Having spent the last two weeks documenting the extensive role of MAGA-related Twitter accounts in the Canadian election, let’s turn back to the United States and check in with the Democratic party primary where a food fight recently broke out.
Candidate Tulsi Gabbard is getting a much closer look these days. The assertion by HRC that she is a product of Russian grooming definitely got a lot of press, but most of it was opinion-based (bashing Clinton, see Van Jones on CNN for example) rather than a data-based analysis of the role that foreign actors have played promoting the Gabbard candidacy. According to a report on the event in The Hill:
“The Russians already have their “eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” she said, in an apparent reference to Gabbard. “She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her, so far,” Clinton told David Plouffe, the podcast’s host and the campaign manager for former President Obama’s 2008 campaign.”
Who is Tweeting about Tulsi Gabbard
In a new series of posts, we will inductively explore Twitter data that mentions “Tulsi” or “Gabbard” to see what appears in the digital vapor trail of her Twitter supporters and opposition. It definitely caught my attention when it was reported that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has maxed out his contributions to Tulsi2020.
Leaving aside her billionaire backers (Dorsey, a platform Czar, and Vladimir Putin, the other kind of Czar), who else is pushing Candidate Gabbard into the trending column on Twitter as well as the crowded Democratic debate stage in the primaries? Maybe it is these folks?
You Be the Judge
We collected over 100,000 mentions of “Tulsi” or Gabbard” produced by Twitter users with 49,082 distinct user_descriptions in under 24 hours on October 20, 2019. Using a short set of search terms and the Boolean OR operator (God OR Patriot OR Brexit OR Swamp OR Trump OR MAGA OR KAG OR QAnon OR Sharia OR Islam), we found >20% of the bios in the Tulsi Gabbard data have a clear pro-MAGA ideological orientation.
Let’s broaden this out a bit and scroll through some of the bios organized alphabetically in a spreadheeet, which is incredibly interesting if you ever try it!
None of this supports the claims that Tulsi Gabbard is an agent of the Russians. However, it does suggest we have significant and complex work ahead to guage the scope and nature of the support she receives not only from Trump supporters, but from a wider multilingual, global audience of fans and critics. We turn to that next.