On July 3rd 2015 at 4.42 AM (GMT+8), The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an article alleging that the on-going investigation into 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) found evidence of billions of ringgit being transferred into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal bank accounts at AmIslamic Bank .
This was followed by a more detailed expose by Sarawak Report tweeted at 5.20 AM that provided unverified details on the dates, account numbers and sums of money involved .
News of the expose started to spread online at 9 AM. From what we observed, WSJ carrying the story added credibility to the claims despite having no evidence attached to the article. The Prime Minister responded with a press statement stating that he had ‘never taken funds for personal gain’ and the allegations came with no evidence . WSJ has stood by their claims .
Over the next few days online backlash against the PM continued to increase. The publication of allegations by WSJ served as a trigger for an outpouring of criticism towards the PM on many issues beyond the alleged theft.
2. Our Analysis
We performed opinion-based analysis on 600 users based in Malaysia who tweeted about Najib, @NajibRazak, 1MDB, WSJ, Sarawak Report and related terms from July 3rd – July 7th 2015. The margin of error is +/- 4%.
Users were selected based on their tweet content and activity during this period. Sampling was done per-state based on the current estimated user population.
Spammers, news agencies and accounts with automated tweets were not included in the sample.
From this dataset we analysed the individual Twitter user timelines to determine their opinion. This took their tweets, retweets and conversations into account.
Our goal was to gauge public reaction by Twitter users in Malaysia to the allegations raised by the Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report. Users who were tweeting about PM Najib but not in response to the issues raised (transfer of funds from 1MDB) were not included in the sample.
Based on this analysis we categorised users as belonging to one of the following categories:
These were further divided into the following categories based on which party they chose to support/criticise:
- Negative (general)
- Negative (Najib must resign)
- Negative (Najib must resign, directed to @NajibRazak)
- Negative (directed to @NajibRazak)
The results are shown in the following charts.
Individual Category Breakdown
|Negative (Najib must resign)||139||23.17|
|Negative (Najib must resign, directed to @NajibRazak)||77||12.83|
|Negative (directed to @NajibRazak)||101||16.83|
By combining categories we also have the following statistics:
- 216 users (36%) want PM Najib to resign
- 178 users (29.67%) tweeted negative remarks to him directly (including asking him to resign)
What follows are the findings for each category.
35 users (5.83%)
These users did not believe the allegations made by WSJ. The most common reasons expressed by this group were:
- the sum of money is too large to be believable
- the use of personal accounts to steal money is not believable
- they do not believe that Bank Negara wouldn’t have noticed such a large transfer
- believe it is lies by Western media (WSJ)
52 users (8.67%)
These users had no clear stand, or were open to the possibility that PM Najib took the funds. The most common opinions being expressed were:
- want an investigation to be carried out before passing judgement
- believe it is inappropriate to assume guilt without proof
3.3 Negative (general)
196 users (32.67%)
These users were making negative remarks about PM Najib because they believed he stole public funds. Many wanted the PM to declare assets and prove his innocence. They also wanted an investigation to be done.
Additionally there were users blaming the PM for high costs of living, petrol prices and the falling value of the ringgit. There were also users demanding that PM Najib prove his innocence using evidence.
The tone of voice used included mocking, rudeness, anger and sarcasm with the more harsh remarks wishing ill-will on the PM now and in the afterlife. ‘Liar’ and ‘stupid’ were among the more common remarks directed at the PM.
Points that helped convince some users that the allegations were true:
- no declaration by the PM that the accounts do not belong to him
- no denial that the funds were deposited into the accounts
- delay in suing WSJ
- WSJ does not have the same (alleged) credibility issues that Sarawak Report has
- global TV news coverage of the allegations served to make the claims more credible
3.4 Negative (Najib must resign)
139 users (23.17%)
These were users who were making negative remarks (as in the general category) and asking for PM Najib to step down.
3.5 Negative (Najib must resign, directed to @NajibRazak)
77 users (12.83%)
These were users who directly asked for PM Najib to step down by tweeting to his Twitter account (@NajibRazak).
3.6 Negative (directed to @NajibRazak)
101 users (16.83%)
These were users who were making jokes; insults and tweeting other negative personal remarks directly to PM Najib’s Twitter account (@NajibRazak).
4. Additional Opinions
Users tweeting about Najib, 1MDB, WSJ and Sarawak Report also expressed the following opinions/sentiment on related topics. This listing was summarised based on a manual reading of a sample of 2,388 users in Malaysia, inclusive of the sample used for the above analysis.
These expressions are not indicative of their views on PM Najib in relation to the allegations raised by WSJ, but we are including it here for informative reasons:
- Additional complaints directed towards PM Najib:
- Complaints about oil prices
- Complaints about falling value of the ringgit
- Complaints about cost of living
- Concerns that Malaysia’s economy may end up like Greece’s economy
- General expressions of being ‘fed up’ with the PM and ‘his problems’ dominating the news
- General expressions of anger towards PM Najib (no context given)
- PAS, PKR and DAP were rarely mentioned. When they were it was most often to state that the Opposition is not capable of taking over the government right now. Other users mentioned not trusting DAP or choosing to vote PAS/PKR instead of BN.
- UMNO / Tun Mahathir supporters who want PM Najib to go
- Remarks on local media being untrustworthy on this issue
- Demands for PM Najib to show evidence that Tun Mahathir is responsible for WSJ’s allegations
- Frequent remarks stating Najib is dishonest and/or stupid
5. About the Population Sample
The results reflect a young demographic, by our estimates to be between 18 – 30 years old. Users were predominantly Bahasa Malaysia speakers:
- 67% Bahasa Malaysia speakers
- 25% English speakers
- 8% Bilingual speakers
- 6. Scale of Importance on Twitter6.1 The scale of conversationThis network graph shows how Twitter users tweeting about Najib, @NajibRazak, 1MDB, WSJ, Sarawak Report and related terms from July 3rd – July 7th were connected. This includes all users on Twitter limited to those who retweeted or had conversations with each other. This helps visualise the scale of the conversation. Please note that not all mentions of ‘Najib’ refer to Najib Razak, and not all mentions of ‘Wall Street Journal’ refer to their article on PM Najib.
- Each user is represented by a node (circle) that is coloured based on the number of their tweets that were retweeted and the number of tweets sent to them. The more attention they receive, the larger the node. Any node that retweets another node or tweets to another node is connected.Nodes are positioned based on their connections to other nodes – strong connections pull them closer. Large nodes are considered influential within the network. We have coloured the nodes based on a scale of blue (least influential) to green; yellow; orange; red; and purple (most influential).Due to the scale of the graph, we can only show names from the top 536 most influential users as seen below:
- There are 88,550 users with 140,642 connections within the unfiltered graph. The most popular users were:
As this is a global conversation that includes mentions of @wsj and ‘Wall Street Journal’, there will be users and connections that are not relevant to the specific WSJ article on PM Najib (e.g. @wsjjapan). This is why @wsj dominates the graph as users retweet and discuss their other articles. However we don’t want to remove @wsj from the graph because many users in Malaysia were interacting with @wsj.To get a better sense of the scale of the Malaysia-based conversation and which users were popular locally, we can filter this graph against our database of Twitter users in Malaysia. This results in the following graph:
- There are noticeably more prominent users in this graph indicated by the differently-coloured nodes. We can also see how they scale against each other, which wasn’t possible in the previous graph.Due to the scale of the graph, we can only show names from the top 873 most influential users as seen below.
- There are 28,518 users with 53,903 connections within the unfiltered graph. The most popular users were:
7. ConclusionThe analysis indicates that the majority of Twitter users in Malaysia were not supportive of Prime Minister Najib Razak, with 36% wanting him to resign.The quick acceptance of allegations brought by Wall Street Journal shows that respect and faith in the PM is at a low level. Critics of the PM demonstrated a mind-set of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ when it comes to allegations against him and statements defending him.Despite the calls for PM Najib to step down, there was little mention of who should replace him. The assumption mentioned by users is that Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will take over.Few users in the sample mentioned Anwar Ibrahim as a replacement PM or voting PKR/PAS as an alternative to BN. There was no mention of DAP or the Opposition being a viable alternative to the present government. It is very likely that people who are anti-Najib are not necessarily supporters of the Opposition.In our previous analysis on PM Najib’s absence at the #Nothing2Hide forum many users were calling him a coward. Now they are calling him ‘liar’ and ‘stupid’ and holding him personally responsible for their reduced quality of life.In this analysis 29.67% of users tweeted negative remarks directly to @NajibRazak including calls for him to resign. This is an increase from our #Nothing2Hide analysis where 27.80% of users were tweeting him directly, with no calls to resign. This reflects an increasing lack of respect and lack of fear to openly criticise the PM.The impression we get is that even if the allegations by WSJ are proven to be untrue, there is already a growing negative sentiment towards the PM due to other issues.8. Popular ContentThe following tweets were among the most popularly shared tweets / images on this topic.Inilah regu yang digeruni lawan suatu ketika dahulu. Dr Mahathir, Anwar Ibrahim & Najib Razak. Kini haluan berbeza. pic.twitter.com/kiI7GgHsm4— Proud Malaysian (@TowardsGE15) July 2, 2015Korang bawak bersabar, tgk pendedahan Wall Street Journal bgmn wang 1 MDB disalur terus ke akaun PM Kita, PM kita! pic.twitter.com/p0Cgfd98kK— KOTAK SUARA (@gengbebel) July 3, 20159. Location of usersBased on geo-tagged tweets, we are able to determine where users often tweet from. This is indicative of where they spend most of their time e.g. work-place, university or residence.Blue markers = Positive; Red markers = Negative; Yellow markers = Neutral9.1 West Malaysia9.2 East Malaysia10. References Wright, T. Clark, S. (2015, July 2) Investigators Believe Money Flowed to Malaysian Leader’s Accounts. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from www.wsj.com/articles/SB10130211234592774869404581083700187014570 (2015, July 2) SENSATIONAL FINDINGS! – Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Personal Accounts Linked to 1MDB Money Trail MALAYSIA EXCLUSIVE! Sarawak Report. Retrieved from http://www.sarawakreport.org/2015/07/sensational-findings-prime-minister-najib-razaks-personal-accounts-linked-to-1mdb-money-trail-malaysia-exclusive/ Razak, N. (2015, July 3) In recent month, various allegations [Facebook post]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/najibrazak/posts/10152865618945952 (2015, July 4) Report on Najib based on solid info, not political, says WSJ. The Malaysian Insider. Retrieved from http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/report-on-najib-based-on-solid-info-not-political-says-wsj