What big data can tell us about the relationships between world leaders

What can data reveal about international relations? That’s the question that the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) has sought to answer. By analyzing data from English-language news sources, they have compiled a huge database of people, organizations, locations, themes and events.

It’s an ambitious task. In the past, GDELT used their data to track violence in Afghanistan, map every protest since 1979, and chart the relationships between Iran’s leadership.

In a new project, GDELT researcher Kalev Leetaru has started making word clouds of world leaders, using GDELT data to show the top 100 names mentioned in articles about a specific world leader, and how often these names occurred. For example, the image at the top of the post shows the different names mentioned in articles relating to Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the president of Estonia, between April 1, 2013 and March 18, 2014. In that graph you can see that President Obama was the most mentioned in stories about Ilves, with Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of Lithuania, and Andris Berzins, President of Latvia, also mentioned frequently. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, famously involved in a Twitter spat with Ilves, also makes an appearance.

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