This newsletter is published at techpolicy.substack.com

An excerpt from Edition 20 is reproduced below.

Of Farmers, CBI, Love and other drugs

Farmers and CBI Unfolding

Note: This section contains a lot of images. So if you have image rendering blocked in your mail client (I do!), then I would recommend clicking through and viewing it in a browser. I’ve also tried to use vertical image where possible because, apparently, I only just realised that people read email on their mobiles 🤦‍♂️

Ok, let’s dive in. For this edition, I was determined to look at compare behaviour across trends that were engaging in competing, or at least, unrelated narratives. So as I was getting started, the hashtag CBIUnfoldSSRMystery was trending among the top 3, and another hashtag IStandWithIndianFarmers was just breaking in with around 35K tweets.

Starting with the CBIUnfoldSSRMystery hashtag first.

  • I extracted around 40K tweets, which was around a quarter of the tweets associated with it as per Twitter.
  • Around 11000 unique tweets.
  • ~ 7000 accounts participated.

First, I looked at a distribution of tweets by time (in UTC). As you can see, it is pretty consistent, which is not too surprising since I caught it around what was probably its peak.

Second, I looked at the relative popularity of the tweets. If you’re a regular reader, then that pattern will look familiar. These included calls to move the focus from drugs back to ‘only SSR’, not to forget since that’s what the ‘culprits are waiting for’, claims about CBI FIRs, questions about the Maharashtra Government.

Then, I looked at the distribution of tweets (including retweets) by account creation month.

  • All Accounts: ~45% of the tweets were from accounts created in Jul, Aug and Sep 2020.

  • 1% most active accounts: ~60% from accounts created in Jul, Aug and Sep 2020.

  • 10%, 25% and 66% most active accounts: ~45 – 50% from accounts created Jul-Sep 2020.

  • I also find it helpful to look at this after excluding the 10% most active accounts. ~40% still were from accounts created in the last 3 months.

I also generated a cloud of hashtags that were used alongside CBIUnfoldSSRMystery. There were references to Jiah Khan, a ‘cleanup’ and ‘drugsfreeindia’.

9 of the top 10 accounts either had display pictures of Sushant Singh Rajput or mentioned him in their account descriptions (2 of these were created before 2020). For now, let’s focus on the top 5. These are all recently created accounts. Hashtag activity (based on the sampled tweets) indicate a lot of activity around the SSR case. Most of them mainly RT other content. And activity ranged from ~150 tweets/day to over 1000.

Now, let’s repeat this with the IStandWithIndianFarmers hashtag and see what similarities or differences we find.

  • I extracted around 37K tweets against the 40K I tried. That’s probably all there were at the time.
  • Around 8200 unique tweets.
  • ~ 12K accounts participated.

Looking at the time distribution, you can probably see the exact moment where it took off.

Looking at the most RT-ed tweets. The most popular tweet was the same one that led to the trend taking off around 12:10 PM on 24th September.

Now, to the distribution of tweets (including retweets) by account creation month. And let’s use the same yardstick as the previous hashtag.

  • All Tweets: ~22% of tweets from accounts created in Jul, Aug and Sep. Note though, that the relative position of Sep has reversed.

  • 1% of most active accounts: 31% of tweets from accounts created in Jul-Sep 2020. Again, to note that September accounted for a bulk of these.

  • 10%, 25% and 66% of the most active accounts: In all three cases, the combination of Jul-Sep accounts hovered at around 24%. Same situation with September.

  • When excluding the 10% most active accounts, the share of Jul-Sep accounts dropped to 18%. Most of this reduction was due to September accounts.

Over in the hashtag cloud, you can see references to CBIUnfoldSSRMystery, Deepika and NCB. I thought it was strange so I looked into those. Turns out, it was “mainly” content pointing to the likelihood of a distraction. There was disparaging content too.

Then, when I looked at the most active accounts. In the top 10, 2 of the accounts were from the Jul-Sep group. Others ranged from creation in dates in 2012 to 2019.

A word of caution here when looking at recent v/s overall tweets/day stats (something, I should have pointed out in previous editions to be honest), since it is an average, the overall number may skew lower due to periods of inactivity, low activity being bundled in. In general though, the related hashtag sections show activity mainly centered around one/two topics. The tweet composition varies a bit from the previous group with original tweets, quote tweets or replies in the mix – in most cases. Daily activity was in the 300 – 750 tweets/day range.