As of the first week of January, we’ve added a new feature to the Buzz Report: the Weekly Top 5. The Weekly Top 5 report highlights the top five subjects which generated the largest volume of discussion across Arabic language social media platforms on a weekly basis. The report is derived from crawling the web and indexing hundreds of thousands of Arabic-language, user-generated results on a daily basis. A more thorough explanation of our methodology follows the report. The Weekly Top 5 represents data collected throughout the Sunday-Thursday work week in the Arab world.

Though politics continued to form the largest proportion (49%) of social media discussions in the Middle East this week, art claimed the top spot as most discussed topic of the week as users enthusiastically followed the final episode of the popular talent show competition Voice of Hayat. The majority of social media users congratulated contestant Sherif Ismail on his win, saying it was well-deserved. For example, Facebook users Sandbad Hasham wrote: “Well, he deserves it; he is a real singing monster! He is the star of genuine Arabic music. MILLION congrats!”

Others, however, criticized what they considered an “old-fashioned” show and compared it to the Arab versions of American and European talent shows like MBC’s The Voice. Another group of users expressed a desire for more meaningful and useful TV contests that strengthen people’s morals and values: “I wish they would produce a show that teaches about morals on Hayat TV,”   wrote Mohammed Mustafa.

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The most-discussed topic in the politics category this week was Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s rare public address to his supporters at the Damascus Opera House, where he offered the nation a peace plan that includes a ceasefire, the formation of a new government and the release of all detainees. This plan was immediately rejected by the opposition as well as a sizeable proportion of social media users, who saw it as a stratagem to prolong his stay in power without offering any real solutions to the 21-month conflict in Syria. Others compared Al-Assad’s “detachment from reality” to that of former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and expected the Syrian leader to face the same fate. Meanwhile, a smaller proportion of users supported Al-Assad’s peace token and believed it to be the only logical solution to the crisis.

 

User Mukdam Riyad said: “This talk is nonsense and won’t defuse the crisis one bit.” However, Al-Arabiya reader Adel had a different opinion:  “This proves that the regime fully understands the situation in the country. I wish the opposition bloc would unite and end their resort to blood and war.”

 

Meanwhile, sports this week were dominated by discussions of the 21st Gulf Football Cup, which kicked off in Manama, Bahrain on Saturday. While the inauguration was the top topic in this category, games and events related to the Cup continued to generate a buzz throughout the week.  Users of different Gulf states supported their respective teams, while Emirati uses in particular were happy that their national team won the first match of the tournament.  Reader Sulaiman Abdullah al-Katibi wrote: “To UAE haters, die in anger!!!!! Our team will win and may God protect the children of Zayed from envy!”

 

Other discussions of the tournament, however, turned to politics. While some users were excited that King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa attended the opening ceremony, wishing him a long and healthy life, others cursed the King and called for his overthrow. User Azo Altamimi commented: “I hope you fall in a deep well, you dirty Hamad!”At the other end of the spectrum, user A Word of Truth said: “May God bless you, protector of our country. God grant you long life and health, our King. Thank You!”

 

Once again, the religion category was dominated by popular Egyptian preacher Amr Khaled and his advice to his fans. This week, Khaled stressed the importance of showing empathy towards others as a sign of one’s generosity. The majority of users drew a connection between Khaled’s words and those of late Muslim scholar Mohammad Metwalli Al-Shaarawi and discussed Islam’s calls for showing care towards other Muslims. Contemplating Khaled’s words, user Glamourgirl Eyes said: “Some people do not appreciate what others do for them. This is a sign of arrogance, I guess!” While the majority of users expressed positive sentiments towards Khaled, some criticized him for attending a Christmas celebration on the eve of Coptic Christmas on January 7.

 

Finally, the unusual wave of cold weather throughout the Middle East this week also generated a lot of buzz. In Egypt, the coastal city of Alexandria was flooded with heavy rainfall. Users shared pictures of the damage caused by inclement weather and accused the city’s governor and his Muslim Brotherhood deputy of not taking the necessary precautions ahead of the winter season. They also drew comparisons between the current governor and his Mubarak-era counterpart. User George Eskander joked: “Alexandria doesn’t need a governor. Alexandria needs a plumber!” On a more serious note, user Mohamed MợşħkëĻa sarcastically said: “The government is doing its job by dozing off comfortably under their blankets. Thanks to the officials for their ongoing negligence!”

 

Others, however, responded by arguing that the city’s infrastructure had been destroyed due to wear and tear, with Islamist users accusing anti-Islamists of exaggerating the situation in Alexandria and ignoring the fact that the world’s cities are flooded with rainfall every winter. User Amr Metwally defended the Islamist government saying: “If you are interested in facts, no sewage system in the world could manage this extra-huge amount of rain water. This is seen in London and throughout the whole world.”

 

Methodology

 

These results above are extracted from thousands of social media sources such as blogs, microblogs, forums, message boards, readers’ comment sections on news websites, etc, which are continually updated. A team of Arabic social media researchers and Arabic social media analysts use Arabic Natural Language Processing and data mining tools to analyze the data and to extract the list of top five subjects, based primarily on keyword repetition.

 

The Weekly Top 5 displays results of the common Sunday-Thursday work week in the Arab world, and is solely focused on Arabic language user-generated results, classified by volume of comments/discussion.

 

Data is captured primarily from 17 Arab countries in North Africa, the Levant, and the Arab Gulf region, and when relevant, the five other Arabic speaking countries belonging to the Arab League (Sudan, Somalia, Comoros, Djibouti and Mauritania).

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