The first moments of #PanamaPapers: a crisis that went global in minutes

May 12 2016
Published in Crisis

The Panama Papers scandal has been in full swing for over a month now and is showing no signs of stopping. Quite the contrary: the database went online this week and is fully searchable, allowing the public to uncover more and more of the individuals involved every day.

We used Visibrain to look back on the first moments of the biggest leak in the history of data journalism, to see how the scandal broke and spread in the press and on social media.

How it all began: the first moments of #PanamaPapers

The #PanamaPapers crisis broke on the evening of April 3rd, when the full report from German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung was first published.

The first moments of the crisis are testament to just how quickly the scandal went viral. The timeline of activity around Panama Papers shows that the number of mentions online started building at around 6 pm, exploding from 6.48 pm:

Online mention volumes during the first moments of the Panama Papers crisis

The Panama Papers were a global crisis from the very beginning. If we look at Twitter data around 6.48 pm, we can see that the rise in volumes was caused by an increasing number of “teaser” tweets in a multitude of languages from locations across the globe, such as Süddeutsche Zeitung and Wikileaks:

The first tweets before the start of the crisis

Süddeutsche Zeitung’s official Panama Papers website may have been the first news site to publish the story, but it didn’t take long for it to go viral. The link to the site was shared for the first time at 6.44 pm:

The first tweets linking to the Panama Papers report

Just 24 hours after the Panama Papers were made public, the website url had already been shared 58,019 times.

The Panama Papers scandal exploded into the online community in spectacular fashion: the first 24 hours of the crisis generated 1,901,209 mentions. By the end of the first week, that number had risen to an incredible 5,260,582 mentions, a scandal of truly global proportions.

Download our full Panama Papers case study

Want to know more about the Panama Papers scandal? Download our full case study for exclusive insights into how the biggest leak in the history of data journalism was covered by the press and on social media:

  • A breakdown of the first moments of the scandal: how the Panama Papers went global in a matter of minutes
  • The influencers driving the crisis on social media
  • Global press coverage of the scandal
  • The individuals who have been the most heavily targeted by the press and how they have been impacted so far
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Published in Crisis