Research firm Echelon Insights charted what Americans talked about on Twitter:
Here's a recap of six of the major events of the past year, based on Echelon Insights' chart:
- The Michael Brown shooting: According to Twitter mentions, the August 9 shooting of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, was by far the year's biggest news event. After three months, a grand jury in Missouri decided not to indict Darren Wilson, then a Ferguson police officer, for the shooting. The shooting and the grand jury's decision led to a wave of protests around the country against what many view as racial disparities in the criminal justice system, further bolstered by another grand jury's decision not to indict the New York City police officer who killed Eric Garner, who was also unarmed at the time of this death.
- Midterm elections: The 2014 elections led to sweeping victories for Republicans in federal and state legislatures. But ballot measures produced a series of victories for liberals as well: four states hiked their minimum wages, voters in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, approved marijuana legalization, North Dakota and Colorado voters rejected new restrictions on abortions, and Washington state voters approved a new gun control measure.
- The 2014 Ebola outbreak: This year produced the worst outbreak of Ebola in history, so far leading to nearly 5,000 more deaths than all previous outbreaks combined. But the epidemic has been mostly contained to West Africa, with a handful of cases slipping to the US and Europe.
- Sony got hacked: Hackers in late November took a massive trove of private files from Sony Pictures Entertainment, a major Hollywood movie studio. The US government connected the cyber attack to North Korea — allegedly because the dictatorship wanted to stop the release of The Interview, a movie in which two journalists assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sony originally pulled the movie from the market but later allowed some theaters to carry it and approved its digital release, to some success.
- President Barack Obama loosened the embargo on Cuba: The US and Cuba on December 17 announced a historic deal in which they both agreed to normalize relations — or, essentially, become friends. For both countries, the loosened restrictions represent a massive shift in diplomatic ties more than 50 years after the US imposed an embargo on the small communist country.
- Obamacare's birth control mandate fell in court: The Supreme Court on June 30 ruled that Obamacare's birth control mandate, which required companies to provide birth control coverage for workers, violated religious freedoms. The decision allows "closely-held" corporations, in which five or fewer people own the majority of the business, to opt out of the mandate if they have a sincere religious objection to birth control. The Obama administration followed the ruling with a regulation that requires employers notify workers if they don't cover birth control.