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Lifting the veil on the use of big data news repositories: A documentation and critical discussion of a protest event analysis

Hoffmann, M., Santos G., F. ORCID: 0000-0001-7006-2088, Neumayer, C. & Mercea, D. ORCID: 0000-0003-3762-2404 (2022). Lifting the veil on the use of big data news repositories: A documentation and critical discussion of a protest event analysis. Communication Methods and Measures, 16(4), pp. 283-302. doi: 10.1080/19312458.2022.2128099


This paper presents a critical discussion of the processing, reliability and implications of free big data repositories. We argue that big data is not only the starting point of scientific analyses but also the outcome of a long string of invisible or semi-visible tasks, often masked by the fetish of size that supposedly lends validity to big data. We unpack these notions by illustrating the process of extracting protest event data from the Global Database of Events, Language and Tone (GDELT) in six European countries over a period of seven years. To stand up to rigorous scientific scrutiny, we collected additional data by computational means and undertook large-scale neural-network translation tasks, dictionary-based content analyses, machine-learning classification tasks, and human coding. In a documentation and critical discussion of this process, we render visible opaque procedures that inevitably shape any dataset and show how this type of freely available datasets require significant additional resources of knowledge, labor, money, and computational power. We conclude that while these processes can ultimately yield more valid datasets, the supposedly free and ready-to-use big news data repositories should not be taken at face value.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > ZA Information resources
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
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