Polish Public Digital Sphere Debate: Analysis of Abnormal High Activity Users

Constella’s data scientists conducted an analysis into the most frequently active entities in the Polish digital public sphere sociopolitical debate

Over a period of analysis from January 21st, 2019 to March 7th, 2019, Constella’s team of data scientists conducted an analysis of the public, digital sociopolitical conversation in Poland across multiple digital sources such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, blogs, forums, and other digital communities. The goals of the analysis were:

  1. 1. To identify key communities of opinion, the users that make up these communities, and the issues addressed by these users.
  2. 2. To identify users who demonstrated abnormally high activity during the period of analysis.
  3. 3. To uncover patterns of content propagation of abnormally high activity during the period of analysis with a particular focus on YouTube video distribution.

Through this analysis, Constella’s analytics team attained the following insights:

    1. Our analysts observe a high level of polarization between the PiS and PO communities. Content analyses yield limited traces of explicit disinformation but a high level of sophistication in influencing the public debate.


    1. A group of 176 (0.28%) users of high abnormal activity produce 388,896 (4.51%) posts. 92% of these users are found to be concentrated in the PiS and PO communities.


    1. The network of users that these abnormal high activity users are able to engage is equal in size to over half (54.5%) of all users that have shared content at least once in the debate. This exemplifies an effective pattern of driving the conversation beyond just retweets.


    1. 15% of the 176 users’ accounts were created between June 2018 and early 2019, with the majority of the accounts created from the second half of 2016.


    1. These 176 users tend to share sites in a highly segmented fashion, either supporting PiS or PO while mimicking behavior characteristic of disinformation distribution in several cases.


    1. These 176 users show a tendency to distribute YouTube content, with 97% of them sharing at least 1 video during the period analyzed. Users identified within the PiS and Eurosceptic communities lead in the volume of sharing of YouTube videos although their higher volume of shares does not necessarily yield higher engagement.


    1. The current debate on the Jewish community, including Poland’s role in World War II and the present-day conversation on anti-Semitism, represents 16.8% of comments in the digital socio-political conversation in Poland. Distribution by communities shows a high level of penetration in 3 key communities: Affinity to PiS (45.7%), Affinity to PO (24.1%) and Eurosceptics (17.8%).


  1. A content analysis of high activity users on YouTube reveals frequent sharing of videos connected to the Jewish community, ranging from the conversation on Poland’s role related to Jewish communities in World War II to criticisms and condemnations of anti-semitism in several forms.

Communities Detection Analysis

Constella’s data scientists used Analyzer, Constella’s proprietary cloud-based analytics platform, to build and identify the largest communities of users interacting in connection with the Polish public debate. This community was identified in Twitter, and their interactions were filtered for retweets only, in order to perform a topological analysis of the propagation of messages. This resulted in a unimodal network of authors (giant component, edges being re-tweets). To determine the different communities and visually represent the resulting network, Constella’s data scientists applied clustering algorithms, like the Louvain Method for community detection, for example. The visualization below represents 62,533 users and 1,724,302 retweets.

Network topology is characterized by network structures with nodes (profiles) and edges (lines) that connect them. Our algorithms cluster nodes and edges in order to calculate proximities and communities of users.

The following five key communities emerged from the community detection analysis:

    1. Affinity to PiS (29.8% of users, 43.9% of retweets): Critics of the PO mayor in Warsaw and the LGBT movement for the introduction of the sexual education program (Karta LGTB) in the capital city. Mateusz Morawiecki supports the equality of men and women in the labor market. PiS’s new social proposals regarding pensions and help for families. Criticism of the PiS electoral program due to its lack of credibility.


    1. Affinity to PO (24.8% of users, 37.8% of retweets): Debate around responsibility for the death of Adamowicz and the need to change hate speech policies. Criticisms of PiS’s new proposals for trying to capture votes, PiS’s legislation that limits the opening of stores on Sundays, and scandals of party members, among other issues. Criticisms of the PO for its political mismanagement, lack of support for women, and European coalition


    1. Wiosna Biedronia (19.4% of users, 3.9% of retweets): Discoures generated by Robert Biedron focused on highlighting the figure of Adamowicz. Criticism of the Polish education system for lack of church and state separation, and support for Emmanuel Macron for his statement “Europe needs a renaissance and freedom from nationalism”. The latter issues have generated substantial controversy among users.


    1. Eurosceptics (8.8% of users, 10.6% of retweets): Diversity of topics related to national politics (both criticism and support of the main parties) and international politics with an emphasis on the occupation of the Palestinian territory. Clustering includes political leaders, political parties or coalitions opposing the European Union (e.g.: Krzysztof Bosak, Konfederacja, Wolno??).


  1. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (4.1% of users, 0.6% of retweets): Events and meetings of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held in Brussels with Southeast Asian countries.

Communities Detection Analysis – Eurosceptics and PiS

Visually, the PiS and Eurosceptics communities show a high level of adjacency. When measuring the propagation patterns of these two communities, Constella’s data scientists analyzed the extent to which the Eurosceptics interacted outside their community by measuring the edges connecting both communities. Analyzing the interactions between the Eurosceptic and PiS communities and initiated from the Eurosceptics yielded a very clear result: 81.7% of the total interactions from the Eurosceptics community towards any other community were towards the PiS community. In this context, interactions represent content propagation in the network.

Abnormality Detection – High Activity Users

Constella’s analysts identified a group of 176 (0.28%) users demonstrating abnormally high activity. These users produced a total of 388,896 (4.51%) of total posts in the analysis. These users are found to be concentrated in two communities: the PiS and PO communities. 92% of the abnormal high activity users are located in one of these two communities, mirroring the polarized nature of the digital conversation. The image below shows the resulting network connecting this group of 176 users with any other user with whom they have interacted during the period of analysis.

The abnormal high activity users manage to attract and engage a significant quantity of other users. The network of users that these abnormal high activity users were able to engage with equals in size to over half (54.5%) of all users that have shared at least once content in the debate. This 54.5 % of all users together create over 1.4 Million interactions including retweets, replies, or mentions. This demonstrates an effective pattern of driving the conversation beyond only retweets and amplifying engagement. For users interacting with the abnormal high activity users, mentions represent 43.3%, replies represent 34.6%, and retweets represent 17.1% of all interactions.

Abnormal Detection – Account Creation Dates

15% of the accounts of the 176 abnormal high activity users were created between June 2018 and early 2019. The majority of the 176 accounts have been created since the second half of 2016. This is consistent with a pattern identified in Constella’s previous analyses – of the high activity accounts identified in the public digital socio-political debate, a significant proportion have been created within the past few years.

Abnormal Detection – High Activity Users’ YouTube Behavior

These 176 users also show a tendency to distribute YouTube content, with 97% of them sharing at least 1 video during the period analyzed. Users identified within the PiS and Eurosceptic communities lead in the volume of sharing of YouTube videos. Nonetheless, the analysis concludes that there is no necessary relationship between the volume of sharing and increased rates of engagement. Based on the content of the videos shared by the high activity users, our analysts have identified precursory narratives focused on the current conversation in Poland regarding Polish activity in World War II related to Jewish communities and responses to antisemitism, among other topics.

In a content analysis of the most shared videos by the high activity users, a few salient trends emerge. First, the use of music as a vehicle for emphasizing or promoting a political agenda is evident. Of the top 50 most shared videos, the 7th, 9th, 24th, and 27th most shared videos use well-known music videos to support their messaging. For example, the 7th most shared video is the music video for the Scorpions “Wind of change”, with a dedication to PiS, a dedication to the church in Poland, and a right-wing reaction in relation to the symbolic overthrow of the monument of the Solidarity chaplain, Fr. Jankowski, accused of different offenses including antisemitism. The 9th most shared is The Beatles music video for “Come Together”, attached to the tweet of PO leader, Grzegorz Schetyna, encouraging anti-PiS parties to join the European Coalition. The 24th most shared is The Beatles tribute music video “Here Comes the Sun”, attached to a tweet of Grzegorz Schetyna in which he expresses joy for the formation of the European Coalition on February 24, 2019. Finally, the 27th most shared is a song attached to the tweet of Schetyna dedicated to Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, who decided to run for early elections for president of Gda?sk after Pawe? Adamowicz’s death. The frequent appearance of music videos among the top shared video content in the sociopolitical conversation signals the effectiveness of coupling political messaging with commercial music.

Similarly, the conversation on matters surrounding the Jewish community in Poland represents a thematic pattern visible in the type of content shared on YouTube. The 13th, 17th, 31st, 39th, 40th, and 47th most shared videos include films such as “Defamation” or “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers” at 40th and 47th, respectively. Other videos, such as the 13th, 17th, and 39th are in defense of Poland and nationalist sentiments amidst the conversation regarding Poland’s role during World War II with relation to the Jewish community. These videos generally reflect the ongoing sociopolitical debate in the country on topics of Poland’s activity during and post World War II.

Annex: Domain Sharing of Abnormal High Activity Users

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