14 May 2019

South Africa: Politics in the Twittersphere - How Much Misinformation Did We Get?

analysis

In the age of social media, do online political campaigns have a place in South Africa?

Only about 8% of South Africa's 56.72-million people are on Twitter, with an internet penetration rate of between 50 and 60% (depending on which source is used). Even though the local Twittersphere is small, in the past it has proven to be a useful platform for the spread of information, particularly among youth during the #FeesMustFall campaign.

But what happened to Twitter in the lead-up to elections? If the social media platform was a representative of the South African electorate, then Julius Malema would probably be the new leader of the country. And the newly formed Capitalist Party (ZACP) would have at least one person in Parliament (@purplecowmobi has just over 8,000 followers, and won just under 13,000 votes).

In many ways perhaps, this comment sums up the Twitter reality:

Social media noise does not necessarily correlate to votes. "If you look at the ZACP and the Black First Land First (BLF), they certainly have a profile on social media that is fundamentally disproportionate to their relevance and the number of votes they got," William Bird, director of Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), told Daily...

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