Wikileaks posts ‘harmed Clinton vote’, finds Scots research

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Picture: Getty Images
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Picture: Getty Images
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Online criticism of Hillary Clinton over documents posted by WikiLeaks played a key role in her failed US presidential campaign, Edinburgh researchers have suggested.

A study of viral tweets during the 2016 election race shows the Democrat was much more under fire on social media than her rival Donald Trump.

It also found attitudes on the two candidates from traditional and social media stood largely in stark contrast, with Trump supporters more likely to share reports from less credible sources.

Dr Walid Magdy, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, who led the research, said: “Our findings reveal a wide disparity between traditional media, which was very critical of Donald Trump, and social media, where Hillary Clinton was much worse off.”

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Work carried out by academics at the university shows posts about WikiLeaks were the most common form of attack for Mrs Clinton, who was also lambasted on Twitter over an FBI investigation into her use of a private email server.

The organisation was founded by Julian Assange and publishes secret information and news leaks as well as classified media from anonymous sources.

A study of the top 50 most retweeted posts each day between September 1 and November 8 found there were three times as many posts attacking Clinton than those in her favour.

Researchers used computer analysis to study almost 3,500 of the top viral tweets.

Those posts were retweeted more than 25 million times all together. Tweets were labelled as being favourable to Trump, Clinton or neither.

Viral tweets relating to Trump were split equally in favour and against his campaign.

Posts from the Republican’s social media campaign and his supporters were more positive in tone than that of his rival.

This corresponded with an effective reach for slogans, policy promises and campaigning for swing states.

Tweets backing Mrs Clinton tended to compare her with her rival and attack Mr Trump, rather than praise Mrs Clinton.

Mr Trump was criticised for his performance in election debates more than his links to scandals.

The study, carried out alongside the Qatar Computing Research Institute, will be presented at the Social Informatics 2017 conference in Oxford in September.

It used data from TweetElect.com, which collates the most retweeted posts related to the US election.