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Wednesday 23 August 2017
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Labour Party dominating Twitter discussions.

Content about Labour is dominating Twitter in the run-up to the general election, according to a new study from the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute.

The researchers, who have been tracking the changes in activity over time, looked at traffic on Twitter over the final week of May to identify trends around political engagement, ultimately cataloguing almost 2.5m tweets spread over a number of election-related hashtags.

They found that the number of posts using Labour-related hashtags dwarfed those featuring content about other parties, ultimately making up 62% of all tweets mentioning a specific party. This was up from 40% at the start of the month. Labour support spiked highest during the debate programmes that occurred during that week: the back-to-back Q&A with May and Corbyn on 28 May, the general election debate on 31 May that the Prime Minister declined to attend, and Question Time on 2 June featuring the two leaders.

The number of tweets on hashtags about each of the major parties over the final full week of the general election.
The number of tweets on hashtags about each of the major parties over the final full week of the general election. Photograph: Oxford Internet Institute

But the amount of “high-frequency tweeting” also increased in the same period, with more than 100,000 tweets sent from accounts that posted more than 50 times a day on just one party-specific hashtag. Such rapid rates of posting on such a narrow stream of tweets indicates automation, the authors say, although it may simply be a case of a user manually attempting to flood the service with their comments.

The new report follows on from a research memo that looked at traffic in the first week of May and found that Labour dominated the conversation on Twitter, in part due to almost 200 seemingly automated accounts sending over 20,000 tweets between them.

That memo, first reported by the Guardian, led to some papers claiming that Labour’s election campaign was “boosted by fake twitter accounts”. But in the new report the Oxford team points out that Labour and Conservative hashtags saw similar proportions of automation – and that many accounts were active on both at once.

“There was a large overlap between accounts that tweeted using Labour-related hashtags and accounts that tweeted using Conservative-related hashtags,” the authors write. “In total our analysis showed that 522 highly automated accounts were active using both Labour-related hashtags and Conservative-related hashtags.”

The researchers also found that the proportion of quality news articles shared on Twitter has steadily grown as the election has continued. While the first week of May saw professional news sources amount for 43% of links to content, that figure has risen to 49%, mostly at the expense of links to other social media platforms. The proportion of links that go to “junk news” – misleading, deceptive or incorrect information purporting to be real news – has also decreased slightly from 12.6% to 11.4%.

The researchers also looked at page views on Wikipedia for articles about the two party leaders, and found that the page about Jeremy Corbyn has been slowly gaining more readers than the page about Theresa May. “In the first week of campaigning many more people looked up Theresa May than looked up Jeremy Corbyn, and the readership for pages about the Labour and Conservative parties was about the same size,” the researchers say. However, “in the final week of campaigning the Wikipedia entries on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party were receiving the most page views.”

They argue that the volume of search queries and the traffic to articles on Wikipedia are good predictors of voters’ behaviour, particularly swing voters.

 




2 thoughts on “Labour Party dominating Twitter discussions.

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