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What are world leaders liking on Twitter?

Twitter likes can be dangerous for prominent figures — just ask Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose account found notoriety after liking a porn video last year.

But they can also offer some interesting insights into what leaders (or rather their social media managers) find important to acknowledge and endorse.

Not only do likes hint at what content world leaders are consuming on social media, but they give direct access to the content they deem noteworthy, and that’s a pretty neat feature for civilians.

World leaders’ Twitter likes give a rare glimpse into the content they consume and deem noteworthy

Perhaps Twitter’s most notorious user, US President Donald Trump, doesn’t dole out likes willy-nilly. Over on @realDonaldTrump, there are only 24 tweets that have been granted that honourable heart — and seven are from Trump himself.

Other tweets that received Trump’s blessing came from New York Governer Andrew Cuomo, his daughter Ivanka, wife Melania, and son Donald Jr. More interestingly, one critique slipped through the cracks.

Though Twitter won’t show the full conversation leading to this tweet (it has “too many replies”), it can be assumed that user @sheba418 was talking about Trump not being “presidential material”, as their bio reads that they were “blocked by Trump the dump”.

If that’s true, then those manning Trump’s account wouldn’t notice the tweet on the list of likes, as the app would have hidden it from view. Sneaky.

Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama (the most-followed world leader on Twitter) also limits his endorsements — though his are slightly more colourful.

The account has liked tweets from Broadway musical Hamilton, Funny Or Die, actor Wilmer Valderrama, and television mogul Shonda Rhimes. While the accounts are varied, though, the topics remain the same: they either reference an Obama directly, or focus on one of the president’s political beats.

But there are leaders who like non-political tweets — from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to South Africa’s very own Julius Malema, the leader of the EFF.

While Trudeau’s 66 likes are mostly filled with tweets thanking him in some capacity, a few random ones stick out — like the one warning husbands to let wives decide how old they’re turning, and the one making fun of Trump’s shock win in 2016.

Malema, on the other hand, lets his 247 likes flow free. Many of them are, of course, about politics — but some are about a song someone likes, novel recommendations, and Idols SAAnd sometimes — just sometimes — Malema acts like your generic male chancer on the internet.

Sticking to SA, President Jacob Zuma — who stopped using his individual account in 2013 — only has one very ominous like stuck to his Twitter: “‘We were meant to live for so much more…'”.

In contrast, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has over 1000 likes — but she explicitly states in her bio that they “enable [her] to save the comment NOT support it (sic)”. So that’s less interesting, but there is this gem nestled in there:

Over in the rest of Africa, Rwandan President Paul Kagame hands out likes for politics and family, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta for tweets that address him personally (and one meme), and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has liked just two tweets (one about the importance of journalism, and one about his own policies).

Other notable likes lists come from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (only three tweets dicussing suspension bridges, his visit to Qatar, and another political event), Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro (tweets from the Spanish Russia Today, and a ton of articles about Trump), and UK Prime Minister Theresa May, whose only liked tweet since her election in 2016 is about a dog breeding policy.

And finally, we have those who refuse to like anything at all: Pope Francis, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Queen Rania of Jordan, and ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa have all decided that it’s best to play it safe. That’s probably a good call.

Feature image: Pope Francis (Republic of Korea/Jeon Han, CC BY-SA 2.0), Justin Trudeau (Presidencia de la República Mexicana, CC BY 2.0), Donald Trump (Gage SkidmoreCC BY-SA 2.0), Julius Malema (GovernmentZA, CC BY-ND 2.0), Helen Zille (The Democratic Alliance, CC BY-SA 2.0), Paul Kagame (Rwanda Government, CC BY-ND 2.0)

Author | Julia Breakey

Julia Breakey
Julia is a UCT film graduate with a passion for dogs, media, and dog-centric media. If she's not gushing about the new television show that you need to watch, she's rewatching The Good Place (which you need to watch). More

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