Ethersource as a tool for data-driven journalism: the case of the fading interest in Julian Assange

The world has taken a keen interest in Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for quite some time now. A recent article in a leading Swedish newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, claims that the general interest in Assange and Wikileaks has faded, an assertion based on frequency counts of search queries for Assange obtained from Google Trends.

By consulting Ethersource, we can confirm the trend at large. Now, there’s only so much to be said based on frequency counts of search queries. The fact is that people are still showing a clear interest in Assange. However valid the claim that the general public’s interest in Assange is fading might be, the odds for it are low, and as such it makes the story less interesting than it deserves to be.

Data-driven journalism can arguably dig deeper!

The Image below illustrates a different take on Assange. During October, we see two significant occasions on which people active in social media has expressed concerns not possible to distinguish by looking at frequency alone; they are benevolent, and they express worry (the blue and red curve, respectively). There may lurk an interesting story in any of these.

The benevolence expressed during October 13 to 19, is related to Assange’s engagement in the Occupy Wall Street movement. What might be more interesting is the fact that the benevolence falls, while at the same time, the worry rises sharply from November 1st and onward. The event underlying the changing characteristics of the graph at that time, is the extradition of Assange from the UK to Sweden where he is to be questioned over rape allegations. Surely, there must be a story to be told here, based on the views of the inhabitants of on-line social media.

Benevolence and worry expressed toward Julian Assange in English social media in October 2011.
Benevolence and worry expressed toward Julian Assange in English social media in October 2011.

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