The small-world network of global protests

SCIENTIFIC REPORTS(2021)

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Abstract
Protest diffusion is a cascade process that can spread over different regions of the planet. The way and the extension that this phenomenon can occur is still not properly understood. Here, we empirically investigate this question using protest data from GDELT and ICEWS, two of the most extensive and longest-running data sets freely available. We divide the globe into grid cells and construct a temporal network for each data set where nodes represent cells and links are established between nodes if their protest events co-occur. We show that the temporal networks are small-world, indicating that the cells are directly linked or separated by a few steps on average. Furthermore, the average path lengths are decreasing through the years, which suggests that the world is becoming “smaller”. The persistent temporal hubs present in both data sets indicate that protests can spread faster through the hubs. This topological feature is consistent with the hypothesis that protests can quickly diffuse from one region to any other part of the globe.
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Key words
Complex networks,Computational science,Science,Humanities and Social Sciences,multidisciplinary
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