On May 27, 2013, a group of environmentalists in Istanbul, Turkey held a sit-in at an Istanbul city park to protest government plans to raze the park and build a shopping mall in its place. Police closed in on the protesters later the following day and sparked the flames for a summer of protests, some of which turned violent, at the heart of Turkey’s cultural and historical mecca.
By conducting a review of open source reporting surrounding these events, we can quickly see that these protests attracted significant international media attention throughout the summer months. Additionally, we’re able to observe a trend of negative reactions, that peaked in early June at the onset of the protests in Istanbul. Furthermore, negative reactions to the protests remained at a high level throughout the summer, despite decreasing references to the events in open media over time.
With the world’s attention focused on events in Turkey, it is likely that other events fell between the cracks and received less attention. Separately, in mid-May, workers at a Sabrina Garment Manufacturing facility in Cambodia outside Phnom Penh went on strike to demand a modest $14 cost-of-living increase in their daily wages. Managers at the facility, which employs mostly women and produces clothing for well-known Western brands, stood fast and refused to yield to the protesters. The event reached a violent climax on May 26th when police clashed with a group of some 4,000 protesters outside the factory. Media reports claimed that police used cattle prods to stun some of the protesters, injuring 23 and causing at least one pregnant female worker to miscarry.
Similar to the Turkish example cited above, advanced open source analytic tools can provide crucial insights into these protests in Cambodia, helping us to learn more about the reception of this event by international media and the public. By structuring a focused query on this protest event, we see that negative sentiment surrounding the event spiked quickly after the event, peaking several days after it occurred. Unlike the Turkish case, where references to the protests appeared immediately in the press and social media, we observe a slight delay in this instance. Additionally, in stark contrast to Turkey, our review of the Cambodian protests indicated that negative public sentiment decayed rapidly after the event, despite continued international press coverage of the protests throughout the first two weeks of June. While the data cannot indicate correlation between sustained interest in the Turkish protests, and the decreasing interest observed in the Cambodian case, we can infer that the intensity, severity, and duration of the Turkish protests, which coincided with Cambodia, might serve to significantly divert public attention.
Both of these cases demonstrate the immense potential of open source analysis to allow analysts to derive greater understanding from global events. By representing world events not as discretely isolated incidents, but as the sum total of a symphony of voices–from both traditional media and social media sources–we shade those events with additional nuance, particularly with regard to their resonance within the broader global community. By remaining attuned to these nuances, analysts will be able to incorporate open source information and derive innovative new conclusions inclusive of broader global trends.