden in mid 2016 is mostly about the movie Snowden, which will be released on September 15, 2016. Snowden supporters express their excitement on Twitter about the movie release because they feel like #citizenfour was not enough to present Snowden as the “good guy” As a matter of fact, one of the most popular hashtag associated with #snowden is now #oliverstone, the name of the film producer. Supporters have been tweeting about Stone urging President Obama to pardon Snowden. Some news reporters have also share thought from the movie leading actor saying that:
While Snowden supporters are encouraging users to watch the movie Snowden, others are discouraging it arguing that Snowden the country security endangered the country security, and thus should not be seen as a hero. It is important to mention that Snowden was not only popular in 2016 for the movie release. He also leaked actual Democrate candidate Hilary Clinton emails in 2013 as well, but users that are very concern about politics are bringing it back again with the Hashtags #hilaryclinton, #hilary, #snowden as shown in the examples below:
As demonstrated by these tweets, Snowden supporters estimate that it is unfair for Snowden to be prosecuted while Clinton is still allowed to be the candidate. Also, the Republican candidate Donald Trump claims that Snowden should be assassinated, and now, there is a war of tweets like these between republicans and democrats:
Overall, it seems like #snowden, which was first used on Twitter in 2013 to express different opinions on an individual and a governmental system, but now it is used in a more political context such as the coming elections. With only a simple search on twitter with the hashtag #snowden, millions of tweets from these past three years would give a summary of the Snowden’s story to any user. It seems like #snowden will still be popular for a while on twitter because #snowden is not only used by US citizens, but also by Russian and German supporters who wants to see Snowden free.