CTV News | Federal Election 2019
Truth Tracker: How does anti-Scheer sentiment stack up against anti-Trudeau talk online?
TORONTO -- Hashtags spreading negative sentiment about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau outweighed those criticizing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer during the election campaign and research suggests that could be thanks to right-wing influence campaigns.
Researcher Marc Owen Jones compared negative Twitter campaigns targeting Trudeau and Scheer from mid-July to Oct. 15 using a tool called Trendogate, which tracks the history of Twitter trends.
The analysis included the most popular hashtags targeting Trudeau, including #TrudeauMustGo, #TrudeauBlackFace, and #TrudeauMustGoToJail, and those targeting Scheer, including #ScheerDisaster, #ScheerHypocrisy, #NeverScheer, and #ScheerCuts.
Jones found that negative hashtags related to Trudeau trended 158 times, compared to 102 times for anti-Scheer hashtags.
The most popular hashtag, #TrudeauMustGo, registered around 140 times, but the most popular anti-Scheer hashtag, #ScheerDisaster, only trended around 46 times.
“It seems that anti-Trudeau Twitter trends are far more common than anti Scheer trends,” Jones explained in a series of tweets referencing his analysis Thursday.
“This could be because of the fact Trudeau is incumbent, and thus possibly more likely to attract criticism, but given what we've seen it is probably due to various right-wing influence campaigns.”
CTVNews.ca asked Jones to look into the trends surrounding anti-Trudeau and anti-Scheer sentiment after reporting on his initial analysis showing evidence of bot-like activity on the #TrudeauMustGo hashtag. Those findings revealed that 15 per cent of accounts using the hashtag between Sept. 3 and 5 were ones that primarily identified with U.S. right-wing politics.
This week Jones updated his analysis using a sample of over 100,000 tweets, retweets, mentions and replies, producing a sample of 12,000 unique accounts that actively tweet using #TrudeauMustGo.
Once again, he found the most commonly occurring word used in the biographies of those accounts was “Make American Great Again” (MAGA).
“Indeed, MAGA appeared around 1,200 times, approximately in 10 per cent of all accounts in the sample -- 12 per cent when we don't count accounts with no biographical data. That's a huge chunk,” Jones explained.
“If we aggregate all those biographies that contain pro-Trump content (not just MAGA but other right-wing keywords such as 'KAG', 'Trump', 'Qanon' etc.) then the number climbs to 2,000, or around one fifth of all accounts.”
Stuart Shulman, founder and CEO of Twitter analytics software firm DiscoverText, has also found evidence of right-wing bot-like accounts operating under the #TrudeauMustGo hashtag.
Twitter has downplayed concerns of bot-like or inauthentic activity from U.S.-focused right-wing accounts on anti-Trudeau hashtags, telling CTVNews.ca that there has been no evidence of “substantial” activity amplifying the hashtag.
According to Jones’ comparison of anti-Trudeau and Scheer hashtags, negative campaigning about Trudeau began in July, but hashtags targeting Scheer didn’t gain traction until Sept. 14, after the election had been called.
The analysis also showed trends in terms of location. For example, anti-Trudeau hashtags trended in Edmonton 48 times, compared to 10 times for anti-Scheer hashtags.