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Journal article

This study aimed to highlight the threats that use of social media poses to valuing diverse voices and different kinds of expertise about disability in public debates by exploring how disability advocates responded on social media to the evidence presented by researchers to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

Data were collected from the social media platform Twitter during the first week of Public Hearing 3 of the Royal Commission in December 2019. Tweets by 48 individuals and 27 representatives of advocacy groups who were not described as academic researchers in their Twitter profile were collected, anonymised, and coded using template analysis techniques.

Findings showed that social media commentators were critical of the presence and participation of researchers in the Commission hearings and questioned the legitimacy of their research methods and findings. These commentators stated that researchers should not speak “for” or “about” people with disabilities and rejected evidence that did not resonate with their own individual experience. For the Commission to deliver meaningful recommendations to improve the disability sector, disability policy and the lives of people with disabilities, it is important to value both stories of lived experience and rigorous research evidence. Public discourse that undermines the relationships between researchers and disability self-advocates and advocates may be unhelpful for future collaboration on the development of better policy and practice.

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