OSINT For Fun And Profit: Hung Parliament Edition

The 2017 UK general election just concluded, with the Conservatives gaining the most votes out of all political parties. But they didn’t win enough seats to secure a majority. The result is a hung parliament.

Both the Labour and Conservative parties gained voters compared to the previous general election. Some of those wins came from defecting UKIP supporters. The rest, most of which went to Labour, came from young voters. And that was definitely reflected in social media.

The #VoteLabour hashtag was immensely popular in the lead-up to the elections.

#VoteLabour and #VoteConservative hashtags in the two weeks leading up to the 2017 UK election.

#VoteLabour continued to make a strong appearance during the week of the election and increased significantly as election day approached.

#VoteLabour and #VoteConservative hashtags during the election week.

The #VoteLabour hashtag completely overshadowed all other party hashtags all the way until polls closed.

Party hashtags on election day 2017.

On the day of the election, the #voted hashtag trended. Of those that tweeted the hashtag (in conjunction with election-related hashtags such as #GE2017), a majority of tweets referenced the Labour party. Here are the numbers when the polls closed (recorded during the day of the election).

Labour = 530
Conservative = 50
Libdems = 44
SNP = 111
UKIP = 19

Did we see any obvious external interference in the 2017 UK elections? Nope.

The top URLs shared over the two weeks leading up to the election included the following:

  • BBC’s Election Coverage website (3 links)
  • A number of skwawkbox.org pages, including the following headlines:
    • MAY REPORTED TO POLICE FOR ABBOTT COMMENT ELECTORAL BREACH #GE17 #BBCQT
    • BBC STILL MISREPORTING KUENSSBERG’S KNOWN-FALSE #CORBYN #SHOOTTOKILL REPORT #GE17
    • EXPLOSIVE: RUDD TRIES TO CENSOR ELECTION OPPONENT TO HIDE SAUDI TERROR ALLEGATIONS #GE17
    • 9 TORIES OF 120 #BBCQT AUDIENCE ASK 29% OF QUESTIONS. STILL #CORBYNWINS #GE17
  • Labour party campaign site (http://www.electiondaypledge.co.uk/)
  • A YouTube video about Tory NHS cuts
  • A guide for tactically voting against the Tories (https://voteforeurope.website)

Most of the popular URLs shared on Twitter were supportive of the Labour party, a reflection of Labour’s strong social media campaign. These findings support the fact that young voter turnout was, across the board, higher than in previous elections. Labour-run campaigns encouraging young people to vote were clearly successful, and in some constituencies, the youth vote actually changed the outcome.

Non-authoritative opinion-piece articles made up less than 10% of all URLs shared during the same time period. Notable examples included:

  • Sputnik: “Labour’s Poll Surge Has Establishment ‘Pundits’ in a Flap” (pro-Labour)
  • RT: “Tories ‘gagged’ us to prevent criticism of Theresa May, charities claim” (pro-Labour)
  • Daily Express: “Corbyn ready to hit homes with new garden tax which could TREBLE average council tax bills” (pro-Conservative)
  • RT: “BBC presenter confesses broadcaster ignores complaints of bias” (pro-Conservative)
  • RT: “Tory record on terrorism ‘very weak, deeply worrying,’ security expert tells RT” (pro-Labour)
  • RT: “Revealed! Big money bankrolling Tory campaign linked to claims of fraud, tax dodging” (pro-Labour)

Although the headlines look sensational, they’re nothing compared to what politically-oriented UK tabloids (such as The Sun and The Mirror) usually print.

In general, “non-authoritative” articles linked in Twitter weren’t politically biased towards one particular party. This is in stark contrast to the French presidential elections, where the majority of URLs shared on Twitter pointed to anti-Macron articles.

Articles from “US alt-right” sources (such as Breitbart) that dominated Twitter during the French elections were notably absent on Twitter.

I couldn’t find any popular hashtags exhibiting bot-like behavior. An insignificant number of the top Twitter posters during the past two weeks were from outside the UK. Those Twitter users who did post on regular intervals were news agencies and self-confessed bots designed to Tweet on regular schedules.

No blaming “outside interference” for this election outcome.



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