September 08, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — Malaysia could have made Twitter history for the number of National Day messages sent on the microblogging site last week if “clones” had not been used to pollute the actual number of tweets sent, an independent social media research house has concluded.
Politweet.org pointed out in its report yesterday on the #Merdeka55 hashtag movement that despite Putrajaya’s claim that Malaysians had breached the 3.6 million tweet mark in just one hour on August 31, no other third-party authority has since verified this declaration as true.
“So assuming the figure is true, it is possible that the 3.6 million tweets are a world record,” the research house wrote in its report.
“However to date, Twitter has made no announcement on their blog about #Merdeka55. There is also no mention of the #Merdeka55 record online by other tracking websites,” it pointed out.
“Without a third party to verify the data, the 3.6 million tweets figure is doubtful,” Politweet said.
Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim had declared on August 31, Malaysia’s 55th National Day last week, that some 3,611,323 tweets were recorded between 8.15pm and 9.15pm nationwide to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s account, @NajibRazak, containing various independence-themed messages, during the “Janji Ditepati (Promises Fulfilled)” gathering at Stadium Bukit Jalil.
But Rais’ record-beating claim was immediately met with disbelief by Malaysian Twitter users, many of whom have accused the organisers of rigging the contest by using “bots” to generate false publicity.
“Bots doing retweeting 4 thousand times, then u proud of hvg mils of tweets?” Twitter user @Amir_Shari had written earlier this week, referring to computer programs designed to send out automated responses on the service.
Another user, Cyril Dason, tweeted on his account @cyrildason that “#merdeka55 stats online: 1,500 tweets generated 493,610 impressions, reaching an audience of 185,482 followers within the past 24 hours”, in an apparent rebuttal of the federal government’s record-setting claim.
Fuelling these users’ claims in its report yesterday, Politweet said it had begun tracking mentions of #Merdeka55 on Twitter from August 28, the moment Rais had announced Putrajaya’s aim to hit a one million-tweet mark for tweets sent within an hour from 8.15pm to 9.15pm on August 31.
But during the targeted hour, Politweet said it had observed an “odd pattern” during the live stream — “large blocks of identical tweets were being sent at the same time”.
“Further investigation revealed that a small group of users were responsible for a large volume of tweets.
“These users had similar characteristics, e.g. account creation date, profile photos, location and follower/following relationships. All of their duplicate tweets were sent using Tweetdeck,” Politweet wrote, calling these duplicate tweets as “clones”.
The social media research house said the tweets using the #Merdeka55 hashtag were “almost entirely” confined to Malaysia, with only five tweets streaming in from outside the nation — Myanmar, Switzerland, Britain, Indonesia and Singapore.
“The presence of clones also reduces the quality of the record. If the person or organisation in charge of these clones hadn’t polluted the data, whatever record was achieved would have had more historical value,” the research house wrote.
Adding to this, Politweet also questioned Twitter’s silence over Malaysia’s claim to have broken the global tweet record with its Merdeka messages, pointing out that the microblogging site had notably mentioned the biggest records when sprinter Usain Bold won the gold medal in the 200m sprint event during the Olympics (80,000 tweets per minute).
“That puts #Merdeka55 as being just below Usain Bolt. It is surprising that such a record went unnoticed by Twitter,” Politweet said.