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Google Searches for South Africa has spiked after Fox News ran a segment, anchored by Tucker Carlson, addressing the country’s land expropriation debate.
The spike also comes after US President Donald Trump tweeted that Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, will investigate the issue more closely. (Read a full report on Trump’s comments and reaction here).
And while Twitter users have used all 280 characters to air their views, there is another way we can gauge internet sentiment: Google Trends.
Looking at specific queries punched into Google’s search bar, we can evaluate just how SA is perceived within the United States. And especially since the Fox News segment aired on Tuesday.
It’s unsurprising then that searches for South Africa over the past seven days are largely negative.
When “south africa” is searched for by Americans on Google, rising related queries include “south africa seizing land”, “south africa land seizures” and “south africa land grab”.
The first two mentioned have seen traffic spikes in excess of 2000%, suggesting the Fox News report, in addition to Trump’s tweet, has had a marked effect on America’s perception of SA.
The query “farm murders” is also directly linked with South Africa.
The first related rising query for the search is listed as “south african farm murders photos”, with “colorado murders” ranking as the second most popular alternative query. Washington State, Virginia and Pennsylvania are the states most concerned with the query too.
“Land expropriation” is also linked to SA, with a query usage spike of 200%. Zimbabwe too is a related query, experiencing a marginal spike of 70%. This is expected, as a large piece of Carlson’s segment focuses on Zimbabwe’s decline in the early 2000s.
But how has sentiment changed since August 2017?
When looking at the past 12 months on Google Trends, SA’s image had been largely positive.
Rising search trends are largely influenced by the Miss Universe 2017 pageant winner Demi-Leigh Nel Peters. Additionally, India and South Africa’s cricket test series is a surprise listing too, taking two spots in the top five.
“South africa day zero” — while not exactly a positive story — is another notable rising related search term, suggesting that Cape Town’s water crisis was one of the biggest international news stories of the year.