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[Thread] 1/ Just done some network analysis of the now debunked claim that a Labour activist hit Matt Hancock's advisor in the face in Leeds. The claim took off when it was repeated by the BBC's @bbclaurak and @Peston . metro.co.uk/2019/12/09/lab…
@bbclaurak @Peston 2/ Laura Kuenssberg has since apologised. I think we can say now this constitutes fake news. So let's see who is still spreading this clear lie designed to smear labour and labour activists as violent hooligans....Firstly, I downloaded tweets containing 'Hancock' AND 'punched'
@bbclaurak @Peston 3/ This resulted in about 7500 Twitter interactions involving around 5500 unique Twitter accounts. I did a quick network graph. The size of the node is how influential an account is within a network. The red nodes are verified accounts. The purple unverified. The bigger the node
@bbclaurak @Peston 4/ the more influential account. Note every node that appears has mentioned "Hancock" and "punched". That means not every node is necessarily agreeing with the news. However, if we click on the nodes as a starting point, we can see who is and is not spreading the news...
@bbclaurak @Peston 5/ Let's look at this cluster of influential verified accounts. There's @GuidoFawkes , @tomhfh @tnewtondunn and @DPJHodges . All of these accounts at some point tweeted that Hancock had been punched, all can be considered those working for conservative publications. Some such
@bbclaurak @Peston @GuidoFawkes @tomhfh @tnewtondunn @DPJHodges 6/ as @DPJHodges clarified that the punch was fake and deleted their original tweet to avoid further fake news spreading. Tom Newton Dunn, the Sun's illustrious political editor, has still not deleted the punch tweet despite adding a clarification. Highly irresponsible
@bbclaurak @Peston @GuidoFawkes @tomhfh @tnewtondunn @DPJHodges 7/ As a side note, @tnewtondunn was recently involved in writing and posting that fake news story called "LABOUR HIJACKED", a strange 'expose' on Labour's Marxist links. The piece was removed from the Sun and contained links to Neo-Nazi content theguardian.com/commentisfree/…
@bbclaurak @Peston @GuidoFawkes @tomhfh @tnewtondunn @DPJHodges 8/ Some, such as @mattzarb and @FullFact are present because they were debunking the claims. Good for them, but they have an uphill battle on their hands. Who was responsible for driving the tweets. Let's have a look (bear in mind this won't pull in deleted tweets).
@bbclaurak @Peston @GuidoFawkes @tomhfh @tnewtondunn @DPJHodges @mattzarb @FullFact 9/ If we look at the chronology of tweets, we can see that @tnewtondunn was instrumental in spreading the story. We can see he is influential in the network, but also if we look at the chronology of tweets, it was Newton Dunn's tweet that got much of the initial traction.
@bbclaurak @Peston @GuidoFawkes @tomhfh @tnewtondunn @DPJHodges @mattzarb @FullFact 10/ To add more clarity, this time series graph is interesting. The lines represent volume of retweets from specific accounts over time. I have highlighted the green line (@tnewtondunn), the brown line (@GuidoFawkes) and the yellow line (@tomhfh ). As you can see, these accounts
11/ get retweeted a lot at the beginning of the whole drama. This means they are the main influencers in spreading the fake news story. This also means the fake news story is getting more purchase before it has a chance to be debunked. This also allows us to see the following:
12/ We can also see the lag between the initial fake news story gaining traction from @tnewtondunn (green line) , and it being debunked by a relatively influential account @LKTranslator (orange line). 16.38 is when fake news picks up, 18.56 is where the counter narrative picks up
@tnewtondunn @LKTranslator 13/ That's a lag of over 2 hours in which the Hancock being punched story is spreading in some form or other. A long time, especially when some of the influencers of the story (ahem @tnewtondunn ) have not deleted their offending tweets yet.
@tnewtondunn @LKTranslator 14/ So some takeaways. Accounts like @tnewtondunn @GuidoFawkes and @tomhfh were influential in spreading the fake story. The "Hancock + punched" methodology I used is quite agnostic, so would have pulled in influential accounts that were countering the narrative. However,
15/ at the stage the data was extracted it seemed the fake news narratives were dominant from an influential perspective. Remember again this does not include accounts that deleted their tweets, so can't see the relative influence of @bbclaurak . It's responsible to delete fake
16/ news promptly but makes it more frustrating to analyse the influence of its spread :). Also, remember this is how fake news spreads on Twitter, the relative impact of this across TV news etc, Facebook remains to be seen.
17/ Anyway, thanks for following everyone, will try and do more analysis when necessary before Judgement Day on 12th. Goodnight all and good luck!
18/ Update: The initial activity for the punch story, particularly from @tomhfh & @GuidoFawkes was due to the fact they were spreading the link to a story about labour activists being taxied in. However the link contains the text 'hancock advisor punched'. Beware Fake News URLS
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