09 Jan

#DebateEnRedes: Concern with the Australian fauna was the main topic in more than 2 million tweets around the world

Por Mariela García

Updated 20 de July, 2023 at 8:55 pm

If you only have a few seconds, read these lines:

  • 24% of the messages containing the hashtag “#PrayForAustralia” were published in Thailand.
  • The most shared message was published by a Japanese fashion entrepreneur, who encouraged donations.
  • There were 23 thousand messages in Argentina, and most repeated word was “animals”.

The first fires were registered in Australia in September 2019 and continued to increase until the present day, leaving 24 dead, millions of animals and millions of houses destroyed by the flames. In the state of New South Wales alone, in the Southeast region of the country, 5 million hectares have already burned. There are also areas affected in the state of Victoria.

British newspaper The Guardian shared an interactive map in their website where readers can compare the affected area depending on a selected city. Using Buenos Aires as an example, the fire would reach the city of Paraná (Entre Ríos) to the North; the city of Junín in Buenos Aires to the South; Concepción del Uruguay (Entre Ríos) to the East; and would almost reach Venado Tuerto (Santa Fé) or Marcos Juárez (Córdoba) to the West.

Source: Elaborated by Chequeado based on The Guardian.

Some specialists are connecting the severity of the fires in Australia to the drought and to climate change. According to newspaper articles in the country, the temperatures registered in December were the highest since 1910. The escalation of the crisis led to criticism of the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, who was accused of not responding quickly to the emergency.

The concern is ongoing in the world media and the social networks have joined the alert. In the last few days, a satellite image of the fires in Australia circulated on different platforms and was classified by Chequeado as “misleading”.

We analyzed how Twitter users reached to the hashtag “#PrayForAustralia” (because it is the most widely used hashtag in the world) since the first minute of January 1st until midday on January 8. In this period, 2,412,800 tweets were published globally.

Almost one fourth of the messages about the fires was published in Thailand (24%), followed by Indonesia (9%), Japan, Brazil and the United States (8%). 27% of the tweets included the sad face emoji (☹️), the crying face (), or the crying and screaming face (). The koala () was present in 2% of the messages, referring to the serious danger of extinction of the species.

The most repeated word belonged to the Thai language and is translated as “firefighting” (13%). The rest of the ranking included the Japanese terms related to the “suffering” of the koalas (12%) and the request for money donations in order to fight the fires and help the people and animals affected (for example, “if you can pay, consider the possibility of donating”).

Regarding the tweets shared, a message by Yusaku Maezawa (@yousuck2020), a Japanese entrepreneur with almost 7 million followers, was at the top of the list. In his publication, he invited his followers to unite in donating, and it was retweeted 308,460 times and bookmarked 192,817 times. The second most retweeted message was published by @zornitsaxx, a Thai user who summarized the numbers related to the known consequences of the forest fire so far.

The most mentioned tweet was published in Portuguese by the user @lilqueencrfsz, whose account has 1,826 followers, and who states in his biography to be a fan of the Brazilian football team, Flamengo. “Half a billion animals dead, 5.5 million hectares destroyed, and it’s already 6 times worse than the Amazon Forest [due to the fires in August 2019 in the area] (…) Where are the authorities in the entire world? Australia calls for help!”, he said. His plea got 21,295 retweets.

The impact on Twitter in Argentina

In the first week of the year, users on Twitter in Argentina send 23 thousand messages with the hashtag #PrayForAustralia. The second one used the most was “#Australia”.

The trend observed around the world was repeated in the country: according to the most used words, the main concern was the impact on the fauna. “Animals” (41%), “dead” (34%), and “millions” (32%) were the three most repeated terms.

Unlike the emojis chosen in the rest of the world, the folded hands () came in first place in Argentina (32%), followed by the broken heart (, 21%). The koala () was present in 2.6% of the publications.

According to Trendsmap, the most influential tweet (measured by the number of followers of the issuing account) was published by Diario Crónica (@cronica, with 720,920 followers). In second place came a retweet made by Juana Viale (@ViaJuani has 720,001 followers), an actress and granddaughter of Mirtha Legrand, who shared a video of @JeonBaeHwangKim showing a woman rescuing a koala that was hit by the flames.

* The Digital Democracy Room is a project of FGV DAPP in Brazil in partnership with Chequeado, Linterna Verde and Ojo Público. It’s goal is to monitor and analyze the digital conversations regarding the electoral context.

The analysis is available the website of Chequeado here.