Social Media Reaction Highest In Pistorius Trial, Sentencing

Social media saw an unprecedented reaction to the Oscar Pistorius sentencing on Tuesday.

Pistorius was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day 2013.  

Pistorius’s fall from grace has gripped the world’s online judges.

It was called a trial by the media, but the Pistorius court saga also enjoyed a lot of attention on social media. Known to be a sensation on track, Pistorius’s celebrity appeal extended into the courtroom with everyone on social media having something to say about it.

Columnist Toby Shapshak says the trial has indicated how much South Africans are interested in high profile cases.

“The Pistorius trial has shown just how incredibly interested South Africans are in high profile events like this… And as much as this is the first broadcast trial in South Africa, it is also the first trial by Twitter. There’s never been the kind of interest in social media spaces about this kind of event. So quiet clearly, the Pistorius trial has captured the South Africans’ interests in terms of interest and intrigue, and of course that would be a media sensation,” says Shapshak.

Approximately 3.5-million tweets have been sent about the Oscar Pistorius shooting since Valentine’s Day last year to September 2014, making it the single biggest social media story in South Africa’s history according to Data Driven Insights.

In October, the sentencing took centre stage and according to ROi Africa, there were more than 80 000 posts on platforms like Twitter and Facebook in the sentencing hour.

SABC Digital News Production Editor Christelle du Toit says the SABC’s most popular Facebook post on the sentencing reached 30 000 people, with thousands watching the live stream of proceedings.

The hashtag hash Reeva Steenkamp accounted for a quarter of the items per hour posted during the Oscar sentencing, according to ROI Africa who also reported that 56% of the comments posted were negative towards the judgement and only about 5% positive.

The largest number of tweets came from the US, then Germany and the UK with SA only coming in fourth place.

According to Data Driven insights, there were 3 500 tweets in the first hour of the sentencing, with the hashtag hash Judge Masipa trending.

According to Shapshak, the world is not likely to see anything like this again.  

“I don’t think we gonna see another trial of the kind of importance and consequence of the Oscar trial. You could say the Dewani trial has the same ingredients of interest, certainly for a British audience, but it just hasn’t captured the imagination in the same way. I suppose in a way Oscar captured the imagination with his triumphant sporting career, he captured the imagination with his fall from grace,” says Shapshak.