Twitter users debating Brexit with both sides have more influence: Study

Twitter users debating Brexit with both sides have more influence: Study

London, June 23 (IANS) Twitterati sending messages to those who share their views and others with opposing viewpoints about Brexit are most likely to influence dialogue on the social network, according to a study published on Thursday by the Imperial College London.

The release of the study coincides with the ongoing voting in a historic referendum on whether Britain should remain a member of the European Union or leave, Xinhua news agency reported.

Twitter users who support the Leave campaign were three times more likely to engage with people from both sides of the argument online than people who support the Remain campaign, the study shows, which was carried out by a team led by researchers from the Imperial College Business School.

The team tracked 21,000 messages sent from British Twitter users who were engaged in discussion about the EU Referendum using hashtags such as “#Brexit”, “#LeaveEU”, “#Go”, “#Remain”, etc.

They monitored both the topics in tweets to other users and the overall volume of Twitter traffic in relation to the EU Referendum across Britain, to get an insight into how polarised people’s views are in the lead up to a major political event.

The most active users in the Leave group were shown to both engage in dialogue and provide information whereas people supporting Remain were more likely to just provide information to fellow users, according to the researchers.

London was the region with the highest amount of Twitter engagement on June 9, with a huge surge in online discussion between 8:00-10:00 p.m. local time during the ITV televised debate, the study shows.

“As people are consuming more of their political information from social networks and sites such as Twitter, there is an opportunity to use these sites to air views and influence public opinion, but people usually interact with others who think like they do,” said Dr. Mark Kennedy, director of the Centre for Advanced Business Analytics at Imperial College Business School.

With the EU Referendum, however, “we are seeing that the greatest influence lies with people who are breaking out of that echo chamber pattern into a bolder, more opportunistic engagement of both sides — leavers and remainers. For us, this is light at the end of the tunnel of polarised political discourse,” said Kennedy.

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