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#Wexit: Company says bots, aggregators boosted Alberta separatist movement on Twitter
EDMONTON -- The Alberta separatist movement that has taken social media by storm after the Liberals won a minority government was partially generated by bots and data aggregators, according to a public relations company.
Wexit, a term that combines Western Canada and exit, began trending on Twitter Monday night and has nearly 170,000 members on its Facebook page as of Tuesday afternoon.
"It was huge, it was absolutely huge," said Wexit Founder Peter Downing of the social media bump.
On Tuesday, CTV News Edmonton received statistics from H+K Strategies that suggest Twitter activity was started by bots and content aggregators. While not all of the accounts were new, the organization said they have all advanced other conservative messages in the past.
"So clearly bots were used to fuel and spur the initial discussion, artificiall inflating the engagement and gaming Twitter's trending function," a company spokesperson said.
However, their tweets did generate reaction from real people, H+K Strategies said, with 72 per cent of real users tweeting about Wexit Tuesday.
Downing created Wexit Alberta in June and Wexit Alberta about a month ago. He now wants to turn the groups into provincial and federal parties.
"We have to do this," Downing said. "Right now there's no hope, there's no future … no reason why we have to have Justin Trudeau governing us.
Lori Williams, a political scientist, says separating from the rest of Canada would not fix Alberta's economy.
"The concerns that Albertans have will not be solved by separation. We're not going to get our oil to markets any better if we’re not part of Canada."
However, Williams understands why Albertans are frustrated by how Ottawa treats their province.
"There's an unfairness in terms of Alberta's recognition for its contribution to the Canadian economy," Williams said. "Alberta has the sense, rightly, that it's giving more than it's getting in return—both in terms economic balance, but also in terms of appreciation."
H+K Strategies said it used a third-party platform to analyze publicly available tweets containing the hashtag #Wexit from Oct. 20-21 at noon, focusing on accounts that were tweeting the most about the separatist cause.
It then sorted data and manually examined the accounts "to see if they exhibited bot or aggregator like behavious, such as repeated use of the same copy or tweet in a short time period, low follower to tweet volume ratio and account age."
While not all of the accounts were bots, some were considered aggregators pushing a particular and even duplicated message.
"These accounts were responsible for a disproportionate amount of conversation, causing it to catch the attention of other Canadians," H+K said.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Dan Grummett reports