TTIP, the Bullied Kid of Twitter

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With the 12th round of negotiations due in early 2016, proponents and critics of the transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, an agreement aiming to lift trade barriers between the European Union and the United States, are struggling to win the hearts and minds of social media users. While both the tone and the intensity of the online debate vary widely on the two sides of the Atlantic, the topic has been receiving increased attention from the global Twitter community in recent months. Through a detailed data collection and analysis of the tweets relating to TTIP – but also TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) and CETA (Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) – over the month of October 2015, the authors aim to offer an overview of the communication trends on Twitter and how they relate to events surrounding trade negotiations. This article wishes to portray an objective picture of the topic, signal the direction of the discussion and suggest possible ways to improve communication. The time frame in question was chosen for the diversity of significant TTIP-related events that took place in October 2015. The 11th round of negotiations was held in Miami, Florida, over the 19th-23rd October and the largest assembly of citizens protesting against TTIP took place in Berlin on the 10th October, with other significant protests in Spain and other countries across Europe. Thus, the results of the analysis may be magnified by the high level of attention these two events generated, which may not reflect a constant evolution pattern during the months before or after October. Furthermore, the sentiment analysis echoes the views of the specific category of Twitter users and does not claim to represent a normally distributed sample of society. Thus, this article explores the absolute values relating to TTIP-related hashtag use on Twitter and the possible implications the online discussion may pose for the ongoing negotiations.
This article has first been published in Georgetown Public Policy Review.