August 23, 2019

2014 Israel – Gaza Conflict: Twitter Sentiment Analysis by MasterMineDS

Digital War

[Publisher's Note: This article arrived yesterday August 5, 2014, but is being published on August 6, 2014]

Today at 8AM a cease fire has been declared in operation Protective Edge. The public discussion over the operation, however, will stay with us for a long time. Public opinion is one of the key influence factors on countries and people behavior. In the digital and social networks world, that opinion might very rapidly turn itself into large-scale action (the 'Arab Spring', for example) , thus better understanding of it might shed some light on future trends and phenomena which are about to take place. During armed conflicts, in addition to the traditional battle front, another front takes place in cyberspace, particularly if Israel is involved. The MasterMineDS office is based in Tel Aviv. From here, a quick look at Facebook provides the common Israeli sense of solidarity with the military operation, proudly showing Israeli soldiers finding another rocket launcher or assault tunnel on one hand, and mutually helping each other at the home front between missile attack sirens, on the other hand. However, while this is the situation in Israel, a brief view on TV channels, as well as news websites from all around the globe, actually shows very severe reactions, emotions and opinions against Israel.

Twitter is Left Behind 

Israelis love social networks. They are highly active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram; WhatsApp and Viber were invented in Israel and are also very popular among its citizens. But when it comes to Twitter, the amount of tweets per citizen is fairly low compared to the rest of the world, and it seems Twitter is being left behind in the Israeli arena. With that in mind, we decided to research the global public opinion regarding operation Protective Edge as it reflects these days in Twitter, and by using sentiment analysis techniques find out whether Israel is regarded as a country who defends itself, or as an aggressor.

MasterMineDS's Part – Tweet sentiment analysis

When you live in a country at war (like Israel), it is natural, although possibly incorrectly so, to feel as though the whole world is talking about the war going on in your backyard. We at MasterMineDS are doing our part for the situation by trying to better understand the mood on Twitter regarding the on-going Israel-Gaza conflict from a quantitative, unbiased perspective. We have decided to try answering the following questions through analyzing the data available from Twitter:

  • Level of interest by country: What portion of the Twitter conversations are related to the Israel-Gaza operation in every country?
  • Tweet sentiments: sentiment analysis will allow us to find the ratio of tweets supporting Israel's activity to non-supporters in every country.
  • Anomalies: Who are the anomalous users in different regions and what are they saying?

After setting up a server to collect millions of tweets per day, we started analyzing the data. The analysis is based on roughly 17,500 daily Protective Edge related tweets, gathered for over a week on July 25-July 31, 2014, over 120,000 tweets in total. Total tweeter conversations during that period stood on roughly 10,000,000 tweets per day. Those numbers represent only a portion of the entire tweets database, due to capacity limits embedded in Twitter's api. Nevertheless, the gathered sample consistently represents trends and proportion between countries.

First Goal: Level of Interest by Country

 

 

– The map contains random tweets related to the conflict, and has a negative\positive sentiment.  

Pro Israeli sentiment is represented by green markers.

Pro Palestinian sentiment is represented by the red markers

– The marker size represents the user's involvement level -The sentiment accuracy level for this map is 90%.

As you can see on the map, the USA is the only country that has a relatively high representation of the Israeli perspective by the users [around 30% of the tweets are in Pro-Israeli]. Other countries in the world may contain some Israel supporters, but they are quite a small minority. 

Final Goal: Anomalies and Interesting Cases

The Twitter audience is generally not fond of users who are extreme in their views. Users who are tweeting radical content are bound to have fewer followers. With this in mind, we have decided to look for and try to track the users that express their tweets demonstrating extremist content, or exhibit properties such as frequency or having an interesting social root. Here are some examples of our findings: Pakistani Hater Zahid from Pakistan is flooding the stream with more than a 100 anti-Israeli tweets per day. Zahid managed to add 50 more followers to his list this week, with a total of 1,500. The persistence of Zahid's work in tweeting substantialy contributes to the extreme involvement levels in Pakinstan, a country that uses Twitter quite poorly. A deeper analysis of the Growth Hacking Techniques used by Zahid can be found will be published soon.

Few Vs. Many

A few brave users can be found at the heart of some Arab countries, tweeting in favor of the Israeli side. For their own safety, and despite the great amount of appreciation we have for those users, we have decided not to reveal their user names. What we can say, however, is that it seems that some of those users are originally from Europe and are currently in those countries for work related reasons. The first user is located in Kuwait, and he is calling on the Israeli government to stay strong. Another user is located in Turkey. His tweets are arguing that the Hamas is a guerrilla organization who threatens journalists not to expose any violent actions it turns against the people of Gaza.

For the Attention of the Israeli ambassador in the UK:

] The user Tony Huges is busy these days promoting an 1,500 followers.

Summary

Our findings show, that while the western countries are not extremely interested in the conflict, the amount of users who condemn Protective Edge operation is dramatically higher than those who support the Israeli side, legitimizing pretty severe messages through the web against the state of Israel. As it has been demonstrated in this article, a deep sentiment analysis of social network data, such as Twitter, could lead to very interesting insights of global public opinion. Intelligent use of some the of findings – in this case by Israeli foreign affairs officials and others – could help in engaging more people to help balancing the world's public opinion, both during the fighting and after the cease fire.    

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