The internet is said to be the greatest free market innovation in history.  Net neutrality was created in 1996, when the Internet was commercialized without heavy utility regulation and aimed to neutralize Internet access. This market-based approach worked for nearly two decades, until June 11th when the Trump administration revoked net neutrality regulations. Leading up to the decision to repeal, an active digital debate about net neutrality ensued. However, net neutrality is a very complicated matter. In an act of corporative activism, Burger King launched a campaign on January 24th to explain how the end of net neutrality would impact consumers and support Internet access equality:

Advertisement from Burger King campaign, launched January 24th to support Net Neutrality

Analysis of net neutrality digital debate

Alto harvested and analyzed the public digital conversation from January 4th to February 24th, 2018, to determine how Burger King’s key message, “Internet should be the same for everyone” evolved the debate and to what extent Burger King impacted the debate beyond a political and technical discussion.
Alto Analyzer, our proprietary software, collected and processed 435,753 public comments by 168,429 authors from multiple data sources such as Twitter, Facebook, newspapers, blogs, forums and digital communities. Alto’s data scientist team then focused on data from Twitter and created a network to map the public debate. A total of 168,429 users was analyzed and five key communities emerged as a result of applying Alto’s proprietary artificial intelligence algorithms.
The second largest was Burger King’s community with 6.1% of the network. In this community users discussed the effectiveness of the advert and how Burger King influenced better understanding of the net neutrality.

Users are represented by nodes and their interactions by edges. Different colors indicate clusters and communities determined by Alto’s AI algorithms.

Burger King re-activated political debate attracting new audiences and influencers

A deeper analysis of the new users activated by Burger King’s advert revealed how the brand managed to attract two types of influential users: Celebrities and Satirical profiles; while simultaneously increasing the amount of Artist (2% to 22%) and Media (2% to 16%) influencers discussing net neutrality and reaching new audiences.

After the launch of Burger King’s ad, top verbatims included tweets by Celebrity influencers, indicating how Burger King managed to evolve what was previously a highly political discourse without citizen input and achieve Burger King’s communication goals to raise public awareness across new segments of users.
Burger King’s advert diversified the total amount of influencers discussing net neutrality and their impact on the debate. Before the advert, influencers were 38% politicians and 53% activists. After the advert influencers significantly diversified.
Alto’s data visualization shows new influencers (yellow nodes) clustered around the Senate community (blue nodes), spreading the debate to different groups of users and audiences. Eight of these top ten influencers emerged after the launch of Burger King’s advert and had higher audience impact than influencers previously leading the net neutrality discussion.
Not only did Burger King manage to become the 2nd most relevant community in size, but the brand also attracted new profiles of users, penetrating the core US senate political debate. Evidence of Burger King’s impact is also reflected in the fact that the brand Twitter account was the second most influential profile in the debate after senator Brian Schatz’s:

Burger King’s most-shared video ever with high brand equity return… even Anonymous supported the campaign

4.3B impressions$67 million in earned media+60 million organic views in 48 hours+2.3 million signatures to protect Net Neutrality

Why should brands enter political debates?

Whoppers and net neutrality are more connected than it seems: a potential consequence of net neutrality is limited access to Internet or certain Internet services. Soon after the repeal prominent media like Forbes and The New York Times published articles about the impact for consumers.
Alto data scientists wanted to know how American families would change their spending habits should net neutrality result in higher prices for Internet access. 200 American families were surveyed across the USA and divided in two groups with this question:
“If you had to spend $5-$10USD more every month for Internet access for typical online entertaining platforms like Netflix, on what products would you spend less?”
Group A, 100 families, open-ended response:

Group B, 100 families, multiple-choice question:

52% women and 48% men responded, revealing the connection between net neutrality and Burger King’s flagship product: surveyed families indicated they would spend less on food and fast food should Internet prices increase, demonstrating the link between corporate activism and how it impacts bottom line.

Key Insights

Corporate activism is an emerging trend connected to business strategy.Brands need to understand their customers holistically, catalyze their voices and respond to their needs with action.Public affairs and regulatory functions are being heavily impacted by digital transformation.Corporations must map stakeholders and risks in real-time: Who are your Burger Kings? Who could be your Burger King?
Interested in our work? For questions or a presentation of the complete analysis, please contact us at To learn more about Alto Data Analytics and our proprietary software, subscribe to our newsletter below.