Analyzing Terrorism through Google Searches

Data science has been taking the whole world by storm and there’s one aspect which I find quite impressive. Through excellent visualization, you can communicate the most complex ideas with clarity and super-ease. I’ve witnessed many compelling and grasping stories been told through Data visualizations. And who can be better than Google to lead us into this Data revolution. Google Inc. provides a pretty interesting public web facility (Google Trends) to analyze and visualize google search data across the world. They have fascinating stories featured around google searches.

One such story on the Brussels attack led me to read through the articles featuring the ruthless but systematic cruelties and terror acts of ISIS/ISIL(Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The internet is filled with harrowing accounts of ISIS. This further lead me to do a bit of research on few other terrorist organizations; when, I thought why not try to build a story about terrorism through Google Searches.

The index used by Google to describe these searches is called “ Interest over time” which is nothing but a number that represents search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for that particular time. I used the same to do my analysis. I’ve also put across the major events highlighting the searches during that specific time.

I started out with Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

You can view the key events that led to the surges in the search interest.

Next, I added Hezbollah and Boko Haram into the trends graph.

Though Boko Haram (founded in 2002) had a violent uprising in 2009, it is only during 2011 (which witnessed 115 attacks culminating into an emergency) that we notice the surge in the searches for the organization. Few of the articles point out that Boko Haram has been a greater threat than ISIS.

Finally, I added the ISIS

ISIS really dwarfs the search indexes of other organizations. Going through the search results you’ll get to know why the result in the graph is quite evident.

Unlike other terrorist organizations, ISIS pretty much functions like an effective enterprise; and like most of the corporate that have a digital media team, ISIS too seem to have a pretty effective team that leverages social media, internet and a targeted content strategy.

And this is true to the point that if you’ll plot ISIS and Terrorism, you’ll notice that gradually the the plot for both of them starts to appear co-related.

What this means? — The basic agenda of these terrorist organization is striking terror in the minds of the people and authorities. That’s analogous to any enterprise trying to position themselves in the minds of their customers. The last graph illustrates how ISIS has come out to be an effective agency to position itself as a terror.

Not that people are not thinking on how to tackle the problem related to terrorism and ISIS, but the above graph does makes it pretty conspicuous of how complicated the situation has become. The problem of terrorism is not limited to a particular region or people; but, poses threat to the humanity as a whole. It’s time people start thinking unanimously about it.

Terrorism will spill over if you don’t speak up! — Malala Yousafzai