The world came together in Rio de Janeiro this summer for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Team USA made its country proud by earning 121 medals, but national pride was overshadowed when Ryan Lochte and three other members of Team USA lied about being robbed at gunpoint by Rio police (full story here).
When news broke that he lied, the Twitter world exploded with rumors and theories, and #LochteGate was coined by an unforgiving and negative audience.
white privilege is going to a foreign country, peeing on a business's floor & kicking in a door, & then saying YOU were robbed #LochteGate
— Gabe Bergado (@gabebergado) August 18, 2016
Twitter was the platform of choice for conversation. The majority of social media activity involving #LochteGate happened on Twitter. The hashtag amassed 360,387 mentions on Twitter, which made up 99.5% of the usage on all social media platforms. #LochteGate was used sparingly on other social platforms, including news (1528), blogs (179) and forums (78).
Activity peaked shortly after the incident occurred. News of Lochte’s lie broke on August 18, and Twitter users quickly reacted. Activity tapered off in the following days, but conversation continued as more facts came out about the incident. The Olympics concluded on August 21, but conversation continued the following week
People shared the facts of the story. The buzz graph and word cloud associated with #LochteGate show many users simply shared the “story” using facts like “gunpoint,” “robbery,” “swimmers” and the date of Lochte’s lie, “August 18.”
Also mentioned were the names of the other Team USA swimmers with Lochte at the time of the robbery: James “Feigan,” Jack “Conger” and “Gunnar Bentz.” Surprisingly, not many words revealing the sentiment of the conversation were used.
Most of the conversation happened in the USA. A majority of Tweets (68.6%) came from the USA, while a smaller percentage (12.0%) came from Brazil, the site of the incident. Users also mentioned #LochteGate in Canada (4.5%) and the UK (2.5%), in addition to several other countries, which collectively made up 12.4% of the conversation.
After this incident, Lochte was suspended for 10 months from the U.S. National Swim Team, forfeited the $100,000 he earned by medaling in Rio and lost his endorsement deals. Despite the controversy, Lochte hopes to compete in Tokyo 2020.
Written by: Abigail Hewel & Margaret Bridge