Who drove the Komen story? The tweets tell the story

This is pretty interesting–and revealing:

Last Tuesday, the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it would no longer fund clinical breast exams and mammograms through Planned Parenthood. The $680,000 per year that was going to Planned Parenthood helped provide exams for 170,000 mainly low-income and minority women. The organization claimed that they were tightening their rules for grant recipients and denying grants to any organization under investigation. (A pro-life Congressman from Florida is leading a Congressional inquiry into whether Planned Parenthood uses public money to fund abortions–an initiative many see as politically motivated.)

On Friday, February 3 the organization abruptly reversed its decision amid a firestorm of criticism on Twitter, Facebook, and many blogs.There is little doubt that social and media pressure forced Komen to reverse its plan. The Figure shows the representative Twitter hashtags associated with Komen during the controversy, from January 31-February 3.

Sorting through over 100,000 tweets that were sent in regard to Komen during the controversy, we see that they are dominated by critics of the move. Just three of the top 28 hashtags support Komen’s move (1 is ambiguous).

In order to examine what drove this message, we took a look at a new tool called “influencers” created by the Yahoo! Labs Content Science team, which we are going to use extensively on The Signal. Influencers are the Twitter users who help spread a message. They tweet a lot on a particular topic, are retweeted, and have a big following.

The influencers in this controversy are a combination of official organization Twitter accounts, journalists, and some unaffiliated tweeters. There was both a top element to the distribution of this message, but also a broad-based push, especially in last two days. Pro-life groups never got much traction, with just one influencer on the list.

We can see that the pro-choice groups mobilized well, and we can see that their comments were clustered around pro-choice slogans.

Read more.

From what can be gleaned in the article, the dominant force on this appears to be Planned Parenthood, with tweets linking to its own website.


  1. Congressional investigations into Planned Parenthood using govt. $ for abortions is one thing… Who is going to file a lawsuit against abortion suppliers not informing women about the link between breast cancer and abortions before performing the abortions? Or NCI for sitting on research results that point to that link (because of pressure from the pro-choice people? This would/could/should result in lawsuits like those against the tobacco companies (once the link between smoking and tobacco was proven) Women deserve the truth…Uninformed choice is no choice at all.

  2. Those on the left have been very, very good about getting their message across, in small, “easy to understand” bites. (even if those bites are not always truthful.) We on the right are learning, but always one step behind.

    We are also, hampered by the “marriage” of the 4th estate (or most of them) and the left. As a friend of mine likes to say: “One lies, and the other swears to it.”

  3. Mark LaVergne says:

    Great point about the “marriage” joining the 4th Estate to only one side of the divide on this question — GENERALLY speaking. Ross Douthat in today’s New York Times has a thorough examination of this and how it impacts coverage of the pro-life-vs-abortion issue.

  4. How can PP provide mammograms went they don’t own any mammogram machines?

  5. I would hardly say you’re “one step behind” in the alternative media game. Conservatives essentially invented the game in the last few decades. They saw the potential of things like direct mail, cable television and talk radio long before anyone else and the raw power of a simple narrative. They aren’t too shabby at the Internet game either. Religious conservatives in particular punch far above their demographic weight because they learned how to tell a story and mobilize people around it. The pro-lifers ended up on the wrong side of the Komen issue for the simple reason that they don’t carry as much water in the Komen community as do Planned Parenthood supporters. If that were not the case, Komen never would have been making grants to PP in the first place. Did PP strategists take saavy/cynical advantage to play the issue to the hilt? Of course they did. But no amount of strategic Tweeting would have changed the facts on the ground. More of the women who support Komen with time and dollars are sympathetic toward PP than those who are ardently opposed to it.

  6. Exactly. Plus, Huffington Post has an exclusive story that says that the new vp pushed this even after Kommen was taking real heat. One board member is quoted as saying that they didn’t see this coming and they just didn’t want to get involved in anti-PP controversy. NOW, there is pressure for the vp to resign.

  7. I don’t know if PP has mammogram machines but they do give referrals to free ones. The point was, explained to me, that poor women going to PP for yearly checks, etc. wouldn’t normally get these tests and they educate them and find places that will do it for them without insurance.

    I don’t like PP but I do know being poor and uninsured is not fun…many of my freinds used PP when I was younger for gyno checkups and exams until they were insured. I work at a doctor’s office,have worked in the medical field for a long time and medicaid isn’t accepted most places, the ones that do take it “usually” aren’t the best. We take it for patients seen in the hospital or if they had insurance and then lost it, but get paid virtually nothing from it. I can see why now, many don’t take it when before I was more naive.
    My wonderful doctor took my friend who’s medicaid doctor had a bad reputation at the hospital..he heard of it and said, “I’ll take her, we’ll work something out” and she always loved him for that, I know he didn’t take much. If he did that to most of his patients though, he would be barely getting by.

    PP and places like it will always be around but it’s not only for abortions which is sad, many do go there for other things because they can’t afford it elsewhere or dont want to wait 3 hours at a clinic.

  8. So I wonder if Obamacare makes it past SC decision in June will it help make PP irrelevant since everyone will have insurance?

  9. HermitTalker says:

    I was on a Huffington Post site last week where readers were responding to the US religious groups’ objection to the Obama-Sibelius decree. I was one of two or three who clearly showed the First Amendment constitutional issue. The others were either not seeing or refusing to admit it was a genuine fear. They variously attacked Catholics, refused to see that anyone else had a stake in it- some brancches of Judaism and evangelicals. The ignorance hey displayed was alarming, including one self-proclaimed constitutional lawyer who did not seem to know the exact wording of the freedon of religion and freedom from goverment interference clause. Others rambled on about Catholic health care facilities wanting to refuse to do abortions and similar irelevant topics as if that were the concern. I am no longer living in the USA but wonder if someone could alert the USCCB staff and other partners to correct that seeming widespread error with TV and radio spots. The letter published over the weekend from a large number of evangelicals in support of the precise constitutional issue was quite impressive. It more than cancelled the few who wrote a letter of support of Obama-Sibelius in Orlando FL last Monday or thereabouts.

  10. “I don’t know if PP has mammogram machines but they do give referrals to free ones. ”

    Okay, so, let’s say I know a place that gives lunch at no cost to the poor. I refer 200 people a year there. Now, may I apply for funding for lunches for 200 poor people cuz, after all, but for me, 200 people wouldn’t know where to get a free lunch? What exactly did PP do with this $? I mean, besides free up more funds to kill babies?

  11. Oregon Catholic says:

    I hope Catholic physician groups will take a look at why the Institute of Medicine made contraception a preventive service recommendation. That is the basis for the HHS ruling to mandate covering it free of charge. There are politics at play in that recommendation big-time, instigated by the gov’t. There are so many good preventive services that don’t get the same attention or coverage. I would bet that some critical evaluation of the science and IOM committee process would show politics drove the recommendation more than medicine.

    Catholic doctors, shine some sunlight on it please. This HHS rule should be attacked from every angle where it fails the smell test, not just on religious freedom alone. This will have the effect of forcing doctors, through quality management standards, to discuss and offer contraceptive services during routine exams regardless of insurance – the same way they now have to treat all recommended preventive services, like Paps, mammograms, colonoscopies, bone density screening, etc. If they fail to do so and a woman suffers ‘harm’ they could be sued.

  12. The point is, PP is doing something to enable access to a potentially life-saving procedure in a country which, so far, does essentially nothing for the uninsured. You guys with all of your righteous rage about dead babies aren’t doing squat where it counts.
    Tell you what: If you and your pro-life gang really want to take the moral wind out of PP’s sails on this, get Catholic hospitals nationwide to offer free mammograms to any woman who can’t afford one. That would completely blow Komen’s political cover for funding Planned Parenthood in any way.

  13. I am not filled with rage, righteous or otherwise, nor am I in a gang, and you have absolutely no idea, “kenneth”, what I do or don’t do for pro-life. People who hide their identity should be the LAST to level ad hominens at others.

  14. I had a really busy day of the announcement about defunding planned parenthood. I had inteneded to email the Komen foundation and commend them for their bold and most likely to be unpopular move. However before I could do this they changed their minds. I am greatly disappointed that rather than seek other viable alternatives for this funding to groups or group who doesn’t provide abortion services they caved in. My cousin is a breast cancer survivor. We wore the same hair cut when she did chemo. Hers not by choice mine as a meger form of support for her. I even talked her into cutting off all my freshly grown very long hair at the time. (I’m glad most of it grew back as did most of hers.) It has been a chance for us to educate folks about PP and Komen’s support when even public school groups ask for support because they have a team walking in a Race for the Cure event. I continue to be deeply saddened by this quick reversal and the almost nonexistent coverage by the media of those in support of the Komen initial decision to defund planned parenthood. It seems there were plenty of folks who blindly and mistakenly wanted to take their place, including the mayor of New York. We as Catholics must continue to stand strong and keep praying for the courage to speak and act with love, justice and compassion for all. From conception to natural death.

  15. Catholic Hospitals, free mamograms, wow challenging but still a good idea. This will be an interesting year with the HHS decree, demand, order whatever you choose to call it. For me it is a tough decision. I work for my parish so in a year will I have insurance? I am over 50 now so as many of you know there are multiple tests a.k.a indignities that we go through as we age. I have been blessed to be able to do a fair amount of preventative and routine medical care which from looking around are very important as we age. Paying for them out of pocket could really make a difference as to what I do. I will continue to pray for a just resolution to this mandate. Maybe the Lord is calling me to more solidarity with those who face this everyday?

  16. Oregon Catholic says:

    are you really trying to imply that Catholic healthcare doesn’t offer tons of free and below-cost care, which saves your tax dollars?

    Why don’t you criticize PP for taking funds to do nothing more than make referrals? If they cared so much about women’s health they would do that without anyone giving them money to do so.

  17. Deacon Steve says:

    Kenneth why would a group that is working to support finding cures for breast cancer support a group that prescribes drugs and proceedures that actually increase a woman’s risk for getting breast cancer? The Koman foundation should have nothing to do with PP just for that reason alone. It would be like the American Lung Association owning stock in a cigarette company.

  18. There is not one shred of proven evidence abortions cause cancer. There is, however, enormous evidence that BPA causes cancer. Considering that, why is it Komen sponsored a report claiming BPA as safe? Take a hard look at their largest corporate donors and you’ll see precisely why. They are in bed with corporations, lobbyists and litigators to protect their ‘brand’ and relevancy. They lost sight of their mandate long ago.

  19. They provide breast exams. They provide referrals and vouchers for payment of mammograms. One cannot simply book a mammogram themselves. We are talking about underserved and poor/uninsured women who many other health organizations wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

  20. Pro Life Activist Lila Rose has been trying to distort that fact (and many others) to make PP look bad.

  21. On Sunday, our pastor say the main stream media is biased left. He said he was not endorsing anything, but he watches Fox News.

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