Technical Details & Research

Technical Details

Dimensions of Civic Space

We have identified 19 event types that comprise the key components of Civic Space we are tracking. We define an event as an action that affects civic space openness. An event is extracted from a news article and is coded using machine learning to one of the types listed here.

Dimensions of Resurgent Authoritarian Influence

We have identified 22 event types that comprise the key components of Resurgent Authoritarian Influence we are tracking. We define an event as an action by an authoritarian government to wield influence within a developing economy. An event is extracted from a news article and is coded using machine learning to one of the types listed here.

Pipeline Report

The process that underpins our research involves numerous steps that ensure data quality and forecast robustness. For a detailed explanation of the end-to-end processes that drive this project, including data collection and processing and the machine learning that drives our forecasts, please see this page.

Research (Reports or Research Papers)

Legal Changes & Protest: Evidence from High-Frequency Data

The Impact of Resurgent Authoritarian Influence on Civic Space: New High-Frequency Evidence

This research memo reports assess the relationship between Resurgent Authoritarianism Influence (RAI) and changes in civic space. We present evidence that for some countries, increases in RAI activity are associated with near-term changes in civic space. In doing so, we provide one of the first tests of a claim driving high-level decision-making in foreign policy and international advocacy. We find that increases in RAI are more often associated with increasing restrictions on civic space, although increases in RAI are also predictive of decreasing restrictions in some cases. Conversely, civic space events are not predictive of RAI events. Together, these findings provide evidence that influence from Russia and China are not so much responding to civic space dynamics in target countries as they are trying to shape it.

Reporting on Civic Space

Getting an accurate picture of any country’s civic space is difficult. While many analysts rely on the international news, the vast majority of news coverage on any given country is the news media in that country. The INSPIRES Machine Learning for Peace team has spent enormous time ensuring it is extracting as much news as possible from national sources. But what are the returns to all that effort?

Democratic Backsliding and Media Responses to Government Repression

A key feature of the global wave of democratic backsliding is that aspiring autocrats seek to influence the media through legal restrictions. We develop an original argument linking media characteristics to the regulatory environment and test it using a huge corpus of electronic media in Tanzania. We employ two state-of-the-art machine learning models to classify the topics and sentiment of news stories and exploit a significant legal change that targeted media houses. We find that critical news sources censor the tone of their articles but continue to cover the same topics; we also find that international news sources do not fill the hole left by a critical domestic press. The paper sheds light on the conditions under which the press can be resilient in the face of legal threats.

The Effect of Government Repression on Civil Society: Evidence from Cambodia

To limit oversight by civil society, governments often repress NGOs. However, quantitative research has yet to investigate how restricted civic space impacts the behavior of NGOs operating in diverse sectors. Surveying employees from 106 NGOs in Cambodia, we employ a conjoint experiment to identify how the prevalence of repression affects NGOs’ pursuit of funding via grant applications. We find that although increases in the perceived prevalence of harassment has a stronger deterrent effect on advocacy work, harassment also deters NGOs focused on service delivery. Our results suggest that local officials target both advocacy and service delivery NGOs, but for different reasons.

The Effect of Closing Civic Space on Aid: Heterogenous Donor Responses to NGO Laws

Government efforts to restrict civic space have increased dramatically, especially in aid-receiving countries. How do donors respond to these attacks, and do their responses vary according to how they prioritize support for advocacy work? We investigate these questions using dyadic data on aid flows, original global data tracking restrictive NGOs laws, and a variety of research designs. We find strong evidence that advocacy-oriented donors back down by disproportionately decreasing support for advocacy as it becomes more difficult to work with local partners. The findings advance our understanding of the costs and benefits aid-receiving countries face when engaging in democratic backsliding.

Resurgent Authoritarian Influence: New Machine-Generated, High-Frequency, Cross-National Data

This research memo reviews the academic and policy literatures on Resurgent Authoritarian Influence (RAI), discusses existing data, and describes the MLP RAI data. We group our 22 RAI events into 5 conceptual categories and summarize the prevalence of reporting on these categories across countries and over time using visualizations, descriptive statistics, and dimensionality reduction. Thhis analysis suggest that RAI activity has been surprisingly consistent over the last ten years, that Russia and China utilize regionally-specific approaches to exerting influence, and that Russia and China deployed similar strategies when dealing with strategically important countries with which they have a strained or hostile relationship.