Alto’s data science team analyzed the Italian social and political debate, collecting data from December 15th, 2018 to January 20th, 2019. Public data analyzed includes 3,100,000 total results from 408,244 unique authors, 159,071 conversations, and 430,256 unique pieces of content shared across multiple digital sources such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, blogs, forums, and other digital communities. Results in the Italian language and results geolocated in Italy were collected. Alto’s analysis focuses on understanding the role and digital influence of politicians, civil society, and social and digital media platforms in shaping the online public debate in Italy.

The Italian political and social debate, as reflected in the digital sphere, is dominated by reference to Matteo Salvini, Deputy Prime Minister of Italy and leader of the party, Lega, who occupies a central role in the debate. Alto’s data analysts conducted an analysis of the explicit mentions of political parties on all of the indexed sources previously described. In this analysis, we measured explicit mentions of political parties and politicians, finding that 45% of mentions refer to Lega or associated politicians, 36% to Movimento 5 Stelle or associated politicians, 9% to the Partito Democratico or associated politicians, 6% to Forza Italia or associated politicians, and 4% to Fratelli d’Italia or associated politicians.

Nearly half of the users with abnormal activity (users averaging 56 messages per day) are part of the Right and Anti-Immigration community, and just over 40% form part of the Partito Democratico community. More pronounced are the explicit mentions to political parties, in which Lega, M5S, and Forza Italia together make up 87% of these references, signaling the significance of these parties as a core point of reference within the narratives of the discussion.

Typical political issues such as the economy and policy-making contribute to about 28% of all conversations, while themes concerning immigration, including those related to NGO Sea-Watch, immigration policies, and anti-immigration dialogue contribute to 28% of the total conversations. Reflecting the political landscape of Italy, the conversations are considerably polarized – as expected, the current governing political affiliation (Lega and M5S) are staunchly against immigration while the political opposition is in support of policies more favorable towards immigration. Temporary themes such as racism in football, the capture of communist-terrorist Cesare Battisti, and citizenship allowance make up peripherally relevant conversations around which several users interact throughout the period analyzed.

Narratives Analysis

By analyzing the top 273 keywords & hashtags which represent 47.4% of all results analyzed based on the highest frequency terms interconnected from the public discussion, Alto’s analysts identified the following narratives:

  1. National and international politics in the mainstream (28.1%): General debate containing both crticisms and support concerning the functioning of the current government, their successes, and what can be improved.
  2. Immigration and NGOs (15.4%): General conversation on matters related to immigration and how NGOs are supporting immigrants.
  3. Political movements and parties (13.9%): Conversations explicitly referencing Italian political parties, propagated in many cases by the official political parties themselves.
  4. Basic income law and other comments about the Parliament and Senate (12.5%): Citizens-related affairs such as “Quota 100” and “Reddito di Cittadinanza”.
  5. Ports policy and sea migration (10.6%): Debate on whether the ports of Italy should be open and welcoming to immigrants. The conversation heavily references initiatives such as NGO Sea-Watch, for example.
  6. Security law due to immigration and mayor’s disobedience (8.1%): Criticisms of city halls and mayors that are open to immigration.
  7. Public workers’ policy (7.0%): Labour unions and workers asking the government to improve their conditions.

Communities Analysis

Alto data scientists used Alto Analyzer, Alto’s proprietary cloud-based analytics platform, to build and identify the largest communities of users interacting in connection with the Italian public debate. This community was identified in Twitter and their interactions were filtered to be re-tweets 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, Alto’s data scientists applied clustering algorithms, like the Louvain Method for community detection, for example. The graph resulted as shown below with a total of 160,931 users and 4,470,625 retweets. Six key communities emerged out of the community detection analysis:

Network topology is characterized by network structures with nodes (profiles) and edges (lines) which connect them. Alto’s algorithm clusters nodes and edges in order to calculate proximities and communities of users.

Network topology is characterized by network structures with nodes (profiles) and edges (lines) which connect them. Alto’s algorithm clusters nodes and edges in order to calculate proximities and communities of users.

  1. Partito Democratico (38%): Consists of politicians, media, and journalists primarily criticizing the current government for their work and policies.
  2. Right and Anti-immigration (18%): Molded around Matteo Salvini and fellow politicians talking about the problems caused by immigrants in Italy with a focus on violence and crime.
  3. Pro-Immigration (17%): Mainly focuses on supporting immigrants within the country and pushing for immigration-friendly policies. NGO Sea-Watch forms a key part of this community.
  4. Racism in Football (16%): This community’s conversations are centered around racist comments made in a football match towards Kalidou Koulibaly in late December. Football stars and professional clubs come out in support of the player and denounce the acts of racism.
  5. Movimento 5 Stelle (8%): Formed around several politicians from the political party, Movimento 5 Stelle, who praise the current government’s work and development in the country.
  6. Capture of Cesare Battisti (3%): This community shares news related to the capture of the communist terrorist of Cesare Battisti in Brazil and thank the Brazilian government for their help in capturing him.

Politicians Among the Top Communities

In an analysis of influential nodes in the communities mapped, Alto measured influence mathematically based on the structural connections of the authors in the digital debate and their ability to propagate their messages to larger audiences in the network (centrality measurement). This analysis demonstrates that out of 82 politicians in the top communities, which amounted to 0.05% of all users analyzed, 27 were classified in the Movimento 5 Stelle community (32.93% of all users), 34 were classified in the Partito Democratico community (41.46% of all users), and 12 were from the Right and Anti-immigration community (14.63% of all users).

Abnormality Detection – Most Active Users

To determine if users demonstrating abnormal levels of activity were present in the debate, Alto’s team focused on an analysis of outliers and their posting frequency. The 2,076 most active users generated an average of 802 comments per author, with a standard deviation of 606, meaning that users with more than 1,408 comments are outliers. Given this, our analysts were able to identify 207 users with abnormal activity, generating at least 38 posts per day over the period analyzed for a collective total of 464,210 total posts. 44% of abnormal activity users were classified in the Partito Democratico community, while 41% of abnormal activity users were identified in the Right and Anti-immigration community and 15% in the Movimento 5 Stelle community. Foreign media such as RT.com, Sputnik, and Gab.ai have a very low diffusion in the communities.

Negligible Influence of Users Posting from Outside of Italy

42.14% of users are geolocated in Italy and 55.37% of users do not publicly express their geolocation. Users taking part in the Italian socio-political debate online from other locations demonstrated marginal activity relative to the overall debate.

Role of Traditional, Emerging, and Foreign Media in the Debate

To determine which media sites are most influential, Alto’s algorithms take into account the number of users and the volume and frequency of links from media sites being shared across social media sources to calculate how influential the site is within the context of the analysis. Alto’s software ranks content influence similar to Google’s algorithms for web page ranking – the content from more relevant sites are likely to receive greater attention from more users over a sustained period of time.

Alto’s analysis found that traditional Italian media and social media platforms ranked high in influence, as did a growing network of emerging digital media with highly specific editorial positions. Please see the table below for the top 150 most influential domains and the contribution of each community to the propagation of each domain’s content within the network.

Some of the key findings are:

– The top 150 most influential domains reach 88.2% of users in the Authors – Domains Network, while Twitter.com, repubblica.it, facebook.com, and ilfattoquotidiano.it represent the 4 most shared domains in the analysis.

– Among the top 50 most shared domains, 19 domains are shared by the Right and Anti-Immigration community with a frequency of over 60% and 16 domains are shared by this community with a frequency of over 80%. Among the top 25 most shared domains by this community are ilgiornale.it, liberoquotidiano.it, voxnews.info, laverita.info, imolaoggi.it, riscattonazionale.org, and ilprimatonazionale.it. Several of these sites with highly segmented positions increase in relevance among high activity users.

– Zooming in to the top 25 most shared domains, the Partito Democratico community tends to share sites like ilfoglio.it, nextquotidiano.it, and repubblica.it, while the Movimento 5 Stelle community frequently shares domains like ilblogdellestelle.it and beppegrillo.it.

Top 150 Domains – Percentage of Times Each Domain Is Shared per Community

Over a period of analysis from January to March 2019, Alto’s data science team conducted a public digital sphere analysis of the Italian sociopolitical conversation with a focus on abnormal high activity users. Read the analysis here: Italian Public Digital Sphere Conversation On EU Elections: Analysis From January To March 2019

Interested in our work? Please contact us at info@alto-analytics.com. To learn more about Alto Analytics and our proprietary software, subscribe to our newsletter below.