From “What” to “How”: A Twitter Discussion Analysis

 

On Nov. 5, 2017, after the resignation of Prime Minister Saad el Hariri on TV from KSA, the trending hashtag in Lebanon was #استقالة_سعد_الحريري (the resignation of Saad Hariri). The discussion on Twitter was revolving around the “What” happened.

The day after, the discussion, on the contrary, was focused on the “How” it happened, mainly a new hashtag #الاقامة_الجبرية or “house arrest” (forced residence).

This shift in perspective is quite interesting from a political point of view because it automatically negates the effects and reasons for the resignation, and even the resignation itself.

We ask ourselves how did this really happen on Twitter? Based on a sample of 6,867 tweets all containing the “house arrest” hashtag, we conclude the following:

  • The hashtag was initially launched by ArabTimes and MBNsaudi pertaining to the arrest of several princes in KSA, not including Saad Hariri
  • The hashtag was reetweeted and “owned” by Wiam Wahab who added Saad Hariri to the list of the arrested people
  • In our sample, 270 people mentioned, retweeted or commented on this post.
  • An interesting trending Tweet (161 engagements) is the one launched by Charbel Khalil, asking Saad Hariri to take a selfie anywhere outside his residence in KSA to prove he’s not detained.

 

Conference of Diya Obeid, CEO of JobDiva

It was a great pleasure for me and the Master in Human Resources and Leadership to welcome Mr. Diya Obeid, CEO of JobDiva for a lecture about HR technology in the age of big data.

Mr. Diya Obeid is the founder of both JobDiva and Axelon, two staffing and recruitment companies headquartered in NY city.

Mr. Obeid is a holder of several patents in technology, job search and job matching.

During his lecture, he talked about the evolution of jobs and how lay-offs were hurtful to a company’s image less than a century ago. He said that staffing is trending again in the gig economy. Staffing was in fact the way jobs used to be before the full-time employment scheme. Today, in the US, 5 to 15% of employment contracts are done through staffing.

Technology helps match the right person to the right job at the right time. While technology is not 100% perfect, he says that he considers a system efficient is the margin of errors is less than 5%.

Mr. Obeid described the landscape of technologies and tools related to recruitment, job search and staffing. He talked about the criteria to select the right software for your company. Basically, avoid taking the CIO with you (you don’t bring your mechanic with you to buy a new car), choose a system that is configurable and not customizable, and use a cloud based solution.

He concluded that tomorrow’s jobs are for the “right-brainers”. There will always be jobs for technicians but companies will look for people with social skills: philosophy, psychology, sociology, etc., because these skills will become indispensable, even for those who choose a technical career.

 

 

This is a link to the PowerPoint file of the presentation

Who’s leading the #لبنانيون_ضد_حزبالله discussion?

A new trending hashtag, #لبنانيون_ضد_حزبالله has emerged in the past few days, following the televised resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Lebanon and the start of the Lebanese-KSA crisis.

 

We briefly analyze the “Lebanese against Hezbollah” hashtag to better understand its origin and its propagation on Twitter.

 

Our sample of 117 tweets is extracted on Nov. 12, 2017 from Twitter using NodeXL and Twitter’s search API.

Fragmented Clusters

The structure looks like a set of fragmented clusters led by a broadcast leader. There is no real discussion about the subject. One tweet is launched and a group of followers is retweeting back. This does not seem like a genuine discussion, more like an “engineered” one.

 

With this shape of network, it is very unlikely that this would be a trending hashtag or that it will last for more than a couple of days.

Overwhelming Presence of Saudi Accounts

Given the timing of the launch of the hashtag, we wonder who has initiated it.

 

In the chart below, vertices are labeled based on their country of origin (COO) – vertices with a “zero” label do not have a country set in their profile.

Based on the above and on the pivot table generated (below), it looks like the “lebanese against Hezbollah” hashtag was mostly generated and distributed by KSA residents or citizen (25%) and not by Lebanese residents or citizen (less than 1%).

 

There is a margin of error to take into consideration (58% of the sample without a specified country). However, the overwhelming presence of declared Saudi residents/citizen against Lebanese residents/citizen in the sample, is significant enough.

 

COO Count of Country
Azerbaijan 1
Egypt 1
Indonesia 1
Iraq 2
KSA 27
Kuwait 3
Kyrgyzstan 1
Lebanon 1
N/A 61
Oman 1
Qatar 1
Romania 1
Sweden 1
Turkey 1
UAE 1
UK 1
USA 1
Grand Total 106

 

Mayors and Diffusers of the Discussion

The chart below shows the mayors of the discussion with their respective weight (in-degree):

 

A Time-Based Animation of the Discussion

 

One Year of Presidency in Lebanon – A Twitter Discussion Analysis

The Sample

The following analysis is based on a sample of 11,919 tweets extracted using Twitter’s API. The search term for this sample is  #سنة_من_عمر_وطن  which is the  “one year from a country’s life” hashtag launched by the President’s movement(s). Twitter’s Search API is focused on relevance and not completeness. This means that some Tweets and users may be missing from search results. Unfortunately, it is not easy to determine the total number of tweets for this hashtag. However, we can roughly estimate this number to be between 20 to 30% of the total number of tweets for this hashtag.

 

Tweets have been grouped by cluster using the Clauset-Newman-Moore algorithm using NodeXL.

Almost Complete Absence of the March 14 Component

The most noticeable aspect of the discussion is the almost total absence of politicians of March 14. Saad Hariri was mentioned by some users but did not tweet himself (as least in our representative sample). Samir Geagea and Walid Joumblatt did not appear in the sample.

 

In fact, we double-checked Samir Geagea’s profile, and it looks like he never tweeted regarding the end of the first year of the presidency.

 

Only a very small group of people (9 users in our sample) attacked the regime and its relation with Hezbollah. Two other groups of 20 users (total) sarcastically commented on the President’s answers to the journalists.

 

The logical explanation for this behavior is the extreme polarization of the Lebanese society. In such cases of strong polarization, people from politically competing groups don’t use the same hashtags or join the discussion. This explains their almost total absence.

 

The Overwhelming Joy of Followers

The hashtag was launched by the pro-President movement. It is therefore logical to have an overwhelming presence of pro-President users tweeting and using the hashtag.

 

Pro-President users are not however a tight crowd, i.e. a close community. The largest group of tweeters is 493 users tweeting 2056 times. This group does not include a notable politician, not even the President.

 

A dismantled community

The fact that the largest pro-Aounists group of tweeters is leaderless could be interpreted as a symptom of leadership crisis.

 

This is also shown in the  way pro-President groups are divided:

  • A leaderless group (493 users, 2056 tweets)
  • A President-Bassil-Kanaan-Jamil el Sayyed group (96 users, 269 tweets)
  • The official account for the Presidency (77 users, 125 tweets)
  • An Alain Aoun group (57 users, 69 tweets)

While many bridges connect the Kanaan-Bassil-Sayyed group (Kanaan being the most retweeted) to the main group of fans, the connections between this group and the Alain Aoun group are almost non-existant (5 in total).

 

Part of the Pro-President group is discussing with the Kanaan group (224 incoming connections and 142 outgoing connections) while other users from this group are discussing with Alain Aoun (52 connections and 35 outgoing connections). An explanation would be that, while the President’s fans are all happy with the “successes” of the first year of presidency, they look divided in terms of affiliation.

Hezbollah’s Support

It is rare not to see Hezbollah’s fans join political discussions on Twitter. In the case of the presidency’s hashtag, we notice some very strong support from Hezbollah’s users with tweets about the alliance between President Aoun and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

 

The Importance of the Role of Mr. Gebran Bassil

While the discussion was primarily centered around the presidency, it is important to mention that a discussion about the positive role (as a supporter of the Hezbollah) and another one about the negative role of Gebran Bassil (corruption) was taking place.

 

Even though only a few users discussed the role of Mr. Gebran Bassil, this shows that he is a major concern (positive or negative) to many citizen.

 

Suleiman Frangieh Supporters

Finally, the most important aspect of the debate is probably the fact that the second largest clique in the discussion is a group with several discussion “mayors”, the most important two being Suleiman Frangieh supporters, Sleiman Frangieh (note that this is a different Suleiman Frangieh – @avsl_frangieh) and Georges Bou Nassif (@georgesbnassif). These users challenge the so called “success” by asking “which country are you talking about?”

Independents and Journalists, like Mariam al Bassam (New TV) and Yazbeck Wehbé (LBC), are also part of the debate against the “happy ones”.

The absence or at least very small involvement of people from the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb is noticeable.

 

As a result, we suggest that the real skirmish today is between the President’s supporters and Mr. Suleiman Frangieh’s supporters, while other Christians and ex-14 March groups are taking a distant neutral and silent stance from the joy or the frustrations of the first year of Presidency.