Backlash Over Social Media During the Women's World Cup Finals

As the United States Women’s National Team took on Japan this week in the Women’s World Cup final, viewers flocked to Twitter to share their excitement and support.  The final event generated over 2.5 million posts worldwide, with the most posts unsurprisingly coming from the United States.  This marks a huge shift towards appreciation for women’s soccer since the last Women’s World Cup final in 2011, which generated only around 430,000 posts. That means this year’s event impressively generated over five times the conversation of the last one.
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Mentions of this year’s Women’s World Cup Final vs. mentions in 2011
The incredible levels of conversation could also be related to the extraordinary nature of the U.S.’s 5-2 win over Japan and the star-making performance of midfielder Carli Lloyd.  Viewers mentioned Lloyd and her sixteen-minute hat trick over 780,000 times last night, skyrocketing mentions of her past the other stars of the team, including Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, and Alex Morgan, who to date had been the most mentioned team members online.
world cup womens final word cloud
The U.S. Women’s National Team also encouraged conversation with the inspirational hashtags #shebelieves and #USAshebelieves which were mentioned over 300,000 times.  One of the most popular tweets of the evening came directly from President Obama, who congratulated Carli Lloyd directly and invited the team to the White House.
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While the majority of posts expressed pure excitement and celebration, a more controversial trend emerged as users started to claim that the victory was revenge for Japan’s Pearl Harbor attacks.  The trend seemingly started from the account @CloydRivers, which many believe is a parody account mocking intense patriotism.  However, many took the sentiment to heart, with the tweet generating over 10,000 retweets and 15,000 favorites, and “Pearl Harbor” becoming a top Twitter trending topic.
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Ultimately, mentions of Pearl Harbor tapped out at around 100,000 posts – a disturbingly high number, but still only a fraction of overall World Cup posts from the evening.  Posts on the topic also quickly shifted from those celebrating the “revenge” to posts denouncing the topic, with the latter eventually comprising about 18% of Pearl-Harbor related posts.  Ultimately, these posts died down quickly after the dramatic first hour of the game.
While the online showing was excited and impressive, it still has a ways to go before conversation matches volumes from the men’s World Cup final.  Last year’s match between Germany and Argentina generated over 6 million posts, more than twice the posts from the women’s match last night.  Here’s hoping that by 2019, the Women’s World Cup final will reach that volume level as it continues to gain international popularity.
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