“Ground Truth” With Governmental Archives

Terrible title, I know, but the gist is to understand government ‘perception v reality’ with regard to public release of data. This project sought to look at public news accounts of world events and compare them to contemporaneous, but time-delayed government disclosure.

In short, is a government ‘hiding’ anything from the pubic or are ‘words and actions’ consistent? The delta between news accounts and post-hoc dissemination may yield insight!

Plotting the number of messages over time reveals some interesting patterns. For example, it reveals an increase in communications relating to South Vietnam in April 1975 at the time of the fall of Saigon.

Communications related to the UN general assembly spike at regular intervals corresponding to the dates of the assemblies which occur every year. This pattern includes an additional spike in April-May 1974 which corresponds to a special UN session called for by Algeria to discuss its demands for support for a “New International Economic Order.”

By contrast, the tags associated with Finland between 1973 and 1977 show no spikes or special pattern, reflecting the stability of the nation at that time.

For those with time, read the research paper. This is a potentially great tool to measure governmental transparency (or really, governmental bullshit, a new term), but the time lag makes it difficult to use.

h/t the fantastic Data Science Community Newsletter at NYU!

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