Big data has been employed to do wonderful things, groundbreaking innovations as well exposing unseen details from daily activities. Whether it is healthcare or business, big data is all about unearthing the unseen and the unknown. Recently, big data went ahead of itself and started exposing propaganda stories and their falsehoods by major political forces.
While this means that big data is on its way to shake up the status quo induced by media harnessing and information controlling, it also means that big data definitely has a political role to play in the near future. The recent initiative by an organization called Semantic Visions to understand the Russian propaganda after the arrival of Vladimir Putin has shed light into matters hitherto unseen or unheard. Putin’s promise that freedom of speech, media and conscience will be protected has not been a promise well-kept, but its extent and the extent of lies that have gone into proving that the promise still holds ground has never been exposed, until now.
What did the organization do?
To see what has been going on inside Kremlin, the Czech start-up took up the central case of MH17 case where apparently a Russian aeroplane was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter plane and the situation unfolded slowly into a war-like scenario. For understanding the situation, they took up around 329 million English articles and 58 million Russian articles, given that they were at least 3000 characters long and published between the two-year span of 2014-2016, from one month of January to the other.
As many as 25 million sources were used and by analyzing half a million articles per day, the whooping 387 million articles laid bare everything you wanted to know about Kremlin, its propaganda vision and how such propaganda impacts foreign policies as well as western media and its reports. As always, you need a control sample to perform the research and here, the Sochi Olympics paved the path. The data revealed interesting patterns regarding the media concerns about issues that often grabbed the attention of western media or didn’t ruffle the feathers enough to cause a buzz. However, even within the narratives there are unusual patterns revealed by big data.
Going into the detail
Once the anomalies were observed, Semantic Visions delved deeper by following an analysis of every hour for 90 hours after the mishap. While the narrative was initially about a fighter plane taking down Russian airlines, the narrative was not making impact. Hence, Russia’s humanitarian convoy that followed after a month of the shoot-down incident was hailed by the domestic media as a mode of humanitarian assistance. The facts like reporters were prohibited and the convoy was safeguarded by fighter helicopters were not featured. Rather, the words that frequented the articles were feel good words like Russian, aid and humanitarian. In short, the domestic concern took a backseat as Russia wanted to establish them as a global well-wisher. While it is impossible to tell the truth, it surely tells you whom to stay away from if you want the right news.