Kalev Leetaru

Everybody Loves Bashar

Why does the world's media see Bashar al-Assad as invulnerable and Vladimir Putin on the wane?

On June 4, Syria's Bashar al-Assad won reelection again, bagging 88.7 percent of the vote, in a war-torn country he seemed on the verge of losing shortly ago. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin is busy grinning for the cameras in France, while Russian irregular forces continue to destabilize Ukraine with impunity. But are these leaders really as secure as they appear? Can big data shed light on how Assad regained momentum in Syria or whether Putin's grip on Crimea might be slipping? In particular, can we use the "tone" of the world's news media coverage of the two leaders as a sort of popularity index that might give us insights into their respective futures, much as it offers insights into the stability of nations?

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Did the Arab Spring Really Spark a Wave of Global Protests?

The world may look like it's roiling now, but the 1980s were far worse.

As the remnants of the Arab Spring's wave of uprisings continue to wrack the Middle East, as Thailand and Venezuela convulse, and as Ukraine spirals into possible civil war, a question heard ever more frequently in the halls of Washington is whether the world is coming apart at the seams. That may well be hyperbole, but more analytical minds that I've spoken to recently still wonder whether the Arab Spring was the catalyst that tipped populations across the world to rise up against their governments. While political pundits and subject matter experts have responded with a myriad of thought pieces, there has been a lack of quantitative data placing the recent protests into historical context.

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Shiny, Shiny Data: The Thrill of the Chase

Why Washington and Silicon Valley must work together to truly understand the world.

One of the most striking revelations of the Edward Snowden disclosures has been the single-minded focus of the U.S. intelligence community on collection: on hoovering up all global communications, but with the concept of analysis -- of what to actually do with all those communications -- relegated to an afterthought.

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Mapping Violence and Protests in Nigeria

How Big Data can find the big story.

The escalating tension between Ukraine and Russia in Crimea has captivated the world's headlines the past few weeks, invoking imagery of Russian occupation not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union. As the world's media outlets run round-the-clock coverage of masked soldiers facing off against besieged Ukrainian military outposts, the rest of the world has largely been drowned out. Few, for example, have likely followed the events in Nigeria, where Boko Haram has executed 59 children in an attack on a boarding school and killed more than 150 over the past two weeks.

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It's Not Just Kiev

Using Big Data to map Ukraine's protest violence.

After nearly a week of bloodshed, Ukraine seems to have found a moment of peace. What the map above offers is a glimpse of what big data can tell us of the unrest through the eyes of the world's news media. Contrary to the image that has emerged in Western media centering on a single square occupied in the capital city, we see instead a conflict that reaches to the farthest corners of a nation, not only between the police and protesters in Kiev, but in protests that have spread to other cities. In short, big data allows us for the first time to map quantitatively how large-scale societal unrest brings a nation together, even as it tears it apart.

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