Reconstruction of the socio-semantic dynamics of political activist Twitter networks

Citation : Noe Gaumont, Maziyar Panahi, David Chavalarias (forthcoming 2017) Reconstruction of the socio-semantic dynamics of political activist Twitter networks – Method and application to the 2017 French Presidential election


In the context of the French presidential elections held in 2017, we developed the Politoscope, an open platform for the analysis of political tweets, which was used to collect and analyze almost 60 million Twitter exchanges between more than 2.4 million users who interacted with French political figures. In this paper, we propose a new method for the reconstruction of the development of the political environment during elections and apply it to these data. Among the numerous types of interaction that can be used with Twitter, we focus in this paper on that of retweeting.

Starting from the definition of a social group given by Gabriel Tarde, we have shown that methods involving the analysis of exchanges of political content on social networks such as Twitter make it possible to automatic reconstruct political communities which, thanks to their semantic profile and patterns of development, provide a realistic picture of the dynamics at play inside the off-line space of political activism.

Applying this approach to the French political environment, we characterize the socio-semantic networks of the French political environment during the 2017 presidential election, as well as their development over a period of eleven months preceding the election. We demonstrate that the analysis of retweet graphs can allow accurate and automatic monitoring of the reconfigurations of a multi-polar political environment, by characterizing the different political communities, their structure, their alliance strategies and their semantic particularities.

This study establishes the basis for a series of analyses providing unprecedented insight into the opinion dynamics and the reconfigurations of political communities. It provides access to an intermediate level of resolution, between sociological surveys in the field and global statistical studies (such as those conducted by the French INSEE), from which we expect that, in the future, it will represent a major source of political and sociological knowledge, which will supplement traditional approaches.

We conclude this paper with a comment concerning the political and ethical implications of the development of these methods.

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