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Archive for July 2016

Analysis of Opinions on Lim Guan Eng’s Corruption Charges by Twitter Users in Malaysia

1. Background

On March 17th 2016, Shabudin Yahaya (BN MP for Tasek Gelugor) alleged that the Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng was involved in the sale of two plots of land in Taman Manggis, Penang to a company whose owner was connected to the owner of a bungalow purchased by Lim Guan Eng. The purchase of the bungalow was alleged to have been below the market-price [1].

Comparisons were made between these allegations and former Menteri Besar of Selangor, Khir Toyo’s case where he was convicted for abusing his power to acquire land and property below the market-price.

Following these allegations, a series of exposes and more allegations surfaced online. MACC conducted investigations and on June 29th Lim Guan Eng was arrested and held overnight.  On June 30th he was charged with corruption in the Penang High Court. His former land-lady, Phang Li Koon was also charged for her involvement.

The charges faced by Lim Guan Eng are described below:

“Lim is facing two charges for corruption – one under Section 165 of the Penal Code and another Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act (MACC) 2009 — over his approval of an application from Magnificent Emblem to convert a piece of land from agricultural to residential use, as well as over his purchase of a house from the firm’s director, Phang, for RM2.8 million, which was below the property’s market value of RM4.27 million.” [2]

Since the story broke in March we tracked mentions of Lim Guan Eng, Taman Manggis, Khir Toyo and other related terms to gauge the response to the initial story and on-going exposes.

2. Initial Analysis (March 17th – April 30th)

We initially examined tweets by 10,627 users from March 17th – April 30th 2016 mentioning the keywords related to allegations against Lim Guan Eng.

What we found was the topic was popular mainly with users with a strong partisan interest in Malaysian politics. This issue did not draw enough interest from the general public – it was not worth talking about, and those who did tended to express disinterest or only retweet news articles.

The topic also drew more interest from users based in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang. 59% of users tweeting about the topic (not including retweets) were based in these 3 states. The highest drop in interest was from users in Johor, which made up 8.63% of the local population (1.96 points lower than the proportional average).

There was also a high degree of spammed tweets, with spammed tweets outnumbering non-spammed tweets on some days. This can be seen in the chart below:

lgearrest_mac_interest

1,358 users spammed 49,223 tweets. In other words, 12.8% of the users spammed 41.8% of the total tweets.

From a manual reading of non-spammed tweets during this period, we found that tweeted opinions about the scandal fell mainly into the following categories:

  • Users not interested in Lim Guan Eng’s scandal
  • Users complaining about excessive media coverage. Most complaints implied users were bored or not interested in listening to the repeated allegations.
  • Users wanting Lim Guan Eng to be investigated
  • Users comparing Lim Guan Eng’s case with Khir Toyo’s case
  • Users criticising Lim Guan Eng’s responses to the allegations
  • Users critical of BN and DAP, equating both to be corrupt
  • Users defending Lim Guan Eng. Among the more popular reasons were:
    • BN / UMNO / PM Najib are considered to be worse
    • The discount isn’t that big / there is nothing wrong with a good deal
    • The 1MDB scandal is much bigger and more important than Lim Guan Eng’s scandal
    • Khir Toyo’s house is bigger

Users defending Lim Guan Eng were a small minority. There was little evidence of pro-DAP or pro-Opposition users being mobilised to defend Lim Guan Eng.

Out of 44 DAP politicians actively tweeting in this period, only 27 politicians tweeted/retweeted tweets mentioning Lim Guan Eng or keywords related to the allegations. This does not include images or tweets not mentioning related keywords. By not talking about the allegations the 17 politicians missed an opportunity to contribute to Lim Guan Eng’s defence on Twitter.

Because of the low level of interest from the general public and the high degree of spam, we could not do a detailed opinion analysis at the time.

3. Analysis of Opinions on Lim Guan Eng’s Corruption Charges (June 29th – July 6th)

We examined tweets by 8,365 users from June 29th – July 6th 2016 mentioning keywords related to allegations against Lim Guan Eng. The daily interest is shown in the graph below.

lgearrest_jun_interest

We then performed opinion-based analysis on 520 users based in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang. The margin of error is +/- 4.3%.

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