Post 6 – Data Scraping

Rekha Dhanaram
The subject has seen me engage with numerous tasks that have helped me gauge an understanding on my chosen topic of Asylum Seeker and Refugees. The most recent task saw me go deeper and engage with online research through a unique means being data scraping. Data scraping allowed me to see the bigger picture but also the individual context of how people are reacting and engaging with this issue. With social media being a primary form of communication, data scraping is useful in understanding the different perspectives in regards to this issue.
I chose the platform of twitter to conduct my data-scraping tasks. Twitter is a social network, where people post or send a ‘tweet’, a short message of maximum 140 characters. With instant feedback either as a twitter follower or the tweeter, this service essentially allows people to reach countless others instantaneously. Furthermore the dialogue generated evidences it as a medium where people voice their opinions on varied issues. With this in mind twitter provided an appropriate platform to examine the public opinions around Asylum Seekers and Refugees.
Defining my research proved to be the most difficult part. Reflecting on the past few weeks, I’ve looked at this issue through a broad lens tapping into areas of media transparency, politics, processing environment and activism. Whilst its hard to narrow my focus, I decided to look into the legal context and activism through refugee experiences for this specific task.
Initially I did a very broad search on terms such as ‘refugees’, ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘Australia’. However the results were varied and whilst I was trying to get insight on the Australian society, I found that the tweets were from all over the world in response to the Australian situation. Thus I decided to go back and focus on an area I wanted to know more about. This led me to the hashtag #BorderForceAct.
The Border Force Act sees that anyone who ‘gains “protected information” during their employment service for the Border Force is barred from revealing this information without authorisation. The penalty for doing so is two years in prison.’ Whilst there have been no penalties charged under the BorderForceAct till date, it is still under constant criticism. I wanted to understand the stakeholders views in regards to this disputed issue which is highly relevant to the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.
Looking at the tweets and images that were accompanied with the hashtag revealed the various stakeholders in regards to this issue including campaigners, the general public and event works at asylum seeker centres. What was interesting to note in some of these posts was that they spoke of other issues that arise front the Border Force Act as seen through the use of the hashtags #Bringthemhere and more contrastingly #WhitePriviledge. These tweets and uses of hashtags are a form of activism or campaigning. And whilst they stand alone as individual campaigns, it was interesting to see how they intersect. More often than not the hashtags are used together to support multiple campaigns centred around the one issue of refugees and asylum seekers. Overall, these tweets were overwhelmingly taking a negative stance in regards to the issue.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre CEO and founder Kon Karapanagiotidis and other tweets which raise the issue of White Privilege alongside the Border Force Act.
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The #BringThemHere hashtag was equally common.
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The tweets gave insight into the various stakeholders including workers, the public, doctors and nurses. 
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Whilst most of these were from an Australian perspective, I came across a news like twitter page called ‘Public Concern at work’ which constantly tweeted quotes and statistics from articles that related to this issue. Whilst it is based in UK, it was interesting to note that it frequently tweeted posts using this hashtag.
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Furthermore when exploring the images, I found that there was a pattern of photographs of different protests peppered with political and satirical cartoons. I found it interesting that cartoons, which are traditionally in newspapers, are really popular in the ‘twittersphere’.
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Whilst the twitter search revealed interesting insights, I do believe that it would be better to add more parameters to gauge. I did however try to define the tone of posts, but unfortunately the results weren’t very accurate and in defining whether the tweet was opposing or supporting the Border Force Act.

Summary:

  1. Hashtags in the twitter sphere can act as a form of activism.
  2. Whilst certain hashtags support specific campaigns, many users combine them with other Hashtags centred around the bigger issue. It highlights the interconnectedness of campaigns and the overall stance taken towards that issue.
  3. #BorderForceAct is quite ironic in nature as people are voicing their opinions on a law that prohibits  many from speaking.
  4. The Border Force Act received commentary from an international platform.

 

 

 

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