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The Use of Social Media during the 2014 Crisis In Ukraine

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Abstract:
This article examines how online groups are formed and sustained during crisis periods, especially when political polarization in society is at its highest level. We focus on the use of Vkontakte (VK), a popular social networking site in Ukraine, to understand how it was used by Pro- and Anti-Maidan groups during the 2013/2014 crisis in Ukraine. In particular, we ask whether and to what extent the ideology (or other factors) of a particular group shapes its network structure. We find some support that online social networks are likely to represent local and potentially preexisting social networks, likely due to the dominance of reciprocal (and often close) relationships on VK and opportunities for group members to meet face-to-face during offline protests. We also identify a number of group-level indicators, such as degree centralization, modularity index and average engagement level, that could help to classify groups based on their network properties. Community researchers can start applying these group-level indicators to online communities outside VK; they can also learn from this article how to identify networks of spam and marketing accounts.

Published in: Social Media

The Use of Social Media during the 2014 Crisis In Ukraine

  1. 1. THE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA DURING THE 2014 CRISIS IN UKRAINE ANATOLIYGRUZD @GRUZD Carolinas ASIST Workshop on Social Media Analysis and Its Application in Research and Practice October 19, 2015 Associate Professor, Ted Rogers School of Management Director of the Social Media Lab Ryerson University
  2. 2. Social Media Lab, Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada) @gruzd 2
  3. 3. Social Media Support Social Activism and Political Engagement #OccupyGezi Supporters in Victoria, BC From this… Photo credit: Anatoliy Gruzd In the Social Media Lab, we’re interesting in studying how social media …. @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  4. 4. Photo credit: Karl Schönswetter Social Media Help to Organize Social Movements … to this #OccupyGezi: Gezi Parki Protest, Turkey (2013) 4 In the Social Media Lab, we’re interesting in studying how social media …. @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  5. 5. Today’s focus: 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution | Revolution of Dignity 5 "2014-02-21 11-04 Euromaidan in Kiev" by Amakuha. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia @gruzd
  6. 6. Outline • Background • Review of Social Media Platforms • VK (Vkontakte) Use • Conclusions 6@gruzd
  7. 7. Today’s focus: 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution | Revolution of Dignity 7 "2014-02-21 11-04 Euromaidan in Kiev" by Amakuha. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia November 21, 2013 - Ukraine gov. suspended the trade & association agreement with EU @gruzd
  8. 8. February 18-19, 2014: Protests in Kyiv (capital) Turned Deadly 9 source: http://liveuamap.com RUSSIA UKRAINE @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  9. 9. February 18-19, 2014: Protests in Kyiv Turned Deadly 10 "Barricade line separating interior troops and protesters. Clashes in Kyiv, Ukraine. Events of February 18, 2014-2" by Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/http://www.unframe.com/ - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  10. 10. February 18-19, 2014: Protests in Kyiv Turned Deadly 11 "Euromaidan in Kiev 2014-02-19 12-06" by Amakuha. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  11. 11. February-March, 2014: Pro & Anti-Maidan Protests SpreadAcross Ukraine 12 source: http://liveuamap.com @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  12. 12. February-April 2014:Awave of Anti-Maidan protests in South-East 13@gruzd Photo credit: Andriy Makukha. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  13. 13. March 2014: Annexation of Crimea by Russia 14 source: http://liveuamap.com @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  14. 14. April 2014:Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) against pro-Russian Self-proclaimed republics: Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) & Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) 15 source: http://liveuamap.com @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  15. 15. Outline • Background • Review of Social Media Platforms • VK (Vkontakte) Use • Conclusions 16@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  16. 16. Review of Social Media Platforms: Websites – still important, linking to social media accounts http://euromaidansos.org/ 17@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  17. 17. Review of Social Media Platforms: Blogs http://fakecontrol.org/blog/2014/03/04/george-bush/ 18@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  18. 18. Review of Social Media Platforms: Blogs Example: CombatingMisinformation http://www.stopfake.org/ Source: http://visual.ly/top-7-false-statements-russian-media-about-Ukraine 19@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  19. 19. Review of Social Media Platforms Youtube & ustream.tv:Activists, News agencies, Gov.officials https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_cNDGU7k98 http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/44404145 20@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution Future unrests: Twitter's Periscope?
  20. 20. Review of Social Media Platforms Instagram: Photo Sharing during Rallies 21 http://www.the-everyday.net @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  21. 21. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/18/ukraine-police- storm-kiev-protest-camp-live-updates#start-of-comments Review of Social Media Platforms Twitter Widely Used To Disseminate Information about events in Ukraine Information Diffusion on Twitter 22@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  22. 22. Review of Social Media Platforms Wikipedia: Editors’ Debate about the Status of Crimea 23@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  23. 23. Review of Social Media Platforms Facebook Groups & Pages:Activists https://www.facebook.com/groups/223479324489867 https://www.facebook.com/EvromaidanSOS 24@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  24. 24. Review of Social Media Platforms Vkontakte & Odnoklassniki.ru (Facebook alike) 25@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  25. 25. Summary: Social Media Use during the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution • First “Social Media” Revolution in Ukraine • 2004 “Orange Revolution” (Pre-social media) • Internet penetration in Ukraine ~12% (Lysenko & Desouza, 2010) • Facebook was founded in 2004, Youtube-2005, Twitter-2006, Instagram-2010 • Social media used by both Pro & Anti Maidan activists • Pro-Western vs Pro-Russian groups • Social media use by governments, elective officials and politicians • Social media use for “locals” vs. for Westerners (in English) • Use of multiple social media platforms • Prior social media “revolutions” primarily focused on a single platform: Facebook revolution in Tunisia (2010/2011); Twitter revolution in Iran (2009/2010) • Content is often duplicated across multiple platforms 26@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  26. 26. Outline • Background • Review of Social Media Platforms • VK (Vkontakte) Use • Conclusions 27@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  27. 27. Gruzd, A. & Tsyganova, K. (2014). Politically Polarized Online Groups and their Social Structures formed around the 2013-2014 crisis in Ukraine. Internet, Politics, Policy 2014: Crowdsourcing for Politics and Policy. September 25–26, 2014, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. This part is based on our recent papers on VK groups Gruzd, A. & Tsyganova, K. (2015). Information Wars and Online Activism During the 2013/2014 Crisis in Ukraine: Examining the Social Structures of Pro- and Anti-Maidan Groups. Policy & Internet 7(2). DOI: 10.1002/poi3.91 28@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  28. 28. About Vkontakte – #1 Social Networking Website in Ukraine 29 source: http://en.wikipedia.org @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  29. 29. Example: VK Group User Interface – Posts, Likes, Comments… 30@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  30. 30. Example: VK Group User Interface – Discussion board, Links & Media Files… 31@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  31. 31. Pro-Maidan (pro-Western) &Anti-Maidan (pro-Russian) Groups on VK ~Over 3,500 groups with membership from 100K+ to under 10 members 32 Anti-Maidan groupPro-Maidan group @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  32. 32. Our Research Focus on Online Social Networks http://www.visualcomplexity.com/vc Friends’ networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc…) Forum networks Blog networks Networks of like-minded people (YouTube, Flickr, etc…) @gruzd 332014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  33. 33. 1) Represent data as a network Nodes = People Edges /Ties = Relations (ex. Who is a friend with whom, Who replies to whom, etc.) •2) Apply Social Network Analysis (SNA) We Study Online Groups from a Network Perspective @gruzd 342014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  34. 34. • Reduce the large quantity of data into a more concise representation • Makes it easier to understand what is going on in a group Advantages of Using Social Network Analysis Once the network is discovered, we can find out: • How do people interact with each other, • Who are the most/least active members of a group, • Who is influential in a group, • Who is susceptible to being influenced, etc… @gruzd 352014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  35. 35. Different Friends’ Networks: What can we learn from them? 36 Anti-Maidan groupPro-Maidan group @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  36. 36. Different Friends’ Networks: What can we learn from them? 37 Anti-Maidan groupPro-Maidan group @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  37. 37. Study Objectives • Establish baseline measures to interpret emerging social structures of online activist groups. • In particular, we ask if there are any observable structural differences or similarities in social networks formed by VK groups in the two opposing camps? • If there are differences, we would like to know whether network properties alone might be able to suggest a group’s political ideology or other characteristics. 38@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  38. 38. Data Collection 39 PRO1 PRO2 ANTI1 ANTI2 Num. of Nodes 141,542 96,402 60,506 69,029 Num. of Connections 338,344 221,452 280,678 192,273 • Used VK Public API • Communities – information about groups and group members • Wall – posts and comments • Likes – “likes” that members and visitors leave on posts • Friends – group members’ friendship relations • Data collection: 2 most popular (public!) Pro-Maidan and Anti-Maidan groups • Period: February 18 – May 25, 2015 @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  39. 39. Method 40 • Social Network Analysis • SNA measures (e.g., centrality, density, network diameter) • Exponential Random Graph Modeling (ERGM) – test association tendencies • Walktrap Community Detection algorithm - identify and describe highly connected subgroups • Network Visualization using LGL (Large Graph Layout) • Manual Content Analysis of • Group pages and posts • Sample of public user profiles • Research software • Package R (libraries statnet and igraph) • Tableau for visual analytics @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  40. 40. VK Group Example – Pro Maidan #1 Friends’Network (>140k members) • Formed in early April 2014 to support Maidan and Antiterrorist Operation (ATO) Yellow – users from Ukraine; Red – from Russia; Green – other countries; The layout algorithm is LGL (Large Graph Layout). Isolated nodes are not visible. 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.4 1.0 1.6 10.2 14.8 69.4 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 0.0 20.0 40.0 60.0 80.0 41@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  41. 41. Subgroup 3 Subgroup 42 VK Group Example – Pro Maidan #1 “Walktrap” Community Detection 42@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  42. 42. Subgroup 3 Subgroup 42 Subgroup 4 Most politically active VK Group Example – Pro Maidan #1 “Walktrap” Community Detection 43 Crimean Tatars Marketing, Spam @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  43. 43. VK Group Example – Pro Maidan #2 Friends’Network (>96k members) Subgroup 8Subgroup 96 44@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  44. 44. VK Group Example – Pro Maidan #2 Friends’Network (>96k members) Subgroups 8 Marketing & spam Subgroup 96 Marketing & spam 45@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  45. 45. VK Group Example – Pro Maidan #2 Friends’Network Subgroup 8 Subgroup 96 Subgroup 12 Subgroup 3 46@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  46. 46. Subgroup 6 Subgroup 1 VK Group Example –Anti Maidan #1 “Walktrap” Community Detection 47@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  47. 47. Subgroup 6 Politically active users Subgroup 1: mixed “marketing”, politically active VK Group Example –Anti Maidan #1 “Walktrap” Community Detection 48@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  48. 48. Subgroup 6 Subgroup 1 64% from Donetsk VK Group Example –Anti Maidan #1 “Walktrap” Community Detection 49@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  49. 49. VK Group Example –Anti-Maidan #2 Friends’Network (69K members) One densely connected cluster - suggesting a stronger agreement among group members from both Ukraine and Russia 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.5 1.1 11.2 34.4 50.0 0.0 10.0 20.0 30.0 40.0 50.0 60.0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 • In existence since 2011, focused on Anti-American & Pro-Russia discussions. • Since the events on Maidan in early 2014, shifted its focus to support Anti- Maidan activism & the two self- proclaimed republics – Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics. 50@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  50. 50. VK Group Example –Anti-Maidan #2 Friends’Network (69K members) 51@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  51. 51. VK Group Example –Anti-Maidan #2 Friends’Network (69K members) Politically active accounts Politically active 52@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  52. 52. Conclusions - Comparing Groups across Political Divide PRO1 PRO2 ANTI1 ANTI2 Number of Nodes 141,542 96,402 60,506 69,029 Number of Connections 338,344 221,452 280,678 192,273 Network Diameter 19 19 16 21 Clustering Coefficient 0.08 0.09 0.09 0.13 Degree Centralization 0.0048 0.0073 0.0815 0.0260 Modularity Index 0.58 0.58 0.42 0.24 %Users from Ukraine 69 73 57 34 %Users from Russia 15 10 30 50 53@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  53. 53. Conclusions - Geography Matters! • Although all four groups included people from both Ukraine and Russia, the ERGM models confirmed the tendency of group members to friend others in the same country. • Furthermore, we also observed homophily among users from the same city for the top-10 cities with the most number of VK users in all groups 54 Online social networks likely represent local and potentially pre-existing social networks "Euromaidan Protests" by Lvivske, NickK - Sources for particular cities are given at w:uk:Євромайдан у регіонах України. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  54. 54. Conclusions - Comparing Groups across Political Divide PRO1 PRO2 ANTI1 ANTI2 Number of Nodes 141,542 96,402 60,506 69,029 Number of Connections 338,344 221,452 280,678 192,273 Network Diameter 19 19 16 21 Clustering Coefficient 0.08 0.09 0.09 0.13 Degree Centralization 0.0048 0.0073 0.0815 0.0260 Modularity Index 0.58 0.58 0.42 0.24 %Users from Ukraine 69 73 57 34 %Users from Russia 15 10 30 50 55@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  55. 55. Conclusions - Position of Spam & Marketing Accounts • In the PRO1 and PRO2 groups, spam & marketing accounts appeared to be organized in a densely connected subgroup with high degree centrality values and low user engagement • It is important to differentiate spam & marketing accounts from group supporters who might also be located in smaller, somewhat isolated subgroups because of their minority status in the group (e.g., Crimean Tatars in PRO1) • Interestingly, this pattern was not observed in the ANTI1 or ANTI2 groups. 56@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  56. 56. Different Friends’ Networks: What can we learn from them? 57 Pro-Maidan Groups Anti-Maidan Groups Study Objectives (recap): • Establish baseline measures to interpret emerging social structures of online activist groups. • In particular, we ask if there are any observable structural differences or similarities in social networks formed by VK groups in the two opposing camps? • If there are differences, we would like to know whether network properties alone might be able to suggest a group’s political ideology or other characteristics. @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  57. 57. Different Friends’ Networks: What can we learn from them? 58 Pro-Maidan Groups Anti-Maidan Groups Conclusions: • Group-level indicators, such as degree centralization, modularity index and average engagement level, could help to classify and describe groups based on their network properties and structures. • BUT: SNA alone could not explain the structural differences between the four networks we examined. • SOLUTION: a combination of SNA, visualization and community detection algorithm, coupled with a manual content analysis of a sample of group messages and user profiles is an effective approach to study the underlying social structures of online activist groups. @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  58. 58. Photo credit: Karl Schönswetter #OccupyGezi: Gezi Parki Protest, Turkey (2013) 59 #OccupyGezi Supporters in Victoria, BC ? Study Implications: Can we predict successful groups? Can we predict group’s longevity? @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  59. 59. Future Work • Explore the roles of isolates in the group –lurkers, spammers, trolls, or fake accounts? 60 ? • Investigate how people from countries other than Ukraine and Russia participated in these groups @gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  60. 60. Acknowledgments • We thank Emad Khazraee, Dmitri Tsyganov, Andrea Kampen, Philip Mai, and Elizabeth Dubois for their help in preparing this article. 61@gruzd 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution
  61. 61. THE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA DURING THE 2014 CRISIS IN UKRAINE ANATOLIYGRUZD @GRUZD Carolinas ASIST Workshop on Social Media Analysis and Its Application in Research and Practice October 19, 2015 Associate Professor, Ted Rogers School of Management Director of the Social Media Lab Ryerson University

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