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The Ukraine Revolt: Observations from the Social Side

The violent unrest in Ukraine is certainly cause for alarm, as Western governments threaten harsh reaction if Putin and Russia intervene. From a media and social perspective, many feel someone is pushing what seems to be a Ukraine unrest agenda. Many wonder what is really happening in that part of the world. Here's a look at opinions within social on the matter.

Courtesy Jordi Bernabeu

What to Think of Ukraine Unrest – Concern First

What you are about to read is a social media analysis of press coverage and reactions to reporting on the Ukraine unrest. As the Sochi Winter Olympics ended Sunday, a young Russian we'd worked with covering the games bid me farewell with a chilling parting goodbye:

"Phil, as you watched the Ukraine, it is a large-scale revolution there, we are looking and fearing for our neighbors!"

This genuine and credible concern by a Russian spurred me to investigate further the machinations going on behind the news. Some insight into the revolt in Ukraine can be had by taking a look at not only who's writing about the events, but who's tweeting (consuming) the news.

Before I go on the reader should understand that any battle for control of the Ukraine is not some game played by Barack Obama, David Cameron, Andrea Merkel and Vladimir Putin. A shooting war in Ukraine could be the catalyst for a conflagration no citizen of any country could want. If the Cold War was so undesirable to us, seeing it again is a real possibility here.

Now for the Twitter sentiment. 

Brand Ukraine Revolt

Using the deep analytics of a social media monitoring tool called Brandwatch, I’ve isolated some demographics attached to reporting and uptake of English language news surrounding Ukraine. First and foremost, looking at the media most predominant in reporting, I wonder whether the news is being reporting, or if opinion is flatly being manipulated. Several mainstream media outlets dominate where many should be seen.

Using the key term “Ukraine”, the first metric which popped from my PC screen this morning was the limited number of large media tweeting about the situation. For a story of such proportion it's logical to assume ALL major media would be "tweeting" Ukraine unrest. This is not the case. As the charts I provide show, a few media companies dominate this conversation online. 

Ukraine tag cloud

Among the few most prominent media are; The New York Times, CNN, BBC, The Guardian. The "tweet cloud" above from Brandwatch shows this in aggregate form (males only – females mirror in this case).  The Guardian is by far the most active news outlet covering Ukraine in English. What’s most significant about their influence on the subject, the 330 plus mentions they’ve received in the last 7 days eclipse even The New York Times or AP. Is the UK pushing the hardest editorial and news wise?

As you’d expect the most “tweeted” and predominant Ukraine moment was an image of protesters dead and lined up with the #hashtags; #Yanukovych #regime #dictatorship and tweeted to @CNN @BBCWorld @AJAM @NYTimes. That tweet is from a self professed Texas “kickass environmental activist” WynnkWilson. That Twitter feed is a literal SPAM broadcast of nothing but digital “activism.” Also figuring prominently in Twitter, the legendary hacker/activist group Anonymous is in the mix mightily via @youranonnews. The reader will find most interesting the fact “executives” tend to tweet with Anonymous even more than journalists do. This was not a point I would have envisioned beforehand. In fact it can be said Anonymous has actually had the most impact on this discussion on Twitter. Their stream is broadcasting news like a tickertape compared to even the most influential mass media. 

User Profile

The Tweeps of Revolt

The debate rages between Tweeps (Twitter people) convinced the West is responsible for the unrest, and those vehemently supporting a perceived democratic upheaval. The Brandwatch metrics show users like Charles Edward Frith (in depth profile above) with 13916 followers tweeting tags and links aimed at western governments funding or instigating the unrest. At the other end of the Twitter influence spectrum, Anonymous followers like the Texas gardener below just seem to mirror local or trendy sentiment. However, diverse the discussion on Ukraine may be, the tone of sentiment seems to be neutral except in extreme and isolated cases.

Looking at “negative sentiment tab” journalist Rania Khalek stands out as a pundit against any real or perceived instigators from the west. For every “democratic revolution” tweet out there, there seems to be a Rania Khalek or two comparing Israeli injustices toward Palestinians to the current Ukraine upheaval. While the conversation rages on, the United States Department of State @StateDept tweets daily about Secretary Kerry or President Obama calling for calm and peaceful dialog.

Documentary film maker turned war correspondent Patrick Dollard (PatDollard) is the most dominant individual tweeter. Second to Dollard, Ruptly News Agency journalist involved in the Ukraine coverage for them, Katica Durovic tweets nothing but the news of late. Maybe the most influential and interesting journalists tweeting #Ukraine is freelancer Asteris Masouras. His latest is an RT via Rania (above) dealing with alleged US backing of so-called Neo-Nazis protesting there. 

What’s the most disturbing trend for #Ukraine on Twitter? Brandwatch even allows for quantifying such things as emoticons. The image above created by filtering for the emoticon “cheeky” shows tongues sticking out to :P Putin, #Maiden, and right next to mentions of the dead piling up. That’s disturbing for me.

Awaiting the Inevitable – Putin’s Response Prospectus

Making heads or tails of what’s going on in Ukraine seems the obvious conundrum as I type this. Using Brandwatch and similar tools will no doubt produce useful and interesting facets of these stories. But this situation is destined to end, ultimately, as unrest in this region always has. Whatever perspective is taken, students of Russia history and politics will agree, Vladimir Putin will never allow his country to be shoved into the geographic corner by the EU or NATO. Obama and the other western leaders rattling sabers at Vladimir Putin seems foolhardy and hypocritical given wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Arab Spring uprisings.

Historically the region occupied by Ukraine now has been crucial in the defense of the heartland of Russia. Whether or not the US and her allies have spurred this revolt in Ukraine, Russia will never tolerate the “breadbasket” of their part of the world to be annexed into NATO. As for EU membership, Russia herself might have even considerate that at a point. This sentiment may have been expressed best by former Kremlin advisor Alexander Nekrassov in this Aljazeera post:

“Still, the first and biggest casualty of the dramatic change of power in Ukraine is the EU, with its unsavoury role in encouraging the opposition to push for the downfall of the democratically elected President simply because he didn't sign a deal that was expected of him in Brussels. The way EU leaders and politicians from EU member countries visited Kiev, openly supporting the opposition would raise eyebrows of many people around Europe.”


The situation in Ukraine is as dire as can be where world peace and détente are concerned. “Is the world concerned?" you ask. The 61,000 mentions in the last 7 days shown distributed worldwide (image above) say yes. It will be interesting to research more into whether news today is actually propaganda or real fact. It’ll also be interesting to find out whether independent social media voices can reveal the real story. So far Twitter shows traditional media playing a big part, but which one?

More later after further analysis…

Image credit: Ukraine unrest - Courtesy Jordi Bernabeu via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Join The Conversation

  • Galahad Productions's picture
    Mar 25 Posted 3 years ago Galahad Productions

    Ukraine: Represents 34% Internet & 27% Social Media Globally …

    Weaponless, ordered Forcibly dispersed by their own President, 
Ukrainian People risked their lives defining hope, freedom, Democracy and themselves at 
Євромайдан/Euromaidan. Keeping cell phones recording, without backing down, I watched it all …

     On Thursday 20th February 2014 violence between protesters and police in Ukrainian capital of Kiev exploded as each group fought for control of Євромайдан.
    Never Before had a social Media site been directly responsible for being THE prime source of footage, news updates, truth or details for the world. As a Ukrainian myself, I am grateful to Social Media for its coverage, and momentuum.  

    What is a Mobli?
    And How was it used? To broadcast a Revolution?

    Much like Instagram, Mobli acts as a 
“visual search engine” and allows users to 
    follow friends and search hashtags. However, Mobli actually has more features than its forefather and boasted video-sharing capabilities long before they were available on Instagram and Vine."

    "Mobli is a real-time visual media platform made up of subject-based channels such as people, places & topics. Mobli enables users to see the world through other people’s ... [Phones]." - Mobli

    Metcalfe's Law

    Which characterizes many of the network effects of communication technologies and networks such as an Intranet, TCP/IP Networking, Social Networking (READ: SOCIAL COMMUNITY BUILDING), 
and the Internet at large. 
    Likewise, in social networks, the greater number of users with the service, the more valuable the service becomes to the community. 
However the social utility of a network depends upon the number of nodes in contact.

    The law has often been illustrated using the example of fax machines: a single fax machine is useless, but the value of every fax machine increases with the total number of fax machines in the network, because the total number of people with whom each user may send and receive documents increases. 

    With 73% of the world using mobile devices to access the Internet, and given Mobli's unique UI/intuitive/addictive design... why still only 12 million (I think that number is soft) users?

    2 reasons:

    "The Relevance Paradox"

    "Relevance paradoxes occur because of implementation of projects without awareness of the social or individual tacit knowledge within a target community. 

The understanding of the individual and the social tacit knowledge in a given community, which is a function of knowledge emergence, is the foundation of effectiveness in leadership practice."

    "Diffusion of Innovations"

    The rate of adoption is defined as the relative speed in which members of a social system adopt an innovation. Rate is usually measured by the length of time required for a certain percentage of the members of a social system to adopt an innovation (Rogers 1962, p. 134). 
The rates of adoption for innovations are determined by an individual’s adopter category. In general, individuals who first adopt an innovation require a shorter adoption period (adoption process) when compared to late adopters.

    Adoption is an individual process detailing the series of stages one undergoes from first hearing about a product to finally adopting it.

    Isreal, Russia, Ukraine, South America, Arab Countries, and The Phillipines make up the strongest Early Adopters Worldwide
    The U.S. accounts for 10% Global net usage, only 11% Social Media Penetration
    Foreign to the U.S., most other countries gravitate toward image-based sharing, language is much less of a factor communicating this way - 

    The Communication Systems, and Systems analysis itself has been around since long before there was an "Internet", and the one you knew 3, even 4 years ago - is gone.

    But that's another article. I see no reason Phil Butler's observations are mutually exclusive to your comment, nor mine. Hierarchical thinking is a zero sum game; clearly we all three have reached a Multiplicity of Emergant Intelligence.

    For which I thiank you both, and encourage you to check out my slideshow.

  • philbutler's picture
    Feb 26 Posted 3 years ago philbutler

    Hi Rupert, 

    Sorry you feel that way, but I respect your opinion. I did not ingnore those hashtags at all, they simply did not show up in the last 7 days as prevalently as some others. I suggest anyone with the resources and time, just wade right on in. If you read the post and looked at the graphics you surely saw #Euromaidan up there. 

    As for the hype, in English, that is all there is in my view. I suggest anyone interested read this from Russia Today (just to get a balance that is)

    Being late? I am not sure about that Rupert, I am a pretty old guy. We stated studying back when I worked in Naval Intelligence a long time ago. Ineptness on the Ukraine Presidents part, I think that goes without saying, even Putin called him "slippery" more than once. The #Springs? Those just sprung up just because it was time if you read the news. So did Ukraine. But I am oversimpifying Rupert, I am sorry. Late here in Germany. You deserve better, I'll get more in  depth in the next go round I promise. 

    Thanks for taking the time to be in the conversation, that is crucial at this stage. 




  • @rupertbu's picture
    Feb 26 Posted 3 years ago @rupertbu

    What a great shame that a contributor to this site has not only arrived late to the party, but has utterly ignored: #Euromaidan #Евромайдан #Євромайдан the hashtags of the past few months, indeed the first recorded mention I am aware of is from 24th November, 2013.

    I would suggest all should ignore the hyperbole and check the facts.

    Many are proclaiming that Social Media made this event occur, as was the case for #IranElection #ArabSpring, neither of which succeeded, as #EuroMaidan has shown it succeeded because of inept leadership by the President and the individual bravery of the citizenry.

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