, 20 tweets, 6 min read
[#Thread] To all those interested in [Arabic] Twitter, I have done an analysis of verified Twitter accounts in the Middle East (however broadly we interpret that term). I was mostly interested in majority Arabic speaking countries. #digitalhumanities
2/ Firstly special thanks to my RA @imaaaan_1 who collated the data. Methodologically, I was inspired by @luca who did a great post on verified users here > medium.com/startup-grind/… My aim was to focus in on specific Arabic-speaking countries, not all users :)
@imaaaan_1 @luca 3/ A note: I think verified users are important. Verification is increasingly used as a sign of credibility and legitimacy. Many people even pay for verified accounts. Whether we like it or not, Twitter as a social media company now has the ability to bestow upon users social
4/ capital. Whether we want to call this digital legitimacy or or social media power or something entirely different is a separate debate. However, social media companies have now entered the foray as institutions that function as arbiters of whose voice is privileged. #Twitter
5/ From the realm of International Relations, seeing which countries are 'privileged' in this regard is important in determining which countries can dominate the information sphere -at least from a Twitter perspective. As Arabic is spoken in so many countries, this is even more
6/ interesting it transcends state boundaries. Additionally, the political system of a country may influence that content. For example authoritarian states with much media censorship are likely to have a limited Twittersphere, full of propaganda or state PR - with ppl
7/ Intimidated from sharing their thoughts and opinions. Hypothetically, that state's information operation would not be constrained by national boundaries, but be free to spread across the internet and social media. So yes, moving on...
8/ Firstly I downloaded all Twitter verified users back in January, which was over 335k at the time of writing, and not much more now as Twitter suspended their public verification program. I then filtered out any account with no user location, and all-non Middle East-related
9/ accounts. This left me with around 9635 accounts give or take several. I then performed various levels of analysis to see which countries had the most 'social media power'. The results were very interesting!
10/ As you can see from the map, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of verified accounts, with 2,796. That's around 30%! A third! (Turkey is second, I know it's not an Arabic-speaking country- like Iran- but twas curious). UAE is third with 1,085, Egypt 4th with 869.
11/ Saudi is believed to have the highest Twitter population in the Middle East, which in some ways explains the high numbers (although such figures are unreliable). While UAE has a high Twitter population its actually population is relatively small, which makes it interesting
12/ It could be because Twitter MENA is based in the UAE and lots of media/lifestlye entertainment companies are based there. We could in theory control these numbers for prevalence among Twitter users and see where the highest density lies but maybe I'll do that another time.
13/ A treemap with a crude thematic analysis shows the number of accounts that are broadly affiliated with certain topics, i.e. lifestyle, politics, sports etc. Lifestyle, politics and sports are big. In a post truth world, I'd personally like to see more academics there :)
14/ Below you can see verification dying out. The graph is organized by Twitter account creation date with colours representing countries. Verification peaked between August 2009 and July 2012. It has slowly petered out as Twitter have decided to suspend public verification
15/ Call me crazy but I still find the lack of verification alarming. Anyhoo, I did a crude measure of social media power & influence by drawing a plot of which countries verified accounts produced the most tweets and had the most followers. Unsurprisingly, Saudi are crushing it
16/ They have around 360 million followers and 39 million tweets. Given the Arabic speaking population of the world is around 420 million that's a big old chunk....Almost tooo big.
17/ Where city data was available we plugged that in. Riyadh is in first place, which I guess is not surprising at this point. Dubai is in second, with Cairo in third, and Doha in Fourth. You can browse the rest of the visualizations yourself.
18/ So there you have it. If we take numbers of accounts, number of followers, and numbers of statuses, as a crude measure of Arabic information dominance in the Twittersphere, then Saudi Arabia is by far and away the winner. Broadly speaking, most Arabic language content
19/ produced by verified accounts on Twitter is coming from accounts in Saudi Arabia. I find it highly alarming that an extremely authoritarian country that recently killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi should be the country that most dominates the Arabic twittersphere.
20/ Anyway, Plus ça Change - thanks for listening folks. Feel free to share, tweet, cite or engage. Peace - Marc
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