POST 6: Scraping the web for data

Thus far in my research on refugees and asylum seekers, I have worked towards making a distinction of the public perception of the issue. Even though most data is filtered through social media, there’s a huge discrepancy between the absolute truth, mainly based off facts and statistics, and an altered view through social media, shaped by a popular opinion or reputation.

I decided to base this post around Twitter and the public perception around this social media platform only. Twitter has a large amount of users on it’s platform every single day and is a strong indication of what news is trending every week. Not only this, but you can choose different celebrities and icons to follow so you get updated on their status every time they tweet a message publicly. This social media phenomenon also allows you to ‘retweet’ (essentially means ‘share’) a post or status update from any Twitter user. This feature, therefore is vital for users as they try to either spread their message or word across, or still suitable if you’re just on the platform for updates. Either way, every Twitter user has free access to any information regarding almost anything. But is a public opinion actually just as powerful as the facts?

When viewing twitter, I explored posts through ‘Twitter Archiver’, a data scraping plug in on Google Sheets. When refining my search, I wanted to focus on how public view change the realities of my issue. Below displays the search I entered:

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As shown in my search, I searched for very generic hashtags that just bring up the topic of my issue. These were #refugees and #asylumseekers. As well as this, I added a third hashtag that just indicates the support thats present for this issue. The hashtag #allhumansarelegal was originated from a protest that took place in Europe. With this search entered, I was surprised about how many results came up. I focused on more about what views people had around asylum seekers and refugees, and how they came across on social media in relation to that issue. My most interesting results are listed below:

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These results informed that my approach to the issue is in fact supported as something to act on. While relatively coming across many celebrities and social activists expressing their views on the issue, I came across a few interesting ones that were evidently about information filtered through the media. Not only this but I came across very enlightening tweets about refugees, as shown in the examples above. What I found interesting about this search method is that it is very versatile with the way the search engine can be used. While I regularly found it difficult to find extra information on the #allhumansarelegal campaign, this Twitter archiver also served no justice. While looking through the Twitter Archiver and through just a general search on Twitter, there is clearly no social presence for this hashtag campaign. For the information I have found on it, there is not merely enough out there at the moment to it to be publicly legitimate. This highlights the fact that there is too much negative reinforcement on social media and exposure to the realities are necessary.

I believe that this exercise was very useful for my research and proposal. Even though I didn’t have a consistent results page, it allowed me to start to think about the ways I can now span this message across. Because there is a very broad level of engagement with the topic, it made me realise that there is a place for change, or at least recognition. The Twitter Archiver is definitely something I will be using on a regular basis.

Peter Andreacchio (11768381)

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