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12 Twitter accounts found to be instigators of violence during SA unrest - CABC

29 July 2021 12:06 PM
Tags:
Twitter
Social media
Social media analytics
Online instigators
CABC

Lester Kiewit talks to Stuart Jones at CABC as well as Twitter user and commentator Lukanyo Vangqa who denies his involvement.
  • CABC has tracked 12 social media accounts used to instigate violence during the recent period of unrest in South Africa
  • Some accounts were tweeting 700 tweets an hour, says CABC director Stuart Jones
  • Twitter user and commentator Lukanyo Vangqa's Twitter handle was mentioned in the CABC article but Vangqa denies any involvement in inciting violence
  • Jones responds that Vanqa was not named as one of the 12 instigators, but rather as someone who was most retweeted by one of those accounts

An SANDF soldier on patrol in Alexandra on 13 July 2021 following days of rioting and looting in the township. Picture: Boikhutso Ntsoko/Eyewitness News

Director of the Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC) Stuart Jones explains how the centre gathers evidence about who may or may not be an online instigator of violence.

The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC) is a non-profit organisation based at UCT’s Graduate School of Business.

Their team of data analysts uses tools to track social media chat, highlighting any polarising, divisive rhetoric and narratives that are a threat to society and also to also track social trends.

We use online social media analytics and desk research as well.

Stuart Jones, Director - Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC)

To be clear, we are able to identify accounts that have been used to instigate violence, not individuals that have been used to instigate violence.

Stuart Jones, Director - Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC)

He refers to the twelve accounts that CABC did a deep dive in their latest report.

Read CABC's report The Dirty Dozen & The Amplification of Incendiary Content During the Outbreak of Unrest in South Africa July 2021

We don't have a handle on who they are as people - or as groups of people which is more likely - but we do know the names of their accounts and that is what we have published.

Stuart Jones, Director - Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC)

The details of the findings are outlined in the CABC report and explained in an article by CABC in The Daily Maverick.

The team has identified a number of hashtags intended to cause unrest, through, among other strategies, calling for shutdowns across South Africa, reports CABC.

Jones says they embark on a rigorous process of looking for hashtags associated with the incitement of violence - three categories were identified. Calls for physical mobilisation, calls for general unrest, and calls for violent acts

Then with a blend of hashtags they were finding accounts pushing out that type of material, he says.

The hashtags generated a total of 1.29 million mentions since the beginning of July, with a volume of more than one million retweets, notes the report.

There were times when 700 tweets an hour were going out of one of these accounts.

Stuart Jones, Director - Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC)

Twitter accounts are tagged as suspicious for tweeting around 70 tweets a day and these accounts were tweeting upwards of 800 a day, he notes.

They could potentially, and we are not entirely sure, be run by machines, they could be bots. But it is more likely that they are groups of people that are acting in a coordinated way to disseminate this content.

Stuart Jones, Director - Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC)

These 12 accounts published were from a pool of 62 accounts that were instigating violence at a rate of more than 500 pieces of content over the few days of the violence, he explains.

We chose the top 12 and one of the metrics that we showed were the accounts that those accounts retweeted the most.

Stuart Jones, Director - Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC)

Just these 12 accounts tweeted 102,000 times during the space of a few days during the unrest.

Stuart Jones, Director - Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC)

Twitter user and commentator Lukanyo Vangqa's Twitter handle was mentioned in the CABC article but Vangqa denies any involvement in inciting violence.

It was a very poorly written article.

Lukanyo Vangqa, Twitter user and commentator

How many times has Vanqa tweeted the hashtag he is mentioned as using, asks Lester?

Zero times. I have looked into my account and I retweeted those hashtags zero times.

Lukanyo Vangqa, Twitter user and commentator

There is no research on what they are doing. it is just guesswork.

Lukanyo Vangqa, Twitter user and commentator

Jones insists the CABC methodology is rigorous and sound.

Lukanyo was retweeted by one of the accounts, not that he was tweeting.

Lukanyo Vangqa, Twitter user and commentator

Jones says Vangqa is a 'vociferous and regular tweeter'.

A lot of the stuff you wrote and that was retweeted was not particularly incendiary. We have spoken about how there was a blend of various pieces. But I would like to read a tweet that you yourself wrote which says: We stand with the people of Khayelitsha protesting for basic services, let that which needs to burn, burn, let that which needs to break, break, if that's what it takes for just demands to be heard then so be it until victory always - tweeted on 12 November 2020.

Stuart Jones, Director - Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC)

Jones says Vangqa was not named as one of the 12 accounts.

Lukanyo you were not named as one of the 12 instigators. What we have said consistently, you were named as one of the people who were most retweeted by one of the instigators most probably because you share sentiments like this.

Stuart Jones, Director - Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC)



29 July 2021 12:06 PM
Tags:
Twitter
Social media
Social media analytics
Online instigators
CABC

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