Which city tweets the most?

Jakarta University students during a visit from British Prime Minister, David Cameron. Image: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty.

Twitter is a pretty useful tool for city-dwellers. You can track transit hiccups. You can follow new bars that don’t even exist yet. You can exchange hilarious quips with friends, without actually venturing onto the busy streets to meet up with them.

In 2012, Semiocast, a market research company, decided to study over 1bn tweets sent in June that year, to find out which city tweets most and why. Many of its finding were pretty unsurprising: the US had the most Twitter accounts (over 140 million); English is the most widely-used language on Twitter.

When they looked at which cities tweet the most, however, things got more interesting. Second and third places went to Tokyo and London – but in the number one slot was Jakarta, Indonesia. Badung, another Indonesian city, was also in the top ten. Here's a chart, showing their top 20:

Perhaps excited by this unexpected victory, Brand24, an Indonesian social marketing company, conducted another study in 2013, this time looking at 10.3 billion tweets from January to March of that year. Jakarta made the top spot again. In fact, tweets from Jakarta, which contains 0.28 per cent of the world’s population, made up for 2.4 per cent of the world’s tweets during that period.

This meteroric rise is perhaps surprising for a different reason, too: it’s a relatively recent development. GNIP, another social media analysis company – there are, it seems, loads – found that in 2008, tweets in Indonesian accounted for 0 per cent of the total (we assume they rounded down). By 2013, it was the fifth most commonly tweeted language, accounting for 3.25 per cent of the world’s tweets.

So why are Jakartans so tweet-happy all of a sudden? Here are a few possibilities:

It’s the second largest city in the world.

Neither study on tweet locations adjusted for city size: instead of tweets per resident, they compared raw numbers. Depending on how you define the city limits, Jakarta has a population of somewhere between 10m and 30m; it might be the second largest city in the world; it’s certainly in the top 20. What’s more, half of its residents are under 30. In 2013, 79 per cent of the world’s tweets came from people under the age of 30. Do the maths.

It’s also one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

This is important, but not for the reasons you might expect. When the news broke of Jakara’s Twitter eminence in 2012, an official commented that it was probably because they spend so much time stuck in traffic. In 2010, a city governor even called on residents to tweet traffic news on Twitter, in order to ease congestion in the city. Lots of people in a small area means lots of waiting around, and lots of idle time to spend on your smartphone.

Jakartans “love to chat”.

Budi Putra, ex-editor of Indonesian Yahoo!, says that Twitter is huge in Jakarta because Indonesians love chatting to one another.  He also says many Jakartans use Twitter as a form of messenger, rather than a microblogging platform. This makes it likely that users tweet more often than the average user, as they’re having conversations rather than just airing their thoughts.

Blackberry and Yahoo! messenger are also popular in the city, which seems to back up Putra’s “Jakartans love to chat” thesis.

Tweeting pays.

In 2013, it emerged that Jakartans with over 2,000 followers can be paid upwards of US$21 per tweet to advertise products or events. Confusingly, these sponsored tweeters are called “buzzers”.

The influence of Twitter in Jakarta, and Indonesia as a whole, isn’t lost on those looking for influence.  In the recent presidential elections, one of the two candidates, Prabowo Subianto, had 75 young people running his social media campaign. Turns out, even that wasn’t enough: as of June, he had Twitter 750,000 followers to his opponent Joko Widodo’s 1,600,000. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Widodo (governor of Jakarta and also, incidentally, known for his love of Metallica) took home 53 per cent of the vote.

Joko Widodo: governor; president-elect; king of Twitter. Image: Getty.

Celebrities are taking advantage of Jakartans’ Twitter dominance, too. Agnes Monica, or Agnez Mo, the Indonesian singer and actress, has almost 11 million followers. That’s only a quarter of Lady Gaga’s , but Google trends data shows that Lady Gaga is searched on Google more than than twenty times as often, so Monica is reeling in a bigger following than her popularity would suggest. We can only imagine she’s followed by millions of Jakartans, stuck in traffic and avidly reading her every tweet.

 
 
 
 

What’s the constitutional status of the Isle of Man, then?

...what? Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

Amidst the tumult of Brexit negotiations, away from questions about the integrity of the Union itself being asked by wearied bureaucrats in Edinburgh, Belfast, Brussels and London, the constitutional uncertainty of our times has washed up on the shores of the Isle of Man. Now it threatens the slumber of policymakers in Douglas, too.

The ten-by-forty mile island in the Irish Sea is best known internationally for its annual TT motorcycle races and tax haven status. If you haven’t been you should go: the variety of scenery is breath taking, as are the economics. Lamborghinis emerge from the back of slate cottages, a seaside dwelling can set you back more than an Edinburgh duplex, and the gilet prevalence index is off the charts in certain localities.

The reason for the disconnect is the constitutional relationship between the Isle of Man and the UK. For centuries the island supplemented threadbare revenue streams from subsistence farming and fishing with a robust smuggling sector. The IoM government homepage clearly, maybe even proudly, states that it has never been part of the UK: in the 1700s plans to buy it out and make it part of England were shelved after local unrest, while the current arrangement of Home Rule dates to the early 1800s.

Today the IoM government is based in Douglas, the island’s largest town. Its funding comes through a revenue sharing agreement, the “common purse”, with tax gathered locally on behalf of London and returned to the island according to an unpublicised formula. The agreement has been a source of contention for about as long as it’s existed, but ire has grown proportionally with the island’s pre-eminence as a tax haven. Its detractors point out that the UK consistently gives back to the IoM government more than it gathers, effectively subsidising the island’s status as a tax haven; while its supporters are wealthy.

A map of the Isle of Man. Image: Eric Gaba/Wikimedia Commons.

In a world gripped by economic injustice, the IoM drives social change with a programme of support to welcome the huddled masses of oligarchs yearning for freedom from autocratic tax regimes. Income tax tops out at 20 per cent but, fear not, it’s capped at £150,000. Corporation tax is nil, until your firm earns £500,000 a year; then it has to pay 10 per cent on everything over that. For mega-wealthy émigrés forced to flee odious obligations like capital gains, inheritance or wealth tax, there are opportunities to invest in local property, to get back on your feet: proceeds are taxed at 20 per cent.

The Isle of Man enjoys the same constitutional status as the Channel Islands: the UK handles its accountancy and defence, but aside from the constant vigilance required to keep Dublin at bay the only international hassle comes from Brexit. In the same way as the IoM has never been part of the UK, it’s never been part of the EU – it enjoys all the benefits (or unconscionable infringements) of membership by virtue of a legal protocol which doesn’t bestow membership. Crucially, the IoM doesn’t have any representation with the EU – it can’t, being the kind of Schrödinger jurisdiction which is neither part of the UK nor its own recognised area.


That distinction brings other problems. Regardless of how Brexit pans out, the EU has shown signs of going to war on tax avoidance – a rare political argument which unites populists and progressives. The EU now maintains lists of high risk money-laundering and tax compliance jurisdictions, and the IoM’s prominence in the international sector was part of the reason some MEPs have pushed for including the UK as a whole.

The IoM experiences the paradox of autonomy without representation. Its relationship with the UK has often been hamstrung, too, such as in 2009 when the Treasury slashed common purse funding in an attempt to nudge Douglas away from its tax avoidance platform.

Domestically, the distance between the plutocracy and everyday islanders is stark. Most people on the island are not wealthy: they rely on public services and work jobs like anywhere else. After the IoM’s funding was cut by London at the height of the financial crisis, lower and middle income earners were worst hit. Now the island has to maintain a favourable tax code for plutocrats while supporting public services used by the people who need them. It’s a difficult balance to strike, and likely to become more so if the EU pursues its anti-tax avoidance agenda post-Brexit.

Simon Jones is a writer based in Glasgow.