New Internet Monitor Report: "Russia, Ukraine, and the West: Social Media Sentiment in the Euromaidan Protests"

by Rebekah Heacock Jones

Internet Monitor is delighted to announce the publication of "Russia, Ukraine, and the West: Social Media Sentiment in the Euromaidan Protests," the fourth in a series of special reports that focus on key events and new developments in Internet controls and online activity.

The report, authored by Bruce Etling, analyzes content from a range of online Russian- and English-language sources, including both social media (Facebook, Twitter, and forums) and traditional media, to explore sentiment in the online conversation about the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine last winter:

This paper investigates sentiment in the online conversation about the Ukrainian Euromaidan protests across a range of English- and Russian-language social and traditional media sources. Results from this exploratory research show more support for the Euromaidan protests in Russian-language sources, including among sources and users based in Russia, than originally expected. Sentiment in English-language sources, including those located in the United States and United Kingdom, is more negative than anticipated given the rhetorical support among western governments for the Euromaidan protests. However, social media content in Ukraine, the US, and the UK is more positive than traditional media outlets in those countries.

Key findings include:

  • Support for the Euromaidan protests was stronger in Russian sources, and less strong in sources from the US and UK, than expected: when neutral content was removed, Russian-language sources were more positive (64%) than negative (36%) toward the protests, while English sources were overall a bit more negative (54%) than positive (46%).
  • Russian-language sources grew more negative as protests continue; English-language sources became more positive at the very end of the protests.
  • Overall, Russian social media was more neutral (69%) than expected.
  • Social media content was more positive than online media content overall.

Sentiment was analyzed using Crimson Hexagon to determine what percentage of set of online content falls into different categories (in this case, posts that are supportive, critical, or neutral with respect to the protests).

Positive posts included those that were overtly supportive of the protests or critical of Yanukovich, violence by the Ukrainian police, Russia, Putin, and the Russian government’s policy towards the protests. A sample post supportive of the protests:

I went to Kiev last week for 8 days and took some pictures of a very peaceful Maidan. It is very sad to see all the violence, and how this beautiful place is burning. All I have personally seen was peaceful protests and a wide range of different Ukrainians concerned about the future of their country. I wish the Ukrainian people the very best. Let's hope they will succeed in bringing down this kleptocratic government.

Negative posts included those that were overtly critical of the protests, that emphasized nationalist leadership in the protests, or that used language about fascism, Nazis, and Hitler to describe the protesters and protest leaders. A sample tweet critical of the protests:

US, #EU ignore inconvenient Nazi, white power flags and symbols in #Ukraine 'protests'

The full paper is available for download at SSRN: Russia, Ukraine, and the West: Social Media Sentiment in the Euromaidan Protests

About Internet Monitor

Internet Monitor, based at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, is a research project to evaluate, describe, and summarize the means, mechanisms, and extent of Internet content controls and Internet activity around the world. The project compiles and curates data from multiple sources, including primary data collected by the Berkman Center and our partners, as well as relevant secondary data. The Internet Monitor platform is a freely available online fact base that gives policy makers, digital activists, researchers, and user communities an authoritative, independent, and multi-faceted set of quantitative data on the state of the global Internet. Internet Monitor also provides expert analysis on the state of the global Internet via our special report series and our annual reports on notable events and trends in the digital space.