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All the Presidents’ Tweets: How Russians and Ukrainians Talk About Their Leaders

Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

The political and social turmoil caused by the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, Russia's annexation of Crimea, and the ongoing conflict between the two countries in Eastern Ukraine have kept the two states in world news headlines. Social media users in both countries have provided an ongoing stream of opinions, forecasts, and stories, many of which RuNet Echo has reported on extensively.

The motivation for this project stems from the observed increase in the use of social media as a tool for political debate and discussion in both Ukraine and Russia, which became evident during the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, and has been a regular feature of the prolonged Russian-Ukrainian conflict. We are interested in learning more about the kinds of discussions people have, the kinds of content they post about political issues, and the nature of the content that “goes viral.” We are also curious about the extent to which the Twittersphere reflects the daily news agenda and the key political events during an overall state of political turmoil.

This research builds on the large amount of tweets from opinionated Twitter users in Ukraine and Russia, and harnesses the power of big-data analysis and information visualization to shed light on what Internet users think about their political leaders.

We want to investigate how Russian and Ukrainian Twitter users talk about their presidents—Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko. Which one do they talk about more? What do they say and in what context? What images and multimedia do users associate with these prominent politicians?

To find answers to these and some other questions, we've been collecting tweets since October 2014, and now have a corpus of over six million tweets mentioning Putin or Poroshenko in English, Russian, and Ukrainian—data that can reveal insights about the public discourse around these two men.

We expect these conversations on Twitter to show how users frame the political situation and their leaders’ decisions in a broad sense, as well as to demonstrate emotional perceptions of both politicians and their actions.

Twitter, in particular, is a medium through which videos, photographs, and links to Web content are shared, re-shared, and discussed in a multitude of ways, so it gives us rich content with which to work. The 140 characters of a tweet’s text makes up only a small portion (about 2%) of the data for each tweet. There are also links to embedded media (photos and videos), links to the Web, the sender's number of followers, “geotag” locations, and so on. This wealth of metadata, coupled with the tweet’s content, provides a significant amount of information to explore and visualize.

The data gathering, analysis, and reporting, conducted by Tetyana Lokot, RuNet Echo's contributing editor, Lawrence Alexander, a data scientist and regular RuNet Echo contributor, and Ed Summers, Lead Developer at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, will result in a series of stories, interactive data visualizations, and multimedia content. These pieces, highlighting different aspects of the dataset and interesting findings, will be published on RuNet Echo throughout 2015.

We hope you join us as we delve into the collective mind of Russian/Ukrainian Twitter users to find out how they talk about their presidents, their politics, and the events of the last year.

RuNet Echo's stories about the ‘presidential’ Twitter dataset from Ukraine and Russia

What we do: Global Voices reporters cover how citizens use the Internet and social media to make their voices heard, often translating from and to different languages.

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