The process of cancel culture on social media
: the case of social media influencer Elle Darby

  • Madalena Morais Afonso Henriques Lopes (Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The rapid development and popularity of social media led to the rise of social media influencers which, due to their position, are constantly under the scrutiny of the public and consequently exposed to cancel culture. Despite the lack of agreement on its specific definition, the term cancel culture has sparked heated discussions in the media, however, it is a recent phenomenon and scientific research on it is still limited. The current study aims to explore the process of cancel culture on social media, especially related to social media influencers. This was achieved through a study on influencer Elle Darby’s cancellation, who in January 2022, was under strong backlash on social media after some of her old tweets containing offensive remarks resurfaced. This research explores the process of Elle’s cancelation through a content analysis of messages collected from different social media platforms, evaluated on thirteen different categories: platform, tone of speech, theme, language, reaction, type of reaction, call for action, type of action, mention of cancel culture, reaction to apology, attacks, type of attacks, content creation and mention of withdrawal of support. But also, a discourse analysis of the statements issued by Elle addressing the scandal. The starting point of this study was a theoretical framework which served as basis throughout all the research. This study allowed the better understanding of the online behaviours of social media influencers as cancel culture targets, but also explored in detail the attitude of the public. Overall, this research contributes with a detailed analysis and exploration of a cancel culture case that besides confirming existing literature, brings new insights. Namely: unconditional fans who independently of the influencer’s actions and the backlash that may turn on them, maintain their support; users who take advantage of the scandal to criticize all influencers; and how stating the withdrawal of support is also a common cancel culture tactic amongusers.
Date of Award28 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorNelson Ribeiro (Supervisor)


  • Cancel culture
  • Call-out culture
  • Social media influencers
  • Crisis communication
  • Content analysis


  • Mestrado em Ciências da Comunicação

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