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Citizens 4D Highway shrouded in mystery

...What does Facebook tell us about the group?
Sunday, November 9, 2014

Martine Powers

The rise of the pro-highway group Citizens 4D Highway has sparked debate around the country, with some observers clamouring to learn the identity of those who financed a controversial newspaper advertisement disparaging activist Wayne Kublalsingh. (Defence attorney and temporary government Senator Wayne Sturge claims he is one of the group’s organisers.)

But who are the everyday people supporting this group and its advertisements? A deep dive into data mined from the group’s social media following offers some significant insight. Most glaringly: Only about seven per cent of the people who have “liked” the Citizens 4D Highway Facebook page come from the region that would be most directly affected by the highway—Debe, Mon Desir, Fyzabad, Siparia, Penal, San Francique, Pluck and Avocat.

Still, that’s 80 per cent more than the number of people from those communities who have listed themselves as fans of the Highway Re-Route Movement (HRM) Facebook page. And when it comes to the pro-highway group’s geographic spread throughout the region, it’s clear that their staunchest supporters reside largely outside the region affected by the highway. 

Among the people who have been most active on the Citizens 4D Highway page—adding the highest number of “likes” to posts and messages—most reside in Port-of-Spain, San Fernando, Couva, Arouca and Point Fortin, with only a handful of the most active followers hailing from Siparia, Fyzabad or Penal. 

The numbers are imperfect—some people choose not to allow Facebook to make their hometown and current city public information—but they offer a picture of a group that has otherwise been shrouded in mystery. And it’s only been in recent weeks that the group has become more active—likely a response to the heightening backlash over their controversial advertisement. 

The person or group who registered the domain name for chose to keep his or her name, phone number, and e-mail address concealed from the public domain name registry. However, records show that the Web site was created October 28, established with a one-year contract that costs the registrant $15 per year.

Who PNM, UNC ‘like’ on Facebook
And though supporters and opponents of the Mon Desir-Debe extension of the Sir Solomon Sochoy Highway have maintained that it’s not a political issue, their “likes” on Facebook tell another story. According to the data on the cross-section of people who choose to add support to both a highway activist group and a national political party, the highway movement is highly politicised, with demographics breaking down on predictable political lines.

The Sunday Guardian used data downloaded from Facebook on who "likes" a particular group, and how two groups overlap in "likes." Basically, .442 per cent of PNM's 42,052 Facebook fans also like "C4DH" or Citizens 4D Highway; .649 per cent also like the HRM. A PNM follower is more like to support the HRM, but by a more modest margin—they are only about 1.5 times more likely to root for Kublalsingh and the highway protesters.

For UNC, 6.2 per cent of their 2,644 Facebook fans like C4DH; while only 2.26 like HRM.  A person who is a “fan” of the United National Congress on Facebook is about 2.7 times more likely to also “like” the Citizens 4D Highway rather than the Highway Re-Route Movement.


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