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April 27, 2019

Who pushed debate on presidential form of govt on social media

Top Story

April 27, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The debate about presidential form of government in Pakistan has created a stir on conventional as well as social media during last few days. However, the network analysis of this trend on social media has revealed that it was not a genuine debate originated in general public but a propagandist opinion-making effort promoted allegedly by social media team of ruling PTI.

Talking to The News, PTI’s central Secretary Information Umar Sarfraz Cheema said as a party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf has not endorsed or supported the social media campaign on presidential form of government.

“If someone in his individual capacity is promoting this campaign on social media then PTI is not responsible for it. In a democratic regime we believe we can talk about any form of the government in Pakistan but as a party we haven’t announced any such policy or initiated any discussion about presidential form of government on social media. You can see our official social media team has not contributed to any such debate or discussion. Our social media team hasidentified some individuals and disassociated itself from them who were involved in trolling. Recently we have clarified about an individual that he has no link with PTI’s official social media team,” commented the PTI secretary information.

Rizwan Saeed — a cultural anthropologist specialising in online big data who is currently studying at Australian National University Canberra has carried out network analysis of social media website Twitter trend #Baqa_e_Pakistan_Sadarti_Nizam to ascertain whether it was a genuine debate or a planted campaign for opinion-making.

According to Rizwan, “Twitter data analysis of #Baqa_e_Pakistan_Sadarti_Nizam reveals that PTI supporters are aggressively campaigning on social media to make public opinion in favour of presidential form of government. Among top ten, the most active people on Twitter in tweeting and re-tweeting in support of presidential system, nine acclaim their affiliation with PTI. More surprisingly, five out of 10 Twitter accounts were started during last six months”.

“Network analysis of active contributors to #Baqa_e_Pakistan_Sadarti_Nizam shows a strong connection among the most active people. This gives an impression of alleged plan initiative to support a particular form of government, rather than a genuine debate originated in general public.

He said these findings are based on a sample taken on April 18, 2019. The sample includes 6294 Twitter handles with 16,395 ties (a tie is established between two Twitter users when anyone mentions, replies or re-tweets).

“To determine whether any debate on social media or a trend on Twitter is genuine or a planted opinion-making effort you have to see whether a specific network is taking part in this debate or multiple people from diverse background are contributing in this trend. You will find maximum interactions including replies in a genuine debate. But if it is a planted campaign then the ratio of re-tweets will be much higher than the interaction. The ratio of re-tweets in #Baqa_e_Pakistan_Sadarti_Nizam is much higher (more than 90 percent). This shows that the trend was catalysed to promote a specific propaganda,” he said.

These are the top 10 Twitter users who were involved in promoting the trend on social media about presidential form of government in Pakistan. @EbnePakistan01 created his Twitter account on February 10, 2019 and has 26k+ numbers of tweets. He claims to be from the PTI. This Twitter account @KhanSilachi1 was created on September 6, 2018 and has 51K+ tweets. This account also claims to be from PTI social media team. Similarly, @Z33SHAN_5 was created August 15, 2017 and has 44K+ tweets. This account is also from PTI. The Twitter @JameelU28771356 was created on September 16, 2018 has 29k+ tweets. The Twitter account @HaniaImaanPTI was created on November 5, 2017 has 69K+ tweets. The account also belongs to PTI. Similarly, @elixir9 was created on September 12, 2011. It has 260k+ tweets and also belongs to PTI social media team. Another Twitter account @Shahnawaz09921 was created on November 2, 2018 has 10k+ tweets and belongs to PTI social media team. The Twitter account @SafdarS30101257 was created on November 29, 2017. It has 10k+ tweets and also belongs to PTI social media team. This account @AbuWassay_ was created on January 30, 2019 has 17k+ tweets and belongs to PTI. Similarly, @AliAbdulNabi7 was created on July 8, 2017. It has 11k+ tweets and also belongs to PTI.

The above picture is top 40 Twitterati who contributed in promoting the trend on social media for presidential form of government. Pink lines indicate retweets, green indicate mention and orange is indication of “reply mention”. “Reply mention” and “reply” tie on twitter show presence of conversations taking place in Twitter. A group of people propagated #Baqa_e_Pakistan_Sadarti_Nizam, rest of members re-tweeted the hashtag to create hype on Twitter. Main red circles on border of network depict the most active Twitterati, who happened to be PTI social media team members. On Twitter, “mention” is being actively used by propagandists to catalyse trend of a hashtag.

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