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Dynamics of a Scandal: The Centrelink Robodebt Affair on Twitter

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Paper by Axel Bruns, Brenda Moon, and Ehsan Dehghan, presented at the ANZCA 2017 conference, Sydney, 5-7 July 2017.

Published in: Social Media
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Dynamics of a Scandal: The Centrelink Robodebt Affair on Twitter

  1. 1. Dynamics of a Scandal: The Centrelink Robodebt Affair on Twitter Axel Bruns, Brenda Moon, and Ehsan Dehghan Digital Media Research Centre Queensland University of Technology a.bruns / brenda.moon / e.dehghan @ qut.edu.au
  2. 2. http://www2.qut.edu.au/jobs/cbpcif/ https://tinyurl.com/qut-soc-lecturer
  3. 3. #notmydebt
  4. 4. #notmydebt • Data gathering: – TrISMA: comprehensive, continuous tracking of public tweets by ~3.7m Australian accounts – Filtered for notmydebt, robodebt, Centrelink, Centerlink, Tudge  ~407,000 tweets identified – Adding tweets replied to by / replying to these tweets  ~440,000 tweets total – Identification of accounts posting, accounts @mentioned/retweeted, hashtags used, URLs shared
  5. 5. Overall Volume debt notices sent media reports Centrelink leaks critic’s data AFP / others investigate Senate debatewhistleblower Tudge response 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13Periods: Brandis on Q&A
  6. 6. Observations • Two main periods: – Discussion of debt notice problems – Discussion of Centrelink leaks  Leaks reignite controversy, shift to (party-) political space
  7. 7. Hashtags as Framing Devices
  8. 8. Hashtags as Framing Devices
  9. 9. Observations • Two main periods: – Discussion of debt notice problems – Discussion of Centrelink leaks  Leaks reignite controversy, shift from administrative to (party-) political space • Role of hashtags: – #notmydebt established very quickly as rallying point for criticism – #robodebt gradually growing as discussion shifts to party-political struggle  Successful framing of issue as administrative malpractice, widely accepted
  10. 10. Who Tweets, and How?
  11. 11. Where in the Network? 4m known Australian accounts Network of follower connections Filtered for degree ≥1000 255k nodes (6.4%), 61m edges Edges not shown in graph Progressive Politics Hard Right Politics News
  12. 12. Who Is Central to the Discussion?
  13. 13. Curating the Debate: Asher Wolf
  14. 14. Observations • Two main periods: – Discussion of debt notice problems – Discussion of Centrelink leaks  Leaks reignite controversy, shift from administrative to (party-) political space • Role of hashtags: – #notmydebt established very quickly as rallying point for criticism – #robodebt gradually growing as discussion shifts to party-political struggle  Successful framing of issue as administrative malpractice, widely accepted • Key participants: – Centrelink, Tudge, Porter, Turnbull refrain from engagement on Twitter – Progressives prominent, but bipartisan disapproval of debt recovery measures – Asher Wolf as central curator of news and information, as well as campaigner  Comparable to Andy Carvin during Arab Spring (but more partisan)?
  15. 15. Automated Content Analysis • Data processing: – 13 key periods of heightened activity identified – Retweets excluded to avoid dominance of widely retweeted singletons – Hashtags, @mentions, URLs removed from tweets in each period – Log-likelihood ‘keyness’ score calculated for each word in each period corpus  high keyness scores indicate unusually frequently occurring terms • Analysis: – Selection of 25 terms with highest average keyness over the 13 periods – Shown in descending order by overall frequency across the 13 periods – Keyness of each word in each period shown
  16. 16. The Impact of Brandis and Tudge Centrelink leaks AFP / ombudsman investigateBrandis Q&A
  17. 17. Observations • Two main periods: – Discussion of debt notice problems – Discussion of Centrelink leaks  Leaks reignite controversy, shift from administrative to (party-) political space • Role of hashtags: – #notmydebt established very quickly as rallying point for criticism – #robodebt gradually growing as discussion shifts to party-political struggle  Successful framing of issue as administrative malpractice, widely accepted • Key participants: – Centrelink, Tudge, Porter, Turnbull refrain from engagement on Twitter – Progressives prominent, but bipartisan disapproval of debt recovery measures – Asher Wolf as central curator of news and information, as well as campaigner  Comparable to Andy Carvin during Arab Spring (but more partisan)? • Government’s media management: – Brandis Q&A appearance a minor diversion – Strategic leaking reignites Twitter debate, invites focus on Tudge’s role  Far too late in the story to intimidate critics
  18. 18. http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ @snurb_dot_info @brendam @EssiDeh @socialmediaQUT – http://socialmedia.qut.edu.au/ @qutdmrc – https://www.qut.edu.au/research/dmrc This research is funded by the Australian Research Council through Future Fellowship and LIEF grants FT130100703 and LE140100148.

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