Cliquepolitik: Multimodal online discourse coalitions on CRISPR-Cas genome editing technology

Eduardo Rojas-Padilla*, Tamara Metze, Art Dewulf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The influence of visualizations on decision-making about controversial policy issues is increasingly recognized in the political and policy sciences. In this paper, we explore how combinations of visuals and text on Twitter (now X) lead to the formation of networks of actors sharing similar textual and visual framings about a policy issue in an online setting, which we conceptualize as Multimodal Online Discourse Coalitions (MODCs). MODCs struggle over the meaning of contested policy issues. We examine multiple MODCs in 2018 in the context of the regulatory decisions in that year about CRISPR-Cas gene editing technology in the USA, Mercosur, and the EU. Based on an SNA and a qualitative visual and discursive analysis in three languages on Twitter in 2018 (covering in total ~ 427 k Tweets), we show that MODCs in English and Spanish focused on technocratic aspects of CRISPR-Cas, resembling the regulatory decisions in the USA and Mercosur. In Europe, next to technocratic MODCs, an MODC in French formed around ethical/normative framings of the consequences of CRISPR-Cas applications, using visuals of embryos to represent “GMO babies.” These visuals were emotional triggers in their framing of CRISPR technology. The ethical/normative framing reflected the argument brought to the CJEU by a group of French actors involved in the court case which categorized CRISPR-Cas as a GMO technology in the EU. These results suggest that the French MODC and their visualization was of influence on the EU decision-making process; however, more research is needed to verify the role of this online debate in the decision-making process.

Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of Policy Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jan 2024


  • CRISPR-Cas
  • discourse coalition
  • genome editing
  • multimodal framing
  • online public debate
  • policy controversies
  • technological governance


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