Reactions of the French Twittersphere on the COP27.
Context and data acquisition
The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (most often referred to as “COP27”) took place from 6–20 November 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh. In the context of the 2022 DHAI intensive week, we collected all French tweets containing #COP27 to get an overview of the debate around the climate summit in the French-speaking world.
In order to get a structural overview of the debate, we study the data as a retweet network, in which every node is a Twitter account, and a link is drawn from account A to B if A retweets B. We spatialize this network using a force-directed layout algorithm which places strongly connected nodes closer to each other. Since retweets most often imply endorsement, dense clusters in such spatializations can be related to opinion clusters in the underlying debate. We make the clusters in the 2D spatialization more explicit by coloring the nodes according to their community assignment that we compute using the Louvain algorithm.
Click here to use the twitter explorer to interactively explore this retweet network. Accounts with less than 5000 followers (which we consider not to be public figures) cannot be interacted with.
We see in the spatialization that there are different groups of actors that retweet each other more frequently than the rest of the network. Looking at the most retweeted users and their most retweeted tweets, we can try to understand what unites the users in the different communities. Some of them appear to be politically motivated: the red community contains the right-wing actors @GilbertCollard, @NicolasMeilhan and @f_philippot as its central users, while the yellow community contains left-wing actors such as @JLMelenchon, @MathildePanot and @MaximCombes. The latter is closely intertwined with a community of mainly ecologist actors such as @ClemSenechal, @greenpeacefr and @MickaCorreia. The blue community can be considered close to the current government, with actors such as @AgnesRunacher (the French ministry of ecology), or the @Elysee. The orange community stands apart and seems to regroup NGOs and international organisations (@ONU_fr, @UNICEF_FR, @Reporterre). Some communities also appear to be geographically defined, the purple group is mainly made of African French speakers (mostly Congo and Burundi) and the light blue group of Canadian French speakers. Zooming out and looking at the whole space, we see an opinion-related clustering on a stance towards climate change action (left vs right), and at the same time there is a divide between groups that, due to their official position, were present at the COP27 and absent groups that tend to criticize the government’s attempts to take action against climate change.
While the retweet network gives an overview of the main actors and their relations, the hashtag networks can give an overview of the semantics of the debate. Here, each node is a hashtag, and a link is drawn between them if they co-occur in the same tweet. We use the Louvain community assignment from the retweet network to color each hashtag by the community that uses it the most. Gray hashtags are those who are almost equally used by all communities. This visualization shows us the different use of vocabulary and the different topics discussed within the COP27 debate.
Click here to use the twitter explorer to interactively explore this hashtag network.
Examples of highly retweeted tweets
The hashtag network highlights the words or topics through which the communities can be differentiated, we can also focus on the common words two communities use and examine how they might have different connotations. For instance, we can analyze the role of “France” according to the different communities:
The @Elysee accounts tends to highlight France’s actions to mitigate climate change:
Malgré les conséquences de la guerre en Ukraine, la France tient ses objectifs climatiques et poursuit sa transition. Alors que la #COP27 va s’ouvrir, retrouvez le bilan de notre action écologique : https://t.co/O21tJX2Y3J— Élysée (@Elysee) November 6, 2022
At the same time, @franceinfo shares an article which depicts France in a more ambivalent position:
#COP27 : "La France devrait tout faire, sauf se poser en donneuse de leçon", déclare Greenpeacehttps://t.co/cbm1w2umQa pic.twitter.com/4ZKQd8pZ2n— franceinfo (@franceinfo) November 7, 2022
In another cluster, @MickaCorreia uses the example of France to debunk populist claims about climate action being reserved to the “top polluters”:
"La France ne représente qu’1 % des émissions mondiales" ou "C’est pas à nous de faire des efforts, demandez aux Chinois et aux Indiens !"— Mickaël Correia (@MickaCorreia) November 7, 2022
Alors que s’ouvre la #COP27, un fil pour mettre les choses au clair 🧶⬇️ pic.twitter.com/aZfpsIvG2x
This network-based exploration of the French Twittersphere around the COP27 shows that the online discussion around the climate summit can be observed through interaction clusters of accounts. Retweet networks allow for a quick identification of influential actors, which in this case are mainly political figures and climate activists. While such structural overviews are helpful to get a first picture, it is necessary to go deeper into a close-reading of the tweets to gain insights about the actual issues that drive the discussion. The twitter explorer was built for precisely this combination of close and distant reading.