Social Sentiment Analysis: David Ferrer v Juan Martin Del Potro. Brought to you by Wimbledon Insights

We hoped for some drama, but nothing prepared tennis fans for the thrills and spills of the match between the No.4 seed, David Ferrer, and the No.8 seed, Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro not only came back from what looked like a match-ending injury, but went on to win the match in a heroic performance.

IBM’s social sentiment analytics track how players are being perceived on Twitter throughout the match, watching not just the number of their tweets but their content, using sophisticated tools to decide what percentage is positive or negative. Ferrer began the match with a positive sentiment score of 83%, with Del Potro trailing at 79%. Then disaster struck. Del Potro fell badly in the very first game, aggravating an existing knee injury.

For a moment, it looked like the Argentinian would be unable to continue. “Can’t believe Del Potro has fallen in the first game. This was destined to be a five set thriller with him and Ferrer” tweeted @MattGriffen. Then Del Potro got up and continued the match. “Gotta feel for Del Potro. Brave man to carry on” posted @DanITFC. As Del Potro played on despite obvious pain, the tweets poured in, with over 1500 in a ten minute period. “Del Potro is a Legend, playing the match with an injured knee. Respect to him” said @MitchelJason95. “Unbelievable effort from Del Potro on Centre Court. I’d adore it if he managed to pull through” tweeted @haris_haseeb.

In fact, as the first set continued, Del Potro looked like he could not merely carry on, but actually take the set. “Del Potro is unbelievable. The guy is basically on one leg and is bossing this match!” tweeted @NotFredRhodes. As Del Potro claimed the first set, over 1600 tweets poured in during ten minutes, with 1500 also mentioning Ferrer. “People ask why I like Del Potro so much. I think from today’s performance, we can see why” posted @scott_grimes12.

The excitement continued in the second set, as Del Potro maintained his 79% social sentiment score, while Ferrer’s slipped slightly to 82%. “Dell Potro breaks! Serving for the second! He might actually do this!” tweeted @willdavenport1. “This is the best performance out of anyone in the men’s singles so far this Wimbledon. Brilliant from Del Potro” posted @aidan_duguid95. As Del Potro closed the second set 6-4, over 2000 tweets were posted in ten minutes.

Ferrer fought hard to stay in the third set, taking it to a tie-breaker, but Del Potro finished the set on top to end the match 6-2, 6-4, 7-6. Twitter didn’t reach the same level of fever-pitch as in the first two sets, but the praise kept flooding in. “Okay, fair play, Del Potro. That was incredible” posted @plkunnussijaa. “Del Potro through to the semis. Straight sets win against Ferrer, carrying an injury early on. Wonderful to watch” added @Rketts21.

Del Potro goes on to play Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals on Friday. For a detailed match report visit www.wimbledon.com.

Stuart Andrews

 

John Moore
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The man who created the fake Tube sign explains why he did it

"We need to consider the fact that fake news isn't always fake news at the source," says John Moore.

"I wrote that at 8 o'clock on the evening and before midday the next day it had been read out in the Houses of Parliament."

John Moore, a 44-year-old doctor from Windsor, is describing the whirlwind process by which his social media response to Wednesday's Westminster attack became national news.

Moore used a Tube-sign generator on the evening after the attack to create a sign on a TfL Service Announcement board that read: "All terrorists are politely reminded that THIS IS LONDON and whatever you do to us we will drink tea and jolly well carry on thank you." Within three hours, it had just fifty shares. By the morning, it had accumulated 200. Yet by the afternoon, over 30,000 people had shared Moore's post, which was then read aloud on BBC Radio 4 and called a "wonderful tribute" by prime minister Theresa May, who at the time believed it was a genuine Underground sign. 

"I think you have to be very mindful of how powerful the internet is," says Moore, whose viral post was quickly debunked by social media users and then national newspapers such as the Guardian and the Sun. On Thursday, the online world split into two camps: those spreading the word that the sign was "fake news" and urging people not to share it, and those who said that it didn't matter that it was fake - the sentiment was what was important. 

Moore agrees with the latter camp. "I never claimed it was a real tube sign, I never claimed that at all," he says. "In my opinion the only fake news about that sign is that it has been reported as fake news. It was literally just how I was feeling at the time."

Moore was motivated to create and post the sign when he was struck by the "very British response" to the Westminster attack. "There was no sort of knee-jerk Islamaphobia, there was no dramatisation, it was all pretty much, I thought, very calm reporting," he says. "So my initial thought at the time was just a bit of pride in how London had reacted really." Though he saw other, real Tube signs online, he wanted to create his own in order to create a tribute that specifically epitomised the "very London" response. 

Yet though Moore insists he never claimed the sign was real, his caption on the image - which now has 100,800 shares - is arguably misleading. "Quintessentially British..." Moore wrote on his Facebook post, and agrees now that this was ambiguous. "It was meant to relate to the reaction that I saw in London in that day which I just thought was very calm and measured. What the sign was trying to do was capture the spirit I'd seen, so that's what I was actually talking about."

Not only did Moore not mean to mislead, he is actually shocked that anyone thought the sign was real. 

"I'm reasonably digitally savvy and I was extremely shocked that anyone thought it was real," he says, explaining that he thought everyone would be able to spot a fake after a "You ain't no muslim bruv" sign went viral after the Leytonstone Tube attack in 2015. "I thought this is an internet meme that people know isn't true and it's fine to do because this is a digital thing in a digital world."

Yet despite his intentions, Moore's sign has become the centre of debate about whether "nice" fake news is as problematic as that which was notoriously spread during the 2016 United States Presidential elections. Though Moore can understand this perspective, he ultimately feels as though the sentiment behind the sign makes it acceptable. 

"I use the word fake in inverted commas because I think fake implies the intention to deceive and there wasn't [any]... I think if the sentiment is ok then I think it is ok. I think if you were trying to be divisive and you were trying to stir up controversy or influence people's behaviour then perhaps I wouldn't have chosen that forum but I think when you're only expressing your own emotion, I think it's ok.

"The fact that it became so-called fake news was down to other people's interpretation and not down to the actual intention... So in many interesting ways you can see that fake news doesn't even have to originate from the source of the news."

Though Moore was initially "extremely shocked" at the reponse to his post, he says that on reflection he is "pretty proud". 

"I'm glad that other people, even the powers that be, found it an appropriate phrase to use," he says. "I also think social media is often denigrated as a source of evil and bad things in the world, but on occasion I think it can be used for very positive things. I think the vast majority of people who shared my post and liked my post have actually found the phrase and the sentiment useful to them, so I think we have to give social media a fair judgement at times and respect the fact it can be a source for good."

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.