How to Tell Whether a Twitter User is Pro-Choice or Pro-Life Without Reading any of Their Tweets
with Gilad Lotan and Emma Pierson
During the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood in the fall of 2015, the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion became a flashpoint for an ideological debate on Twitter. Working with Gilad Lotan and Emma Pierson we analyzed more than 100,000 tweets by looking the network connections, who follows whom, of the tweet authors. We found there were three predominant groups engaged in the debate, Feminists (with two sub-communities), Conservatives (with four sub-communities), and those who identified as being active in Gamer Gate, based on words that most frequently appeared in their Twitter bios.
To better understand these communities, I visualized the connections between the users using the open-source software Gephi. After seeing how the sub-communities were connected, I thought it would be interesting to see when different users within these communities were joining the conversations themselves. To do this, I used the timestamp of the first tweet they posted using #ShoutYourAbortion, binned the tweets by the hour of when it occurred (and adjusting the timestamps for timezones), and made an animation of the network reveling the nodes and connections as time progressed over the two and a half day period.
Lastly, visualizing the volume of the tweets occurring in the communities, I made two corresponding histograms based on the tweets per hour. The first showing the different communities’ use of the hashtag, and the second illustrating when #ShoutYourAbortion became a Twitter Trending Topic in various countries.