(Photo: The New Age Board Chairman Atul Gupta and President Jacob Zuma and the First Lady MaNtuli Zuma). President Jacob Zuma at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium for the T20 match between South Africa and India. South Africa. 30/03/2012.

Johannesburg - The controversial Gupta family are increasingly gaining attention on social media, according to data compiled by youKnow.

Part of the attention they are garnering is due to their alleged involvement in attempting to appoint ministers, specifically to that of the economically-critical finance post.

The Guptas have consistently been in the news for the past few months after attention was drawn to the family when one of its units, Tegeta Exploration & Resources, bought Glencore’s Optimum mine for R2.1 billion. That company also has ties to President Jacob Zuma through his son, Duduzane, who has a stake in Tegeta.

ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe has now come out and said this deal should be probed, while Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan also stepped into the fray. Gordhan, according to the Sunday Times, pulled the plug on the Gupta-owned New Age newspaper's post-budget breakfast briefing.

Read also: Mantashe questions Glencore deal

This week, news emerged that Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas had claimed the Guptas offered him the job of finance minister late last year. The Guptas have strenuously denied this, saying Jonas must prove his claims in court.

On Thursday, Zuma told parliament that the Guptas did not interfere in ministerial postings, as only he had the power to appoint ministers. Yet, his ties with them have long been questioned and will likely come under the spotlight at this weekend’s National Executive Committee meeting.

Read also: Chuckling Zuma sidesteps Gupta questions

youKnow MD Kelvin Jonck says, since February 1, the Gupta's have increasingly been getting social media attention on Twitter with the volume of Gupta conversation from then to March 16 growing 800 percent over the preceding period.

“Interestingly, the total volume of conversation on March 17 (22 978) was a little more than half the conversation taking place about the Budget Speech.”

Conversation spiked when the media working for Gupta-owned groups such as ANN7 were kicked out of an EFF press briefing, as well as when Jonas and others made their claims.

Jonck says, looking specifically at March 16, volumes of conversation increased dramatically over the course of the day with a strong correlation between the release of press regarding the Guptas.

“ While volumes increased significantly a significant portion was information sharing and we aren't seeing the population get mad in the same way they have with the #MustFall" movements. However, negativity did significantly increase off the back of the new information.”

When observing key themes of conversation, he says, conversation is broadly around "State Capture", Mentor and Jonas. Interestingly, and as is typically South African, a number of comedic trends have appeared including "#replaceasongtitlewithgupta" and "#statecapturemovietitles".

IOL