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For two days South Africa and the world turned their attention to paralympic icon Oscar Pistorius, who awaited the verdict for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Internet usage in South Africa spiked as the public tuned in on various screens when Judge Masipa delivered her verdict of SA’s most talked about trial.
Pistorius, who was found not guilty of premeditated murder but found guilty for culpable homicide, has been the subject of many headlines and many tweets in the past year. His trial has taken place both in a court of law as well that of public opinion through social media. In the early hours of 14 February when the actual shooting took place, Twitter took up the role of news breaker with each new piece of information retweeted and dissected by a curious public.
Conversation around Pistorius quieten down after testimonies and arguments were heard from both the state and the defense, but peaked again during the verdict reading between 11 -12 September 2014. According to data provided by 25AM, a Salesforce reseller, there were more than 600 000 mentions on social media during these two days, the bulk of which came from Twitter. The social chatter around Pistorius averaged 15 422 posts per hour and 257 per minute, with a high female demographic of 135 775 just over 5 000 more than the male demographic.
Day one of the verdict reading generated more conversation on social media as the public speculated on the type of verdict they expected. The conversation tapered by more than 100 000 on day two following an indication the athlete could not be guilty of premeditated murder. On day one users began by predicting that the verdict would be guilty but as the reading went on, users started to change their predictions to a not guilty verdict, coinciding with the judge’s verdict.
The not guilty verdict caused a fair amount of controversy on social media with users turning their attention to the judge’s motives. According to the stats from 25AM, convinced of a favourable judgement was to be handed out to Oscar Pistorius, siscussions on day two of the verdict reading focused on: possible jail time, the impact of money and fame on the judgement and whether or not justice was actually served. A small number of the conversation agreed with the judge’s verdict.
The past where we have seen around 20 odd hashtags floating around this trial, there were five main hashtags used during the verdict readings. The top was, #oscarpistorius with 136 948 mentions, followed by #oscartrial with 108 426, #pistoriustrial with 21 119, #pistorius at 16 401 and #oscarverdict with 55 77.
Global interest and news driven
Both days of the verdict reading saw more social conversation from outside South Africa, with the United States leading the way with 258 544 mentions of Pistorius. This can be attributed to international media houses following the story very closely and reporting on social media with high retweet counts.
This case has been following very closely by journalists both online and offline, with dedicated Twitter accounts having documented every step of the trial from the courtroom. It is likely social media conversation will spike again during the final sentencing.