French presidential election: New tool helps to make sense of Twitter data

The website will help the general public to better contextualise the French Presidential election campaign.
The website will help the general public to better contextualise the French Presidential election campaign. ISCPIF

Social networks have become an integral part of modern politics, with Twitter emerging as the favourite. Politicians the world over use the micro-messaging service to directly connect with the general public and to air their views on different topics. This interaction generates vast amount of data on a daily basis.


With the French Presidential election just around the corner, a Paris-based institute has now launched a platform that enables internet users to make sense of the vast election-related data generated on the micro-blogging and messaging site.

The Institute of Complex Systems and French scientific research agency (CNRS) on Monday launched the website that enables the general public to contextualise the data and also analyse patterns related to different issues and the stands taken by politicians on those issues through time.

The project started in June 2016. Over the past 10 months, the team of researchers led by David Chavalarias, analysed 36 million tweets from 3000 accounts of the elected political representatives and another 24 million odd tweets from 3000 media accounts that were related to the upcoming Presidential election.

“Our first goal is to better contextualise the changing opinions of the candidates over time. We analysed how candidates are talking about their programs, how their community is relaying their programmes online and how the Twittosphere is reacting to it,” he told RFI.

The other objective is to quickly identify where the information is coming from.

“This helps in understanding which particular group is talking about a certain topic the most. Normally, there is a tendency to say that everyone is talking about that topic because it gains traction on Twitter. With our analysis, we can contextualise it better and see it on the map, whether it came from the Left, the Right or other political communities.”

The site also displays other elements including the most significant words used by candidates in reference to a certain topic, the mentioning of candidates by their own followers and by the rival supporters and the changing activity on Twitter in relation to the progression of the election campaign.

Perhaps, the most interesting aspect of this new initiative is that it gives the general public a sophisticated tool to understand the positions taken by different candidates over a considerable amount of time.

“We see ourselves providing a public good in the domain of information. With these kinds of tools, we can collect the discourse of the candidates on Twitter and show whether he/she has contradicted himself/herself or has remained consistent.

Essentially, it will help the public to know what the candidates are talking about and whether they have been loyal to their own ideas over time.”

Nowadays, for any politician, no election campaign is complete for without the use of the vast data generated on social networks. Now, with this tool, the general public can look at the politicians and the political discourse through a lens.

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